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Voice shopping 101: Reach more customers and boost sales

Voice shopping 101: Reach more customers and boost sales

“Hey Siri, find me the best basketball shoes for under $100.”

“Hey Google, what’s the closest Chinese food restaurant?”

Chances are, you’ve used an intelligent voice assistant to discover, confirm, or purchase something. Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift, settling a bet with a friend, or narrowing down dinner options, Siri or Google or Alexa are there for you.

Voice search queries have increased thirtyfold since Apple debuted Siri in 2010. It's changed not only the way we find information, but how we navigate cities, play music, and discover products.

As an online store owner, optimizing your store for voice search and shopping is key to growing your organic traffic—and in turn, your revenue.

In this post, we’ll cover how shoppers are using voice assistants in 2019, and how you can optimize your store to appear in their voice searches.


How people are voice shopping

The two most common devices people use for voice shopping are smart speakers (Alexa, Google Home Assistant, HomePod) and smartphones. The biggest difference between these tools is the ability to actually see what you’re purchasing. While consumers are happy to purchase everyday items like dog food, toilet paper, and groceries through a smart speaker, they’re a lot less likely to use one to purchase a new sweater, sporting equipment, or handmade jewellery. Where people are more likely to convert is on their smartphones, and for Shopify entrepreneurs, that’s great news. In the third quarter of 2018, 77% of traffic and 67% of all orders on Shopify stores were placed through mobile devices. So while it may be a few years before customers complete all of their holiday shopping through Alexa, mobile voice searchers are already ripe for the pickin’.


Learn what questions your customers are asking

Voice search is different from typed search. While you might type “organic produce” into Google, you’re more likely to ask “What’s the best place to buy organic produce?” when voice searching. In SEO-speak, these longer search queries are called “long-tail keywords”. Any query three words or more falls under this categorization. The easiest way to discover what customers in your niche are searching for is to use Answer the Public. This handy tool runs your keyword(s) through its database and provides you with the most commonly asked related questions. Once you know what questions your customers are asking, you can work those questions—and their answers—into your store’s content.


Edit your store’s content to match those questions

From product descriptions to FAQs to blog posts, there’s an abundance of opportunities to weave voice search queries into your store’s content. As long as you’re not keyword stuffing, this strategy will do wonders for SEO success. Here’s how some successful Shopify stores are optimizing their content for voice shopping.


Screen shot of collapsable cup manufacturers Stojo's product page with an evocative product description


Collapsible coffee cup makers Stojo go into great detail in their product descriptions. They’re evocative yet succinct, giving voice shoppers a solid grasp of their product without rambling. Their “key product features” bulleted list also includes the height, weight, diameter, and capacity of their cups. To optimize your own product descriptions for voice shopping, read your descriptions to a friend who isn’t familiar with your products. If the friend can accurately describe back to you what your product does and what it looks like, you’re on the right path. If not, consider rewriting your product descriptions in more detail.


Screen shot of watchmakers Bremont's F A Q page showing quality questions and answers


British luxury watchmakers Bremont optimized their FAQ page by not only answering questions about their watches, but about watches in general. This helps them show up in Google search results for those long-tail keywords that are common in voice search.


Screen shot of Death Wish Coffee's blog post answering a common question related to their product


Death Wish Coffee, roasters of “The World’s Strongest Coffee,” optimize their blog post titles for search queries based on questions about strong coffee. Just do a quick search for the following questions:

  • What’s the world’s strongest coffee you can buy?
  • How can I brew strong coffee?
  • How can I fix my coffee jitters? (You might be asking Siri this after your first cup of Death Wish.)

If you browse the first page of Google’s search results, you’ll find Death Wish’s blog articles well-represented. In fact, if you search that last term, you’ll notice their blog post appears as a snippet. This is voice-shopping gold.


Snatch that snippet spot

If you can vault your content into Google’s prized “zero” position (also known as the featured snippet at the top of the search results page), your content will be read back to searchers. Although there’s no bulletproof strategy, there are a few things you can do. Let’s use our blog post about the most important ecommerce dates of 2019 as an example.


Screen shot of a Google search result page for the term "most important ecommerce dates" with a Pixel Union blog post as the zero result


When someone asks “What are the most important dates in ecommerce?” our post is in the featured snippet. Why?

  • The title of the blog post serves as an answer to their question.
  • The keywords from their question are included in the slug of the URL. (“/most-important-ecommerce-dates-2019/”).
  • The keywords from that question are in our meta description.
  • There are subheaders, which allow Google to display the content as bullet points.
  • The keywords are in the alt tag of the blog post’s featured image.

Taking these steps won’t guarantee your content gets the featured snippet, but you’ll have a much better chance.


Make reordering a breeze

While voice shoppers prefer to buy new products when they can see them (i.e. on their phones), they have no problem reordering products they've already tried. Maybe it’s a blend of tea they enjoyed. Or maybe it’s a product they bought as a gift that they now want for themselves. Or maybe they lost their favourite hat and want the exact same one. Apps like Flits make it easy for customers to create a profile in your store and reorder from their order history. The best part? It’s free to use!


Level up with localized search

If your business also has a brick-and-mortar shop, you’ll want to take advantage of localized voice search. Why? Voice searches are three times as likely to be locally based. This means you’ll want to prominently display your business hours, phone number, and address in your online store, as well as keep your Google Business, Yelp, and Foursquare listings up to date. (Yes, people still use Foursquare!)


Lessons learned

There’s a lot you can do to optimize your store for voice search. And although it may not seem like a pressing issue now, internet trends guru Mary Meeker predicts 50% of searches will be performed via voice by 2020. Here’s a list of things you can do right now to set yourself up for voice search (and shopping) success.
  • Use Answer the Public to find out what questions people are asking.
  • Weave those questions (and answers) into your store’s FAQs, blog posts, and product descriptions.
  • Optimize those same pages to be featured in Google’s “zero” position.
    • Title your blog posts as questions or answers to those questions.
    • Include your keywords in the slug of your URL.
    • Include your keywords in your meta description.
    • Use subheaders so Google can display your content as bullet points.
    • Include your keywords in the alt tag of any images.
  • Ensure your brick-and-mortar shop information is prominent in your online store and in third-party listings.
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