As online apparel shopping overcame the barriers of shipping time and returns, it flourished. Consumers are now reluctant to browse physical storefronts as they can “visit” hundreds of stores online, from the convenience of their couch. This behavior shift was driven by Millennial and Gen Z shoppers who grew up online and hold $200 billion in collective spending power1. Now capturing more than 34 percent of U.S. online sales2, the apparel industry is making voice a natural evolution and enhancement of its move online.
Voice technology, now ingrained in our mobile phones and personal devices, is shaping consumer behavior — helping people search for information, consume content and shop in a more natural, frictionless way. This innate familiarity makes voice attractive and easy for consumers to adopt, taking away the learning curve that comes with many new technologies. Voice benefits from its unique ability to pair conversational and more contextual inputs with hands-free convenience. This gives voice an advantage over traditional media, allowing shoppers to multi-task and better communicate with their devices on the go. With its ease and simplicity, voice has already begun to transform search, and by 2020 it is estimated that 50 percent of all searches will be performed through voice3.
The rise of voice is transforming not just search but shopping as well. Today, you no longer need to open your laptop, much less go to the store, to make a purchase. The buying process begins by saying “Hey, Google.” The novel functionality and hands-free convenience of voice is especially attractive to younger shoppers who live on mobile and shop on the go. Millennials are the largest segment of early adopters to voice commerce and make up more than half of its regular shoppers4. While still in its infancy, voice commerce is predicted to grow to $40 billion+ in U.S. sales by 20223 with the largest categories household essentials (26 percent) and apparel (21 percent)5.
The initial intersection of voice and apparel shopping has come from re-order/replenish purchases, in which shoppers already know the style, size and color they desire. With this, ordering new socks for your child can be easier than yelling at them to do their laundry. This capitalizes on the rudimentary advantages of voice, speed and convenience, allowing shoppers to make instantaneous purchases without having to pick up their phone. As voice commerce continues to evolve, we expect to see this shopping behavior amplified and expanded beyond routine purchases to aided discovery.
The apparel industry is large, filled with product depth and variety, and can be hard for shoppers to navigate. Tomorrow, what was new is now old in an industry dominated by new releases and constant innovation. With this, discovery is fundamental to shopper success. The more natural interaction of voice aids itself well to discovery, expanding the search bar into a conversation so shoppers can provide more specificity in their search. If you’re going camping for the weekend, Siri wants to know and can use this context to help give you more personalized results. This added context and intent is kept from traditional search, forcing shoppers to settle for standardized categories and, thus, generalized results. Through its more conversational inputs, voice simplifies the apparel industry for shoppers, helping them discover products and find their style. Incorporating the novelty of voice along with its more personalized results can be a great differentiator for brands fighting for the attention of young consumers. In an industry centered around individual styles and consumers with distinct tastes and preferences, voice helps brands to develop greater understanding of their shoppers to provide more personalized results.
Apparel brands are already taking advantage: Perry Ellis is using voice to overcome a common barrier for millennial men; dressing for occasion-based events. Through voice commands, it is able to gather more contextualized inputs and provide personalized results to specific shopper requests, pulling together curated looks and encouraging shoppers to buy now. By using the conversational elements of voice to their advantage, Perry Ellis is able to solve for a barrier and simplify the shopping process.
The rise of voice commerce and increased penetration of smart phones go hand in hand. Voice enhances the mobile experience, bringing added convenience that encourages more interaction. Mobile, on the other hand, provides a vehicle for voice to live, bringing conversations to life and putting the beauty of apparel on display. This visual confirmation brings added trust to voice, getting over one of its largest barriers to conversion. Voice, by itself, is convenient: easy for reorder and replenish purchases. When paired with mobile, however, voice can provide greater discovery and help shoppers to better navigate the apparel industry.
As voice continues to rise in popularity and gather more shopper data, it will only get more personalized. The search bar can be a barrier to shoppers, constricting information. Voice turns search into a conversation, allowing for added context and providing more personalized results to apparel shoppers. And, voice is just cool; Millennials like it.