How supermarkets can offer a tasty treat with voice search

It’s been predicted that half of all internet searches will be via image or voice by 2020 – and Econsultancy has suggested that around 13% of all Google searches are conducted by voice right now. That’s a hugely rapidly expanding sector, considering voice search has only been around for a couple of years.

For supermarkets and FMCG brands, the opportunity comes from the fact that so little has been done so far to really take advantage of this new technology. It lies in understanding what their customers actually value – and how devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home can help brands be ever present and useful in the domestic environment.

“Hey Google, buy my weekly shop”

For starters, it’s worth bearing in mind that we’re still really in the early stages when it comes to voice assistants. Asking Alexa to start playing a Spotify playlist is one thing, quick and easy, but asking it to do your shopping might not be – unless your shopping is equally codified. Fortunately, food shopping can be exactly that.

So perhaps that’s the first step for supermarkets: capture the regular weekly shopping list of essentials and regular purchases, the way they do online anyway, and allow customers to make that order by voice.

And then they could perhaps take it a step further: if you’re browsing a website and like a recipe you find there, you could ask your voice assistant to add those ingredients to your list. Supermarket websites already offer recipe ideas and ingredient lists that customers can buy online, so voice search could simply move this process into a further dimension by allowing them to do so verbally.

There could even be partnerships with a TV chef – without even going to their website, you can add the ingredients for that tasty-looking chicken dish to your weekly shopping list, just by saying it. Or it could be about providing a quick service, like sending the message around the group chat if anyone needs anything from the shop.

Do something, not everything

Given the developmental stage that voice search is still in, and the lack of FMCG and retail brands that have got on the front foot, there is a real opportunity for the first company to develop a voice presence to create a real differentiator.

And importantly, that doesn’t mean having to replicate its entire offering and the complete customer journey through voice. Domino’s, for example, began voice-activated pizza ordering in the UK last year through Amazon Echo, but only allows customers to buy the preferred pizzas set up in their Easy Order profile.

In a similar vein, supermarkets could gain a march on their rivals by offering a ‘slice’ of their full online offering through pre-defined shopping lists. Allowing customers to create their regular shopping lists and save them in the supermarket’s website is already important, because offering people a space to curate their purchases online encourages them to stay and shop there. Voice is no different – and works best when it involves accessing a discrete packet of information.

More than a gimmick

It all comes down to adding value. That first toe-dip into voice search could allow a supermarket brand to build a significant advantage, but it will have to do in a way that simplifies and enhances its customers’ lives.

From there it could look to build, which means it will also have to start thinking about its brand in a new and different way, of course. Like Domino’s ‘Dom’, what would a Tesco or Waitrose voice assistant behave, sound and talk like? Would it be the voice of George Clooney, Dame Helen Mirren or Danny Dyer?

But for now, it makes sense to focus on doing a few simple things well. Customers aren’t yet looking for a seven-course meal through voice search when a tasty snack will suffice.