Three Ways Marketers Can Prepare for the Voice-Connected Consumer
Marketers need to transition their brand from "voice-friendly" to "voice-focused," writes Collin Holmes.
2018 is the year brands take voice technology more seriously and how it affects customer experiences. With predictions that voice activated shopping sales could reach $40 billion by 2022 and Amazon paving the way to get Alexa into cars, marketers who haven’t begun optimizing their brand for voice are already far behind.
With voice technology shaping the next big competitive war for Amazon, Google and other ad giants, marketers must think about how they will convey their business information, content and reputation in the natural and conversational manner consumers expect – and in a way that’s effective when using voice technology.
Here are three best practices to keep in mind as you transition your brand from “voice-friendly” to “voice-focused.” This guidance will help brand marketers find a balance between creating great user experiences that offer useful marketing messages while maintaining non-intrusive advertising.
Optimize for the Locally-Connected Consumer
Local search will become increasingly critical as consumers turn to their voice devices, and eventually their connected cars and appliances, to immediately find solutions, offers and services that are convenient and nearby. Brands must curate each of their location’s marketing and business listings accordingly to capitalize on this new channel to engage with customers.
For example, “Where is the best veggie burger downtown?” is a detailed product search query using a natural language phrase likely to be spoken by a consumer, but is something most restaurant brands have not yet optimized for. The problem is that optimized and accurate answers to these types of queries require the development of content that is very different from the article and keyword-driven content that marketers have been building for years. Google is mitigating this problem with the addition of questions that ask consumers to provide attributes about the business they visit (“Does it accept debit cards?,” “Is it handicap accessible?”), as well as Q&A’s with the business itself (“Do you have vegetarian options on your menu?”).
Start Thinking in Question-and-Answer Format
There are question marks around the way in which voice search filters results. When Google and Siri were asked, “Where is the best veggie burgers downtown?,” both platforms successfully recognized this as a local search and provided some nearby results, although they were less than ideal. It wasn’t until voice search was given a more general “best sandwiches downtown?” query that Google provided its standard map results, rather than selecting one result like in the previous example.
Exactly how important is this issue? In traditional desktop searches, the #1 Google result nets a 34.36 percent click-through rate, while the #2 result only generates 9 percent click-through. With voice search, the first result is it – it is getting 100 percent of the “clicks.” Since 84 percent of customers take action after conducting a local search, it is more vital than ever for brands to take that top spot and be the most relevant result.
Test Different Voice-Ad Strategies
It is crucial for marketers to prepare for the adoption of advertisements within voice, which will happen slowly, but eventually. Brand marketers need to ahead of the curve before fully connected, voice-activated technologies make their way to our IOT appliances, cars and workplaces. Since voice inherently takes on a Q&A format prompted by the consumer, it doesn’t leave much room for natural promotional moments and leaves us questioning what form these new ads will take.
Amazon is cautious with this on Alexa, considering only offering advertisers access to purchase behavior or restricting sponsored positions and ads to when users are adding skills to their Alexa devices. Amazon understands that flooding search results with sponsors will not only annoy consumers, it will also cause them to lose trust in Alexa altogether.
For marketers, it’s important to remember that 9 times out of 10, searches are unbranded, and that is not likely to change with the rise of voice search.
Special consideration will need to focus on identifying what target customers are asking their voice devices for and what they would be interested in hearing. All in all, the way brands discover and engage with consumers will force a step change among marketers to switch from a keyword-centric style to a conversational style so voice users can interact with a brand while using their device in their natural habitat.
*Collin Holmes is the CEO of Chatmeter, a local reputation platform that aims to help retail brands and agencies improve their online reputation and increase foot traffic and revenue to each of their storefront locations. Prior to that, Holmes served as VP of Product Management and Marketing at V-Enable (which became xAd and is now GroundTruth). He has also held executive posts at Akamai Technologies and AT&T Wireless.