Why voice search should be your next marketing priority

Ben Shipley, Chief Innovation Officer, Ovato

When Google celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, it was a reflection of how much its search engine is now entrenched in our everyday lives. Accompanied by the rise of mobile and smartphone use, online search has made us all reliant on the ability to get immediate answers, solutions and access to products and services at our fingertips.

Back in 2015, Google called these ‘micro-moments’: “the I want-to-know moments, I want-to-go moments, I want-to-do moments, and I want-to-buy moments…intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped”. In 2019, our search behaviour is still characterised by this sense of immediacy – but now we’re switching between channels and devices. We might start a search for a product or topic on our desktop at work and end it by watching a video on the train the next day.

Within this search journey, voice is becoming increasingly important. By 2020, Gartner predicts 30 per cent of all web browsing will be done without a screen, as millennials drive the take-up of home assistants to search for information. But while consumer adoption of voice technology has been faster than any product since the smartphone, marketing is lagging far behind – only 2 per cent of marketers are allocating spend towards voice.

Changing your perspective

One reason for this slow adoption is that effective use of voice search technology requires a change in perspective. Even outside of voice, people use more conversational search queries to find very specific, personal information. It’s no longer sufficient to just think in terms of keywords that relate to your business or products, like “marketing” or “electronics”. You need to consider the natural-language phrases people use to ask a question - and all the idiosyncrasies, short-hand and acronyms that accompany them.

It’s also about the answers people expect to find. Mobile searches that include the phrase “for me” (e.g. “What running shoes are best for me?”) have grown over 60 per cent in the last two years, reflecting an expectation of hyper-relevant, personalised search results. We want search engines and digital assistants to have genuine answers for our question, not generic information. This means you need to embrace voice as a means to provide useful insights and responses, not purely as a tool to sell products.

What does this mean for your SEO strategy? If your website ranks online for the most up-to-date and useful information on a topic, it’s more likely to be used by voice-activated AI assistants to provide answers, which builds brand recognition and trust. Research shows there are a range of factors that contribute to voice search performance, including having long-form website content, being more specific than your typical SEO content, and separating out answers to common questions in their own paragraphs or formatting so Google can pull them out as snippets.

Harnessing the power of voice

Beyond becoming a topic-expert, the true power of voice search is its immediacy. Mobile searches for a combination of “near me” and “to buy” have grown over 500 per cent over the last two years, while mobile searches for “open” + “now” + “near me” have increased 200 per cent. When they’re out and about, consumers want information immediately and it needs to be relevant and easily actionable. It’s no use to know that there’s a store near them if it’s not open or doesn’t stock the product they’re looking for.

Combining a need for immediate information with existing customer data on purchases, behaviour and interests, you can start to promote the products and services they need in the moment. Integration with catalogue distribution data will show you the best products to share with customers in different areas. Likewise, you can build custom voice-activated apps that provide the information consumers are looking for most often – like opening hours, product availability and returns policies. From here, you can start to build a deeper understanding of the offers and topics that resonate.

Voice search also provides a whole new range of opportunities to get creative with how you deliver value to customers. For example, if users tell Amazon’s Alexa to “Ask Patrón for a cocktail recipe”, they’ll receive a selection of cocktail options, generating more than 6,000 voice queries a month for the tequila brand. Or when users say “Hey Google, let’s read along to Disney” to their Google Home, the speaker will match sound effects to key points in Disney and Penguin Random House children’s books, bringing the stories to life.

The recent 2019 Alexa Cup finalists also showcase the power of voice to deliver insights and services to customers, from managing anxiety and mental health conditions, to delivering premium content or booking appointments with local businesses. Possibilities to come up with activations and interactions that connect your brand to customers at important touchpoints during their day-to-day lives are endless.

The end-game

Ultimately, marketers in Australia are at the beginning of their journey with voice search. In the future, digital assistants will not only deliver information but will understand our routines and needs, able to provide recommendations and predictions, not just responses. With this kind of data, you can think about end-to-end integration with your brand, from your shopfront to your website and customer support team. The brands that make the leap first will find a serious competitive edge. And more importantly, the ability to be there for their customers in the moments it matters most.

Get in touch with Ben Shipley, CIMO on 0410 712 327 to find out how voice can deliver results to achieve your business goals.