Opinion

What the rise of voice search means for marketers

People have been able to 'talk' to their phones since Siri's introduction in 2011, but despite the advances and increased sophistication of the tech, and the growing number of appliances that we can now talk to, consumers are often stuck for real answers, writes Emma Lyons, head of search, eight&four, part of Cubo Group.

Voice search: apps like Siri still struggle with regional accents and certain natural-language phrasing
Voice search: apps like Siri still struggle with regional accents and certain natural-language phrasing

Apple and Microsoft have been particularly active in pushing their voice search applications of late (we’ve all seen Clean Bandit cringe their way through the Cortana advert), but do marketers, particularly in search marketing, need to start paying more attention to the rise of voice search?

It’s been reported that 55% of 13- to 18- year olds use voice search every day, so clearly there is an appetite.

But then again, Siri is still struggling to understand regional accents and quirks, with users having to adapt the way they speak to compensate.

There is still a long way to go to refine the model and even though we all have a ‘telephone voice’, it’s frustrating that we have to use it with our personal devices and ‘assistants’.

The future of search marketing

There has been a 61% growth in consumers making longer queries that start with "who," "what," "where," and "how".

This means it’s increasingly important that brands and marketers not only update their keywords list, but that they optimise content to common questions relevant to their company.

In order for consumers to adopt voice recognition wholeheartedly, answers have to be delivered at lightning speed – quicker than it takes to type the question into Google and press search.

For example, if you’re looking to buy the popular game Cards Against Humanity you won’t be searching for the specific retailer by name, you’ll be searching for "where can I buy Cards Against Humanity in London?"

This means the search query needs the retailer to be able to predict this specific behaviour, and optimise its content to answer it directly. Marketers need to be smart enough to get Siri or Cortana to able to answer with, "You can now buy Cards Against Humanity from Leisure Games in Finchley." 

This same rule of directly answering search queries applies to paid search. The messaging in any ad copy should be tailored to predict the user’s query and it is more important than ever to have different match types for each key word.

What’s the next step for marketers and brands?

Marketers and brands need to adopt keywords and phrases that are more natural and in line with the way we would normally speak to each other.

Consumers need to trust that voice recognition is not only going to help, but give them the best results possible.

On top of this, facial recognition and gesture recognition is increasingly being introduced into smart products; and brands and marketers need to think about what that extra layer of detail means for them and their customers specifically. 

Who’s ready for a voice-activated world?

One of the challenges marketers currently face is widespread acceptance. Is society really ready for a voice-activated world?

We might have seen a growth in voice search, partly due to the improvement of the voice recognition technology, but the only way to abolish the feeling of embarrassment that occurs when speaking into your smartphone in public, is making sure the benefits outweigh any issues.

In order to create a system that works efficiently enough to use regularly, brands need to understand completely what their consumers might need to know about them or their products; and factor this in when thinking about voice application. A brand’s depth of knowledge about its customers, and its anticipation and preparation for any request, will ultimately strengthen the results produced for the consumer.

Voice recognition also has the potential for content marketers and advertisers to create interactive personalised content. People will be able to talk directly to and interact with this content; which could cut the number of steps needed to be taken by the consumer.

This requires a lot of legwork from marketers and creatives to ensure that the creative output is not only informative, but engaging, fun and in line with the brand. A great way of testing what works and what doesn’t is A:B testing. By taking the time to monitor and compare performance, brands and marketers not only get better conversion rate, but can increase brand engagement. A win all round.