OK, Google - what do I need to know about voice search?

OK, Google - what do I need to know about voice search?

Having been one of the must-haves items for Christmas 2017, thousands of people have begun the year using new gadgets such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Words such as ‘Alexa’, ‘Siri’, and ‘OK, Google’ are all becoming part of our everyday language as more and more of us come to recognise, and rely upon, the advantages that come from using voice search devices. However, what does this voice boom mean for brands? We’ve compiled a short guide to tell you more…

Where are we at…

In the same way that a few years ago we saw the definitive shift from the use of desktop computing to mobile, we are now seeing the shift to voice. The ability to search using voice has actually been around for the past five years but it’s in the last year or so that we’ve really seen it becoming something that more and more people use. The key to its popularity is in its reliability, people will only use voice search if they are sure it’s going to be accurate and provide them with the answers they need. In turn, that accuracy comes from use – voice search devices, like any artificial intelligence and machine learning product, learn more every time they are used. The more people that use them, the more accurate they will then become. This is why it is clear to see that we are at the start of a new way of searching and the use of voice search is only likely to grow.

What does voice search mean for brands?

With the rise of voice search, we are seeing an evolution of the customer journey taking place. The beauty of voice search is that it is quicker and more convenient, everything that the modern consumer wants – you ask it for a recommendation and you get one result pointing you to exactly what you need.

One of the critical disadvantages for brands though is that voice search learns from previous behaviours so will likely point the user to something they are already familiar with. For the consumer, this is ideal as they are being provided with exactly what they like straight away. For brands though this is set to be a real challenge as it means if someone is not already a customer, how are they going to become one if they don’t have you listed as a choice? Ads or multiple listings could be used, but that goes against the very essence of the simplicity and immediacy that voice search is sold upon.

What it will mean for brands is that as voice search grows, relationships with customers will become more important with brands really needing to focus upon customer retention more than ever to ensure that familiarity is there.

What’s the next steps?

Voice search is really only at the very beginning of it’s journey and it’s the parent companies such as Apple, Amazon and Google who will really be the ones determining how brands can utilise voice search in the future.

One way that bigger brands have started to use voice search is by identifying ways in which they can become a utility for the customer. In essence, brands need to be considering the ways in which people, in their homes, might be using your products or services and provide something which addresses that. For example, Vodafone came up with a voice search app which enables customers to check their remaining data allowance and monthly bill total.

The other thing to consider when thinking about how voice search might work for your brand is not to think how you can fit in with the technology now but rather how you could fit in with what the technology is capable of doing in a couple of years’ time. Research from ComScore suggests that 50% of all searches will be voice by 2020 while Google’s own leading engineer, Ray Kurzweil, said that he expects 2019 to be the tipping point at which voice search will start to dominate the market as affordability, access and usability will meet.

 The ways to communicate with your customers and provide them with what they want is changing and the brands of the future are the ones who are recognising this right now.

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