Pros and Cons of Voice Commerce

I recently attended an eCommerce gathering here in New York and most of the people I met had two things at the top of their mind: Planning for the holiday season and wondering what is the impact of voice in commerce? Clearly, voice is gaining a lot of attention. Whether it is to do with Amazon’s push for voice or its commerce merchants staying on top of their game with the new and upcoming technology, only time can tell. If you have ever used Alexa or Google Home, I am pretty sure that you’ve experienced both, a pleasant surprise and also a sense of frustration.

Since eCommerce merchants today are wondering about the impact that voice will have on commerce, it is important to know the pros and cons of voice for eCommerce. Here is a list of Pros and Cons of voice for eCommerce – which will help you get started and create great voice experiences.


  • No Hierarchical UI: If you’ve shopped online, it is highly likely that you had to tap through the home button to the menu and then to the product of your choice. With voice, the best part of the technology is that it is designed in such a way that a user can get to the product of their choice in just the first interaction. 
  • Convenience/Speed: If i had to compare a voice bot with a website chatbot, it is easy to deduce that the speed and convenience of voice bots is definitely something website and chatbots cant match. Think about typing a message to a chatbot and then compare that with speaking to Alexa. On average, we speak 3-4 sentences a minute compared to typing 40 words per minute. While speed is definitely one of the factors, part of the delight of voice apps is that they add a layer of convenience for the end-users. For example:

Alexa, what is the status of my order from Colorpop is definitely more convenient than having to log in to a delivery carrier to track the status of your order. 

  • Hands-free: Making a purchase with web or mobile requires you to pay attention to the entire buying process: selecting the product, ensuring the address is added correctly and finally making the payment. With voice, you can purchase things on the go while doing other things. E.g. You wake up in the morning to realize you have run out of milk, you can simply ask Alexa to order for milk from the nearby grocery store. You sure don’t want to call a grocery store or open your laptop, first thing in the morning. 


  • Capabilities:  Voice definitely lacks a lot of capabilities in comparison to web and mobile. For example, one cannot really order for apparel or shoes through Alexa as it lacks visual capability. In addition, the way you have the option to change the address or payment method on the web, is not possible on voice as of today. While things are continuously evolving, if somebody needs to make changes to their address or payment option, they either need to include it in the Voice UI or direct users to go back to the web to make the purchase.
  • Needs a careful VUI: Careful UI is an extension of voice having no real estate. Voice design is the key to voice experience. Voice user interface (VUI) is not the same as graphic user interface (GUI). Due to limited real estate, designers need to be careful about the following expectations:
    • Consider linguistics and manage user expectations: Since sentence formation is different from person to person, it is important to take care of linguistics: One person might say: “Alexa, reorder from Dominos” while someone else might say: “Repeat my last order from Dominos”. Your design needs to be ready to cater to both of these if you truly want to bring convenience through voice commerce.
    • Keep responses short: It is important to note that although the voice is becoming increasingly important for commerce, as merchants we have limited attention of the customer. Hence keeping responses short is vital. Alexa speaks much slower than an average human and therefore what looks like a great interaction on paper, may actually lead to a drop in conversion as the user is likely to forget what Alexa said. 
    • Manage User Expectations: One needs to clearly think about the environment and context of a user while using the voice app, in order to manage their expectations. Voice experience can get frustrating faster than web. For example, someone wanting to check the price of a product may or may not be looking to purchase immediately. So try not to answer a question with another question. E.g. 

Alexa, what’s the price of an eyeliner.

Instead of responding with another question

Would you like to order for an eyeliner

You could as well make assumptions and have Alexa say:

It typically costs anywhere between $8 to $10 for an eyeliner. Just let me know if you’d like to order for an eyeliner.

Final thoughts
Voice assistants cannot fully replace chatbots or websites but voice is definitely a growing channel for doing business. Voice today cannot enable you to find any product on the internet with the same ease as web, but it’s just day one for both consumers and businesses. There are a lot more capabilities which will be built in the years to come, that will make voice an important part of your business strategy.

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