In March 2016, Google announced it was developing a new piece of functionality for search called ‘conversational shopping’, centred around the act of purchasing through your mobile device by issuing voice commands.
Although innovative, the technology shouldn’t come as a surprise to marketers as it’s simply a natural evolution in voice search, which is already widely adopted by the masses. However, being able to shop without the need to type, scroll, or click will dramatically simplify the purchase journey, but it could make marketers’ jobs all the more difficult to understand the necessary activity needed to grab shoppers’ attention at the right moment.
While Google has not been clear on how the functionality will work in detail, it has offered some examples of how it might be used. Dynamic answers to questions like “I want X to be cheaper” or “what shops are around me?” are possible applications of the technology. Imagine a scenario where you speak to Google and say ‘I want to buy black stiletto shoes’… ‘I like the ones from Kurt Geiger’… ‘Buy them in size 6’. From there you simply receive an email confirming your purchase without having ever tapped, scrolled or typed to get there.
The example above highlights how mobile user experience will eventually become fundamentally different to desktop user experience, and what works for the latter will no longer work for the former. Improving the mobile user experience, imagery, and semantic search will become key to being able to capture the conversational shopper’s attention. So what can marketers start to focus on to get ahead before the technology is rolled out?
Stand out amongst the noise
Imagery would be the first step. Not just ensuring your brand has good imagery, but that it’s enticing and stands out amongst the clutter and noise online. Brands with the more creative imagery will likely see immediate benefits from conversational shopping. This is also where product listing ads (PLAs) will provide significant advantages and should therefore play a key role in digital ad campaigns going forward.
As search engines get more conversational, paid and organic content will need to be developed that can answer these queries in a meaningful way. This will require changes in tagging, a content strategy that focuses on increasingly narrow niches, and greater focus on latent semantic indicators. Marketers are already shifting their attentions in this direction, with the growth of voice search, however we can expect to see more of this once conversational shopping is introduced.
The more a user utilises voice search, the more personal the results will become – putting much more emphasis on local search, ratings and reviews, complete and impactful information available on websites and dynamic content on the site. Social signals could also become a factor here.
The future of mobile shopping is one that gets simpler and faster over time. A simple chat with your smartphone means locating the product you’re looking for, at the best price, at the store you want, without having to input any manual data, contact or payment information. The simplicity of this technology, coupled with the fact that almost half of UK e-commerce is now mobile, means it’s not far-fetched to assume that conversational shopping will quickly catch on.
It’s still early days for conversational shopping and Google hasn’t been specific as to when this functionality will be available to the masses, so this is the time for marketers to pay attention and get ready for the change that is inevitably coming their way.