UK online fashion retailer ASOS has today (11 October) become one of the first fashion retailers in the UK to launch on Google Assistant, meaning customers can discover the latest of the company’s products across popular categories using just their voice.

Customers in the UK and US can initiate conversation with Enki, the Asos shopping guide, by saying “Hey Google, talk to Asos” to their Google Home smart speaker or Google Assistant app on Android or iOS. Using their voice or text, Enki will help them quickly discover and shop the latest products across six of Asos’ top womenswear and menswear categories, viewable on their smartphone.

The retailer will be using customer feedback from the initial launch to explore ways to refine and enhance the experience over the coming months.

This is Asos’ first step into voice apps as the technology becomes ever-present in customers’ lives, with one-in-two US consumers using voice technology today and voice shopping expected to be worth US$40bn by 2022. Google Assistant is now available on more than 500m devices globally.

Asos launched Enki, the Asos Fashionbot, on Facebook Messenger in the UK earlier this year to help customers discover relevant products. Features such as Your Edit (a weekly drop of curated items), recommended brands, Style Match – which enables customers to search using images from the web or captured on their smartphone – and ‘You Might Also Like’ are all built on machine learning to make it easier for customers to navigate the wide range of products on Asos’ site.

“With 85,000 products on site at any one time, and on average 5,000 new items added each week, it’s more important than ever to make it easy for our customers to stay on top of what’s new on Asos,” says Jason Gregory, senior product manager at Asos. “With the launch of Enki on Facebook Messenger and now Google Assistant, we’re exploring ways that conversational commerce can help us make the Asos shopping experience as easy and intuitive as possible.”

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Jonny Pennington, head of SEO at Visualsoft notes the Google Assistant launch is a “bold move” that all e-retailers should be paying close attention to.

“Voice search may feel unnatural at first, but e-commerce was the same way in its formative years. Businesses that opted not to sell online subsequently spent years playing catch-up, and the same could be true for voice commerce,” he explains.

“Voice commerce could particularly benefit local, high-street retailers that are not bound by the strict tone-of-voice guidelines which restrict the messaging of larger corporates. It may also be a lifeline for retail brands looking to survive, innovate and grow amidst a volatile retail landscape. However, voice search has thus far been worryingly overlooked by brands. As it stands, only 3% have adapted their SEO strategies to account for voice-led search results – a concerning lack of preparedness.”

Paul Delaney, head of digital marketing at full-service e-commerce agency PushON, concurs.

“Asos has consistently shown itself to be one of the most forward-thinking e-commerce brands. Already leading the way on visual search, it is unsurprising that the company has now made a smart move into the world of voice search by teaming up with Google.

“Voice search has emerged as one of the most prominent new search trends over the past few years, with Google suggesting that 20% of mobile search queries made via its app are now conducted using voice search, and 10% of UK households now owning a smart speaker. 

“Voice search transactions are already worth around GBP0.2bn and with the number of households with a smart speaker predicted to rise to 50% by 2022, voice transactions are expected to grow to an astonishing GBP3.5bn.”

With voice search transactions on the rise, users of these technologies will be key target demographics for online retailers going forward, he adds.

“While most businesses won’t have the advantage of a direct collaboration with Google, savvy retailers who start working on their voice search strategy now can get a head start on their competition and harness this new technology to successfully increase online sales.

“Optimising a site for voice search will help to boost its organic search rankings, which is particularly pertinent in the world of e-commerce, where a retailer’s search visibility really can make or break a brand.”