Are you like me? Have you come to rely on talk-to-text on your smartphone? I am one of those people who use the microphone button on my iPhone to dictate my texts and my searches. For the most part, my phone does pretty well at translating my voice into the written word. But like countless others, there are times when I re-read what I have written, only to find garbled text that barely resembles what I said. Sometimes I have to read it out loud to see if I can recapture the essence of what I was trying to say.
Voice as a Computing Interface is exponentially faster than typing, it is easier than typing, and computers are finally intelligent enough to understand 95% of what is said… compared to just 70% in 2010. And people are using it more and more. Just as Responsive Web Design has become a necessity since more people search on their phones and tablets, so too is having a Natural Language Search Engine that understands what these millions of shoppers are saying.
EasyAsk Technologies is increasing its reach to retailers who need a stronger solution in the mobile commerce (mCommerce) space. EasyAsk’s genius search and merchandising technology is in lockstep with the current mobile, voice-enabled trend toward mCommerce. Read More
With apologies to Sofia Coppola, sometimes trying to purchase an item in an unfamiliar environment can be a difficult challenge. Have you ever shopped at a new grocery store? All the items are in different aisles from your regular store. The labels over the aisles are different and may not make sense to you. And if you do find the right aisle, then there’s the problem of locating your item in an endlessly long row. The familiarity and efficiency of shopping at your “regular” store is gone and frustration settles in.
Sometimes online shopping in 2015 is a flashback to 1969 when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards sang the above titled song in their album ‘Let It Bleed’. You search for something to buy, but the website doesn’t seem to understand what you are asking for and delivers up stuff you didn’t want. You look at the results and decide to shop elsewhere. Lost customer, website bad.
What’s behind your eCommerce search box? You’re not going to like the answer
As an eRetailer, one of the most critical functions on your website is your search box. This is where your shoppers go to find things they want to buy. The truth is that, deep down; you know it just doesn’t work very well. Most eRetailers think that “search” is just “search” and that all search tools are just about the same. They expect that their search has some navigation, basic spell correction, and maybe type-ahead. If that’s all search offers, then what’s the difference, really? Read More
They’re both extinct.
It’s a pretty good analogy, really. If we set the way-back machine to 2007, there was no mCommerce (eCommerce on a mobile device). Why? Because the mobile devices of the day were not designed to be the computer-in-a-pocket devices that we have today. The very best options in those days were slick flip-phones (like the Razr, I still have a red one sitting in a drawer), PDA’s that doubled as phones (like the Palm Treo my boss had) and, of course, the Blackberry.
In the same universe, eCommerce searches, like all searches, were based on keywords. We were all trained to search in terse terms, knowing that the search engine was not intuitive and could not understand the intent or context of the words we use in normal, everyday language. So we searched based on one or two words and then used navigation to drill down to find what we were really looking for.
But technology evolved, as it always does. First came the iPhone, followed closely by the Android. Here was a game changer, we all rapidly abandoned our formerly beloved cell phones to harness the amazing power of a smartphone. By December 2014, 9 out of 10 (88.9%) mobile subscribers aged 25-34 owned a cellphone and 3 out of 4 (75%) of all mobile subscribers over the age of 13 had one. (source: marketingcharts)
I don’t need to tell you how smart your smartphone really is – you already know that. With the advent of voice technology like Siri and GoogleNow, the next big game changer came in the form of smarter search. We now have the ability to speak to our smartphone the way we speak to another person. For example, if I’m in Boston’s famous North End and I want pizza, I can ask for the best pizza in the North End and get a list of shops – with recommendations. How cool is that?
But what about mCommerce? Here’s a world where search is critical. After all, any shopper coming to your site has the potential to become a buyer. If they found what they were looking for on their first search, there’s a better chance of delighting them and converting them into a buyer.
So, if I want to buy a blue dress, I ask for a blue dress, and if I want that dress in a size 6 for less than $100, then I ask for a blue dress in a size six under $100. Here’s the interesting part, most of the technology that is used to search in eCommerce still uses keywords. Those engines will pick apart my query and return things that have nothing to do with what I asked for. I’ll get lots of blue things, and I’ll get underwear and I’ll even get a message telling me that they can’t find any matches (the dreaded no results page) or worse yet, I will get 10,000 items that are all wrong.
But, there are some technologies available today that understand the true context of my question, and will return results that exactly match what I asked for in the first place.
It’s funny because Google, Bing, Yahoo and IBM’s Watson all use this new natural language technology for their searches, but in the eCommerce world, the obsolete keyword search model still pervades the market. Why? Because it is free and it is embedded in the eCommerce platforms and many eRetailers don’t even know that a better way exists.
If you are an eRetailer you must be asking yourself if a natural language search engine would give you a competitive edge, delight your customers and drive your revenue. The answer is, of course!
When your business is relying on returning the right products, the first time, don’t give it to the dinosaur. Because what do dinosaurs and keyword search have in common? They are both extinct.
Guido Laures, the CTO of Spreadshirt, an e-retailer of print-on-demand apparel and accessories, recently published a revealing article in Internet Retailer on the struggles of e-retailers to convert on their mobile commerce sites and the lost potential revenue as a result. According to Mr. Laures,
“Every year retailers are inundated with studies that herald mobile breakthroughs, but in reality, very few consumers finalize purchases on a smartphone.”
He cites interesting statistics from m-commerce technology provider Branding Brand that tablets and smartphones generated 53% of the visits to 50 retail sites that Branding Brands tracks in January 2015, but only generated 24% of the total web sales, thereby highlighting the conversion problem.
We have seen similar poor conversion rate statistics from the Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly reports. In the 4th quarter of 2014 – the prime holiday season – Monetate found the conversion rate on smartphones was only 1.00% percent which is almost ¼ the rate on traditional desktops.
While mobile-friendly responsive designs and easier mobile checkouts are cited as inhibitors to mobile commerce conversion, an overlooked and more dangerous problem is earlier in the shopping process. Before they can buy, customers first need to find the product they want. Small screen sizes, clumsy typing and awkward scrolling gestures render traditional search and navigation useless on a smartphone.
The era of voice search is upon us. Natural language voice-enabled search allows shoppers to freely say to your mobile site or app what they want, like they were speaking to a sales associate. And in return, the mobile commerce site will show them exactly the products they want. If they find the products faster, customers will convert more often. It is that simple.
Only a natural language search solution can give your mobile commerce site the linguistic capabilities to understand the intent of a shopper’s spoken search and translate that to an exact set of products that matches their needs. A keyword search engine leaves you prone to misunderstanding different words and returning a wide swath of products that will frustrate your shoppers and continue you down the path of poor mobile customer conversion.
Please watch this short video to see a true natural language, voice-enabled search solution in action on a live women’s apparel mobile commerce site.
Can your e-commerce search solution think and understand like a human? If so, your site turns into virtual sales associate, understanding clearly what customers want and closing the sale.
Internet Retailer has published an article, Reading Shoppers Minds, which explores how e-commerce search solutions have become more human-like for e-retail and mobile commerce. The article highlights how EasyAsk customer The North Face makes their site more human like to help their shoppers.
Natural language is an integral part of making your e-commerce site smarter and more human like. Natural language makes your search box more versatile, expanding the vocabulary your site understands and allowing customers to express what they are looking for in their own words.
Natural language is important in everyday e-commerce, and is IMPERATIVE in mobile commerce. In a mobile environment, your customers will use voice to input their searches, expressing their searches, as one industry analyst put it, “using a free flowing stream of consciousness”, such as: I’m looking for a Michael Kors watch in rose gold and I don’t want to pay more than $300.
Can your e-commerce search find that?
Amazon released a new version of its’ iPhone app (version 4.3.0) that contained a very interesting new feature – Search with your Voice. When you open up the app and tap the search box, you can then tap the Voice button and enter your search by voice. Very nicely done!
But some are questioning the true capability of Amazon’s voice search, as reported in this article in the mobile commerce daily. The real question is: what’s behind that search? In the end, voice search is only as good as the search engine behind it. I tried two searches with the Amazon app to see how good it was.
The batteries in my wireless home phone set had recently gone out (the phone is old) and I am looking for a new home phone. My current Panasonic model had served me well, so I was looking for a new Panasonic model. So, for my first search, I tried “Panasonic wireless home phone.” The voice interface translated my voice request well. But the results left me somewhat confused. I received 5,391 results! The first 3 were Panasonic phones, but then there were headsets and AT&T home phones mixed in. The results were not highly relevant.
Then I decided to try a conversational style search – “I’m looking for a Panasonic wireless home phone.” The results were not even close to being relevant. They included a USB charger, iPhone cases, and headsets, finally followed by a couple Panasonic phones.
The ability to interact conversationally with the mobile phone user is a core design philosophy of a good voice interface, as depicted by this Information Week article. Without relevant results and conversational interaction, users will not fully trust the interface or find it engaging.
Any EasyAsk customer has voice search capability built-in. But EasyAsk takes it to the next level with highly precise and accurate results, and the ability to have conversational search, as shown by this video.
With mobile commerce conversion rates lower than those of a standard e-commerce site, it is the engaging voice search capability powered by conversational search that will increase your m-commerce conversion rates.