Tuesday, 4th August 2020

Is voice search the future of financial commerce?

By Joey Moore, Head of Evangelism, EMEA & APAC, Episerver.

2019 has been the year that voice search came into its own. What only a few years ago seemed like science fiction is now a $600 million industry, with an average of 1 billion voice searches per month — many of which are being conducted via a smart speaker or virtual assistant.

As voice search has skyrocketed in popularity, businesses have been quick to capitalise on this trend and encourage potential customers to both browse for and buy products via voice search. According to the latest Reimagining Commerce report from Episerver, 25 percent of UK consumers have purchased an item using a voice assistant in 2019. More than one in ten (12 percent) make purchases via voice command every single week.

Despite this steep adoption curve, not every industry has been able to benefit from the rise of voice-assisted buying — financial services being a key example.

As is perhaps to be expected, shopping via voice assistant doesn’t lend itself to complex purchase decisions. For the most part, consumers are using voice technology to buy simple products and to repeat purchases they’ve previously made. According to data from PWC, while the number of people using voice assistants is on the rise, the most common purchases are those of little value such as food and taxi rides. When it comes to complex transactions that require significant consideration and comparison, however, consumers will turn to their laptops and smartphones for more detail.

As such, while several financial services brands are using voice assistants to help people manage their existing products, the potential to sell services or develop relationships with new customers are still few and far between.

Still, while consumers may not yet be willing to make such financial purchases via voice, that’s no reason for financial service providers to ignore this trend — if anything, it’s a reason to pay even closer attention.

As consumers grow ever more accustomed to the quick-fire purchasing associated with voice-based commerce, their expectations for efficient, streamlined and personalised user experiences are only set to grow. In order to meet these new expectations, brands that cannot sell through voice must work even harder to ensure that their customer interactions are positive, seamless and memorable for the consumer. Those brands that fail to do so will seem ever more outdated as a result.

By demonstrating to customers how seamless and personable a transaction can be, voice assistants are demonstrating just how far behind the curve many financial institutions really are. Reviewing this disconnect, research from Episerver found that one in ten of the world’s leading financial service providers still don’t have a mobile responsive website, while 55 percent do not have an iPhone app. Many financial services providers are also struggling to provide the level of personalised experience that customers expect, with 94 percent of banking firms saying they can’t deliver personalised financial services and guidance via web or mobile apps.

As user experience grows ever more important, it’s vital that financial services brands get the basics of their web and mobile strategy right before diving into voice-activated tech. While it may be appealing to chase the latest technology trend, the reality is that — for finance brands — the majority of transactions are still taking place via web and mobile devices, something which is unlikely to change in future.

As such, rather than investing time and money in a voice-commerce strategy, today’s financial brands may be better off ensuring they have a genuinely intuitive, responsive site, streamlined navigation, effective personalisation and an intelligent search function. These changes will not only help to secure more business and greater customer loyalty but will also help to futureproof your brand against the changing consumer expectations brought on by voice-commerce revolution.

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