The future of search is voice. But smart speakers and home voice assistants offer so much more for brands. It’s a new platform open for unexpected and engaging marketing that can give your brand a voice in customers' homes.

55% of households are expected to own a smart speaker within the next 3 years. If that’s not a wakeup call for brands to get on the voice-search train, here are some more stats:

Global smart speaker purchases grew nearly 200% YOY in Q3 2018

40% of adults now use voice search once per day

51% use voice to research products before purchase

20% of mobile queries are voice searches 

Brands should be looking to making themselves more voice-friendly, to start adopting strategies that coincide with consumer search behaviours, and to broaden campaign ideas that create engaging voice experiences.

Voice search is important, but there’s so much more opportunity for innovation. Let’s take a broad look at how you can achieve that.

  

Understand search behaviours

A few years ago, Google categorised the rising trend in search behaviours and named them ‘micro-moments’ in the online customer journey. The 4 categories are: I want to know, I want to do, I want to go, and I want to buy. Your brand’s voice search should focus on these 4 moments – the fundamental motivations behind a customer search. If you can integrate all 4 of these moments, then you’re well on your way to improving your brand's find-ability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEO 

The biggest difference between voice search results and those screen-based is that customers get one answer as opposed to a long list of blue links. And that one answer is generally one of the top 3 search results. So you need to get your search ranking high.

Principally, SEO strategies are the same for voice as they are for type. But because people speak differently to the way they write, what’s important is the intended meaning behind a search, as opposed to what a customer would literally say. This means your SEO needs to flex to allow for natural language and semantics.  

For example: where you would type “restaurants near me”, you may say “where can I go to eat?” Different language, same meaning. Ensure your SEO covers these variances.

It’s also worth knowing the most popular search terms. It’s interesting to note just how more frequently used the top 3 voice search terms – “how,” “what,” and “best” – are compared with the others.  In fact, searches with “best” have grown over 80% between 2015 and 2017: “What is the best marketing agency in Leeds?” “What’s the best baby buggy I can get?” “Where’s the best place to go for a budget holiday?” You get the idea – try to work in these terms as much as possible.

 

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Google isn’t the main player (shock) 

When you think search, you think Google. But brands should remember that in the world of voice search on smart devices, Google doesn’t dominate. Why? Everyone loves Alexa.

Amazon’s Alexa product has out-sold Google’s alternative by a whopping margin. Currently, Alexa has 69% of the market share, compared with Google Home’s 31%. And Alexa doesn’t use Google to search. She uses Bing.

So optimise for Google alone at your peril. Improving your SEO ranking on Bing will likely be more impactful.

  

Beyond search

Voice is bigger than just search. It’s a new way for your brand to interact with your audience. And this is the big thing for the future – knowing how to innovate and leverage your brand so that it can offer voice-driven experiences as part of the customer journey.

This is where Apps and Skills come in (Google has Apps, Alexa has Skills) – both are fundamentally the same. Brands shouldn’t be afraid of creating these, in fact they’re actually relatively straightforward.

Brands can create short or long-term interactions with these depending on their purpose.

For example, a short-term interaction using a Skill or an App could be part of a single marketing campaign. Notably, Channel 4 created the Human Test Skill to advertise their Humans series. In the Skill, users are asked some very surprising and engaging questions to ascertain whether they are human or synthetic. The Skill got rave reviews and a lot of customer traction.

Amazon’s Alexa favours more long-term interactions and encourages brands to think how they can best create a Skill that has longevity. They advise that a successful Skill needs to:

  • Provide customer value
  • Encourage repeated use
  • Entice with fresh content

For example, Campbell’s (of Campbell’s soup fame) developed an Alexa Skill called Campbell’s Kitchen which helps users plan and prepare their meals with recipes (frequently updated) and shopping lists ­– it’s a Skill that ticks all of the above boxes.

 

Heard enough?

Customer voice interactions with brands are growing. Fast. In just a few years, it’s going to be the new norm – not just for voice search, but voice experiences. Voice is a whole new platform for brands to innovate and create for; one that gets you into the very heart of the customer’s home. And it’s easier than you think.

 


Picture of Alex Allston, Senior Copywriter at The Sharp Agency

Alex Allston

Senior Copywriter