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Nearly 20 Percent Of Customers Have Made A Purchase With A Voice-Controlled Device

And one-third plan to make a purchase through their Amazon Echo or similar device in the next year.

Approximately 20 percent customers have made a purchase with a voice-controlled device — a figure that indicates the growing importance of discovery via intelligent assistants for brands, according to Walker Sand’s Future of Retail 2017 report.

As consumer connectivity continues to increase across the board, retailers will have to offer a more fluid commerce experience — accounting for, in particular, the surging number of both store visits and online purchases resulting from voice searches: More than 90 percent of consumers now own at least one connected device, according to the report, and nearly a quarter (24 percent) own a voice-controlled device; another 20 percent plan to purchase one in the next year.

Additionally, over 50 percent of Millennials are using voice commands at least once a month — meaning that brands need to show up in the new “digital storefront” when customers make voice searches ranging from “buy new t-shirt” to “best coffee near me.”

The New SEO

J. Walter Thompson’s Elizabeth Cherin broke down this new challenge for marketers in a conversation with GeoMarketing at Cannes Lions last month.

“If someone loves Charmin brand toilet paper, and the [voice assistant] knows that, how, as another brand do you get into that very loyal relationship just that keeps repeat purchasing your favorite toilet paper?” Cherin said. “Firstly, could there be paid recommendation? Could you, as a brand, pay to have the voice assistant recommend your brand? Especially when there isn’t that bond already formed. It’s not the best option, it’s not maybe the cheapest option, but it is an option that theoretically a brand could pay to get to the top of the list.

“But [this is] what’s happening right now: Look at this idea of algorithm optimization,” Cherin said. “It’s like the new SEO; brands [need to get their] underlying data layer ready for consumption by these devices.”

In addition to thinking about optimizing their data for consumption by voice-activated intelligent assistants, what can retailers do to draw increasingly connected customers in stores? After all, not all transactions will take place digitally, even as the role that these voice-controlled devices play in commerce continue to grow.

It’s been said before, but for the over 90 percent of purchases still taking place in physical stores, unique experiences win the day: “Consumers are [still] longing for the deeper brand experiences they have traditionally only been able to get in store,” the report concludes. “This is especially true among younger shoppers, who are digital natives but seem to be rejecting the impersonal e-commerce experience.”