By PJ Scott, Director, Velocity Commerce.
By 2023, there will be an anticipated 8 billion digital assistants in circulation. With uses for everything from directions to settling debates, this latest avenue for the widespread adoption of AI into our day to day lives is succeeding due to one core principle, it delivers convenience.
Where previously the concept of convenience in retail used to mean accessibility for the consumer to a product or service within a reasonable walk or drive, today customers’ expectations of convenience have shifted dramatically and irreversibly. Sometimes referred to as the “Amazon Effect” consumers now expect to be able to complete a purchase within the least possible number of steps from start to finish on their journey. The swelling popularity of voice assistants and voice search, means that the customer journey on Amazon is truncating yet again to keep pace with demand.
For brands that sell on Amazon, and for those considering selling on Amazon, this means that there is yet another area of management, optimisation and maintenance to consider for their listings. Although it may not have achieved full penetration, voice search is certainly changing the way that customers shop. “Voice-controlled search is coming up as the next big thing in our modern-day world… With voice technology, branding won’t be entirely visual anymore. Brands will be both seen and heard.”
Optimising for voice search on Amazon boils down to two core elements. First, it is fundamentally different from traditional search because it is focussed on long-tail keywords. When speaking to a digital assistant, we will naturally use normal speech and frame a question around our desired result. On a desktop or on mobile for example we might type in – “Blender. Top rated” whereas with voice we will ask “Hey Alexa, what blender is best for making baby food?”, so the length of keywords used to search is fundamentally different. In the latter situation, searching with voice, the searcher would then be delivered results for the blender listings which are optimised for long-tail keywords, as they better match the original query.
When optimising for long-tail keywords, it is vital to start with research and not fall into common trap of a retailer or seller believing they know exactly what a customer would look for to find their product. Many brands start out with the misconception that their customer is more familiar with them, their products, their product specifications and their brand language, than they actually are. For sellers, removing what they want a consumer to be searching from the equation, and focussing on what the customers are actually searching for in the research process, will give the best actionable insights for optimisation.
For brands and sellers who already use the PPC functions in Amazon ads, the best long-tail keywords for their listings can be found by combing through the advertising reports in Amazon Seller Central. For those just getting started, begin with seed and head keywords then expand outwards to form the long-tail. Ultimately, to develop an efficient strategy, it is much more beneficial for a seller to know their market, and understand their category, as the foundation for long-tail keyword development, than it is to build from a base of specific product information.
While keywords remain “key” for optimising listings on marketplaces, however, they aren’t the only markers which matter when it comes to voice search. So, secondly, the listings which are most likely to appear top of voice search, particularly on Alexa enabled devices, are the “Amazon Choice” products. Easily identified by the addition of a black badge to the listing, there is usually only ever one Amazon Choice product per search term. Amazon describes the Amazon Choice products as “highly-rated (i.e. products with lots of positive reviews), well-priced products with Prime shipping” but, in popular categories there could be hundreds of products which fulfil that description, and it’s not currently possible to either request, or purchase, the Amazon Choice designation on a particular listing.
This leaves brands looking to maximise the opportunities provided by optimising for voice search in a tricky position. Being the Amazon Choice product in a given category will make a big difference to a product appearing top in voice search. When seeking to secure an Amazon Choice mark, while shipping and fulfilment capability and, to a certain extent, price point, are both within the control of the seller or retailer, the ability of the product to generate a high volume of positive reviews and customer advocacy is harder to manage and a complex process for many retailers.
Reviews have always been king on Amazon, since its inception the trustworthiness of reviews has been strictly safeguarded, with the marketplace even going as far as to ban sponsored reviews. This is because Amazon fundamentally values data which helps it understand its customer, and reviews offer a significant insight tool into the buying behaviour, intentions, and post-purchase behaviour of Amazon customers. The average Amazon customer also cherishes reviews, relying on them to counteract the inevitable unknown variables which come with making a purchase sight-unseen. According to research, 90% of online consumers say they are influenced by positive reviews when buying a product. It has also been reported that young shoppers, typically aged 18-24, on average, expect at least 200 product reviews on products as this allows them to fully research products before purchasing.
What Amazon understands about consumers, is that reviews are the factor that make or break a purchase decision, due to consumers valuing authentic peer recommendation over detailed product specifications and advertising.
In short – Amazon values reviews because customers value reviews. And, as well as helping products secure that coveted “Amazon Choice” title, the presence of a high volume of consistently positive reviews makes a significant difference to the rank and positioning of a product, in both traditional and voice search.
But, how do brands ensure they are generating these reviews that are such an important factor in the voice search ranking? Consistent and user-friendly customer engagement techniques are key to motivating happy customers to leave positive reviews. Automated post-purchase emails, nurturing positive conversations through use of customer dialogue functions on the channel, and consistent encouragement to leave positive feedback, all help to drive customers to leave reviews of their experiences.
At Velocity Commerce we pride ourselves on every single one of the 56,000+ reviews generated for our Amazon clients being 100% genuine from verified purchasers, as it is crucial we value reviews just as highly as both Amazon itself and customers do.
Although it might seem like just another layer of complication to optimise listings for voice search, making the effort to be at the cutting edge in customer engagement, customer focus and listing management will always serve a seller well, as impenetrable as the factors influencing optimisation may appear. If history shows us anything, it’s that the wide-spread adoption of a new technology is never far away, soon desktop search might go the way of tape decks and VHS players, so if sellers need to be ready for anything, the best position to maintain is being ready for change. Velocity Commerce Amazon Consultancy service is an expert partner that gives sellers the agility, and edge they need to maintain that ‘ready for anything’ position, while delivering the reliable growth they need to stand out from competitors.