Voice commerce and text-based commerce are often thrown together under the same conversational commerce umbrella. However, these new-age shopping channels are different in significant ways.
Both leverage conversational AI technology, but they shouldn’t occupy the same space in people’s minds or in omni-channel sales ecosystems. It’s important for retailers to understand this concept to take full advantage of the benefits that both offer.
In this post, we’ll explain the differences between the two and highlight various use cases. This will help clarify why voice and text-based commerce each require their own deployment strategy. Both are crucial additions to the eCommerce playbook and will be for years to come.
Text-based Commerce vs. Voice Commerce
As the name implies, text-based commerce refers to shopping tasks that occur via text messages. These tasks may include completing transactions, providing order statuses, answering FAQs, and offering upsell opportunities.
Text-based commerce has grown increasingly popular with recent advancements in natural language processing and conversational AI. It’s useful for engaging consumers quickly in the midst of a purchasing event. Text-based commerce also aligns with the widespread adoption of texting as a form of communication, although people are starting to turn more to speech-to-text and voice. Even text-first platforms like WhatsApp are seeing massive voice message utilization – seven billion on average every day, in fact.
Voice commerce describes shopping interactions that occur through spoken conversation. Voice commerce depends on AI-powered voice recognition, language processing, pattern recognition, and voice synthesis technology. The channel has exploded over the past several years, as more people adopt smart speakers with voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant.
Voice commerce has proven itself at delivering smooth shopping experiences for products of all types. In 2021, 45M consumers used voice to shop at least once during the year. People are now turning to voice for much more than household consumables. This trend will continue to grow throughout the 2020s. By 2025, Juniper Research predicts the voice commerce market will reach $164B.
How to Use Both Channels Effectively
The key to applying text-based commerce and voice commerce effectively is knowing that they serve different purposes. People don’t type the same way that they talk. There’s less emotion in texting. The channel relies on keywords rather than voice inflection.
The primary appeal of text-based commerce is its convenience. People can multitask their way through interactions at their own speed. They can also connect with customer support and get redirected to helpful resources. Moreover, the channel works well in situations when speaking out loud isn’t an option, like on public transit, in the office, or in public.
Voice commerce, on the other hand, is all about understanding shopper intent and delivering a seamless shopping experience, just with fewer humans involved. Additionally, voice commerce has a wider range of use cases compared to text-based commerce – the channel is built for product discovery, ordering, tracking, and customer support.
When incorporated into a well-designed application, voice commerce offers a more engaging experience with less friction. People can initiate voice commerce interactions at home while doing things around the house. They can reorder their favorite cleaning products or restock on paper towels while organizing the kitchen.
More car manufacturers are including voice capabilities in their vehicles, which means more people will complete transactions while driving. For instance, drivers can now add milk to their Whole Foods carts or place orders for more pet food while on the go. These are just a few examples of venues where voice commerce is now essential.
Given the differences between text-based commerce and voice commerce, retailers have to approach them in distinct ways. The skills needed to manage one channel successfully don’t apply to the other. Both may need to be implemented by third-party experts depending on the size and scope of the ultimate use case.
Text-based commerce requires anticipating many conversation flows in advance and having excellent customer support readily available. Meanwhile, voice commerce is more technically complex. Retailers have to integrate voice assistants with data systems. Voice commerce applications are only effective if they have access to real-time inventory data.
To give an analogy that further separates text-based commerce from voice commerce, the former is like placing a to-go order, while the latter is like dining in. Text-based commerce is like picking up food to eat at home on a busy night when there’s no time to cook and quality doesn’t matter as much. Voice commerce is a more immersive, rich, and intent-driven experience, like going on a date and having a nice meal. Both are important for the restaurant to provide, but they address different customer needs.
The final takeaway: text-based commerce and voice commerce are distinct and valuable sales channels. A robust eCommerce strategy should include both, which means investing in two sets of capabilities.