There is huge potential for brands to create a direct and meaningful relationship with their customers through voice technology while simultaneously owning the data and information that is driving buyer intent and purchase behavior.
When your customers use voice assistants for search capabilities, they are generating a motherlode of new data points about themselves. As more and more consumers talk to their devices, this pool of information will grow larger, and companies will compete for access to it. By 2019, AdWeek estimates there will be more than 67 million voice-assisted devices in use in the United States alone. If you’re proactive, your company can use this data to create more direct and meaningful relationships with your customers. Here’s a look at what’s behind this opportunity, and how you can take advantage of it:
Digital Assistants Make Voice Search Feel Natural
The arrival of digital assistants like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and HomePod have transformed the way people search. Of course, phones have offered voice capability through Siri and Google Now for some years now, but everyone was already accustomed to text-based searching when they reached for their phones. Unlike phones, however, home assistant devices didn’t evolve over many years. They appeared on the scene with voice as their native language, and speech recognition is at the heart of how these devices provide utility. As AdWeek puts it, the entire physical world is on its way to becoming a “vast, voice-activated interface.” In 2016, more than 40 percent of adults used voice search every day, and comScore estimates 50% of all search will be via voice tech.
Don’t Miss Out on a Key Opportunity
Voice search usually has greater specificity and context than text searches, because they tend to be more directly connected with a product, action or location. They also use natural language, which often provides additional context. When people make these information-rich searches through digital assistants, guess who keeps the user data? If your brand wants to OWN that data, rather than pay platforms to optimize it, the solution is to build your own voice skill that provides value to your users.
Here’s an example of what we’re talking about: When you search any oral health question, you’ll find Colgate and Crest among the top search results. If these top brands port their helpful content over to voice, they can participate directly in helping users maintain a proper tooth brushing regimen. They might play a song that lasts as long as the ideal brushing time, much like a competitor, Oral-B or communicate with a connected toothbrush to activate it. From there, the company could add a Q & A or some helpful tips that the user could listen to. In this way, they would further deepen the consumer’s relationship with their brand as not only a supplier of dental products but also their trusted expert in oral health.
Voice Offers Enriched Access to Customer Information
The new conversation-based technology gives you a chance to get creative about your marketing from the ground up. You can strengthen your customer relationship by thinking holistically about the digital landscape.
Here’s another example: A children’s medicine provider could create a skill that asks parents questions about their child’s symptoms: (Does the baby have a fever? Is there a rash?). The answers to these questions could trigger a recommendation for the appropriate over-the-counter medication, and/or a suggestion to call the child’s doctor. The phone number could be stored in the user’s account so that the whole interaction would be streamlined. If the user has provided their email address and opted into marketing, the brand can follow up via email with a coupon for the recommended medicine.
The above example shows how your brand can gain access to the stories behind people’s purchases, and the factors that lead to their buying decision. This is precious data that was not previously available from purchase interactions. Furthermore, the outcome of a voice search can position your brand as both a trusted expert and the source of a solution.
You Can Personalize with Voice
Voice also provides a unique opportunity for personalization. It’s how we connect with other people when they’re in the room with us. In the past, brands have generally had to adopt a single voice, with which they communicate to all consumers, across all channels. Sales have always been about an intuitive person-to-person connection, however. Even if the voice is coming from AI software instead of directly from another human being, it’s still possible to personalize the interaction.
You can picture the value of voice personalization if you imagine someone shopping for a car and being able to pick the salesperson they prefer to work with. The car brand could create a skill to help potential buyers select which vehicle might be best for them. Each voice persona could focus on a specific aspect of the vehicle, with one able to provide extensive safety details and another ready to talk about handling and horsepower. Customer data could be segmented to make suggestions regarding which voice would be most pleasing to that individual. Once the “salesperson” helps the customer determine what vehicle is best for them, the skill can offer to send this tailored profile and information to a local dealership to schedule a test drive. If the customer declines but has opted into receiving messages from the brand, that information can be used to follow up via email and online ads.
The Competition is Growing
Something to keep in mind about voice search is that your company needs to be in the top one or two result positions when the device responds to the user. Unlike a Google search result page, where you’re visible if you’re on the first page (or at least among the first five places), a voice search isn’t going to yield many results. No consumer wants to listen to a droning list of one possibility after another. According to 360i president Jared Belsky, interviewed in AdWeek, “Brands should brace for a new search reality, where they may have to worry about being in either the first or second voice slot or else risk not being heard at all.” He goes on to point out that in this battle, “it’s the same amount of interest funneling into a smaller landscape,” and so positioning may well become more expensive.
SEO Steps to Accommodate Voice Search
Adapting your company to the age of voice search means more than just building your digital assistant skill or mobile app; it also means augmenting your SEO strategy. One reason for this is that Google is already giving the coveted “position zero” status to those SERPs that are optimized for voice search. Here are a few of the SEO points you’ll need to consider:
- Research the long-tail keywords that have low competition, and are most likely to occur in the way that people will phrase their spoken search requests.
- Pick out the keywords that you’re going to put serious energy into, in order to appear at the top of the search results. Correspondingly, you may want to put less focus into some of your secondary ones, since weaker search results will essentially render you invisible.
- If you have a brick and mortar presence, focus on local SEO. The location will be an important aspect of voice searches.
- Be ready for change. Like any revolution, it’s impossible to predict exactly where the voice search wave will bring us in a few years.
Ride the Voice Revolution Wave
Technology pursues its own unstoppable evolution, leaving companies with no option except to adapt. Now that digital assistants are captivating the consumer imagination, your company needs to create branded voice skills and voice search in order to stay competitive. However, each new technological expansion brings a fresh opportunity to creatively define your company’s identity. The advances in customer experience promised by taking ownership of voice search data are substantial, and will richly reward those brands that take the leap.