10 Ways VUI can improve the e-commerce customer experience

CIOL Bureau
New Update
VUI (voice user interface)

Even as it evolves, voice user interface (VUI) is already impacting so many spheres. One of them is e-commerce. That comes as no surprise. A majority of online traffic comes from mobile phones. According to an eMarketer report, by 2021, mobile e-commerce sales are expected to account for almost 60% of total e-commerce sales. And with more and more people embracing Siri, Alexa and Cortana, the blending of voice, mobile and e-commerce seems so organic that it’s already starting to look indispensable. Greg Melich, Senior Retail Analyst at MoffettNathanson, says: “If you're a retailer and you're not preparing for this significant trend of e-commerce going toward v-commerce, then you won't be around.” So exactly what can voice do for e-commerce? Let’s find out.


Voice can impact customer experience, the basis of sales

Incorporating voice in e-commerce helps retailers up the critical level of customer experience. Better customer experience increases conversions and repeat purchases, the stepping stones to that most elusive, magical asset in today’s high-choice marketplace: brand loyalty. Let’s take the case of Anita. She needs to order her daughter’s textbooks for next year before classes begin in a fortnight and she’s thinking of buying the books online this time.

1. Flexibility


One of the advantages of VUI is that Anita can order these books even as she does something else. For instance, if she is cooking, she can continue to do so while issuing a command like: “Show me school textbooks for 6th grade CBSE.”

2. Beam me up, Scotty

If she was using a touch screen, Anita would need to scroll down the 6th grade CBSE search results and tap on the subject she wants before proceeding to a new window to read about it. But with VUI, Anita can just say: “Show me the NCERT chemistry textbook for 6th grade CBSE” and she can get taken to the right category page, skipping 2-3 screens.


3. Get suggestions

Like a lot of online shoppers, Anita would like assistance to make her shopping easier. Helpful recommendations exist on most graphical user interfaces (GUI) or touch screen interfaces for the most commonly occurring types of users. For example, the store may have recommendations for each school grade starting with 10th graders, then 9th graders and so on. In a touch screen, she would probably need to scroll and spot recommendations for her 6th grade child and click on it to be taken to the set of recommendations. With VUI, Anita can simply ask: “Do you have any recommendations for a 6th grade CBSE student?” just as she would ask a store clerk and be taken directly to the recommendations without having to hunt.

4. Slice and dice anyway you want


Once Anita has found her book, she may want to explore options like a hardcover or Kindle version. If she were to do this using GUI, she needs to hunt for a button that shows the Kindle version and tap on it. But with VUI, all she needs to say is: “Show me the Kindle version” as she may already be familiar with the kinds of options the store usually offers.

5. Get tips from the grapevine

As customers, Anita and her friends have become very discerning. They don’t buy anything significant without reading the reviews first. It’s extremely simple to find pertinent reviews from the store by simply saying: “Show me the most recent and relevant reviews for this textbook” and be taken to the set of reviews filtered by the specified criteria.


6. Useful feedback

You can’t improve customer experience unless you can measure it. Touch screens limit the quality and quantity of feedback. Firstly, Anita’s feedback would usually be in the form of star ratings, a close-ended response. Secondly, the store is interested in measuring many aspects of their customer interactions but Anita can’t spend time answering multiple questions. If the store presents even just five questions with star ratings, the cluttered screen would discourage Anita from answering. But if she could answer the same five questions by speaking, she would be able to answer more questions and also qualify her answers with nuance and shifts in tone (like “Umm, yeah” ), all of which would convey a lot more information than just a star rating. And that becomes a goldmine of insight for marketers.

7. Repeat purchase


As she’s cooking, Anita realises she is out of chilli flakes. No sweat, she’s already ordered this, among other things, many times from another e-commerce site. So she just visits that page simultaneously and says: “Add chilli flakes to my order,” without having to specify which brand, size or packaging because the store already knows this, owing to her last purchase. Her order gets placed seamlessly, while she’s closing out on her book purchase and chopping garlic.

8. Where’s my order?

Well, school is now a week away and the books haven’t been delivered yet. Anita could fire up the store app and just say: “Where’s my order?” and be brought to the screen that shows the status of her orders. But the screen is still displaying the same information as yesterday and Anita would prefer to speak to someone to get a more detailed response. So now she can just say: “Call customer service” and the app would dial the number and connect her to a customer service representative. Imagine how good she would feel shopping on a site like this!


9. Damn, I missed a digit in the OTP

VUI creates the most secure payment gateway experience on the basis of one of the most unreplicable things about you: your voice. No need for OTPs or even typing out passwords. Anita just needs to say: “I’m Anita and this is my long passphrase” and she authenticates her payment through the uniqueness of her voice and the passphrase she had pre-registered! It could be that easy and it could be done by anyone of any level of technology familiarity.

10. Be a polyglot

The biggest advantage of using voice interfaces within the e-commerce world is being able to interact with the system in regional languages. Anita can say: “Yes, sure”, “Haan, theekh hai” or “Houdu” and the e-commerce store will function just as well. There’s no need to download a separate language app, switch to a different language interface in the settings (how is one supposed to do that in the first place if they couldn’t read the default language?) or do anything else. Anita could just begin interacting with the store app by saying: “Mujhe Hindi mein baat karni hai” and that’s it, it switches the interface to Hindi thereon. This single idea opens up tier-2 and -3 cities across India and bridges the technological divide!


With unprecedented levels of customer experience, a degree of flexibility that enables innovations and the ability to serve the massive market in tier-2 and -3 cities, VUI is poised to unlock the next wave of growth in at least 2 areas: mobile and e-commerce. Who knows what else it can impact? After all, it signals a tectonic shift in the way we communicate with machines and hence in the way we live, work and buy. No wonder many retailers and marketers have started experimenting already!

By Sharan Grandigae, Founder and CEO, Redd Experience Design

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