In early 2016, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that 20 percent of queries on its mobile app and on Android devices are voice searches, with this number predicted to be over 50% by 2020.
While this merely sounds like an interesting statistic, it’s not until we unpack this that we start to realise some of the complexities and understand the fundamental shift that we, as marketers, need to make in the way we create, display and serve content.
Voice brings a new set of challenges
For starters, voice search comes a whole new set of challenges for developers at the forefront of voice tech; that is, in the software & devices that listen to & process queries.
No longer is an AI like Google Assistant responding to a set of written words in a known language, but its hardware & software has to ‘filter’ the input to cater for an array of variables; such as dialect, tone of voice & mood, volume fluctuations, background noise and follow-up questions, and then offer the result.
With voice search, people use a different kind of keyword – rather than use odd ‘query-style’ language, they use natural-sounding phrases and questions. In other words, “Marquee hire in Chatswood” has evolved to “Hey Google… who hires out marquees?” (the engine, of course, knows where the user is and their location is assumed).
Marketers need to evolve
For marketers too, there are now more chances to interact with the buyer in their journey, as they compare prices, bounce from site to site, read reviews and ask friends for recommendations… though these interactions are becoming less and less ‘human’.
Consumers don’t want to have to wait until 9am tomorrow to call you; they want to get answers, make decisions & buy online – at any time of the day or night. As a business, you need to make sure they can – and take advantage of snap decisions when a consumers buying intent is high.
Google calls these ‘Micro-Moments’, and they are defined as critical touch points within today’s consumer journey, and when added together, they ultimately determine how that journey ends.
Is your brand ready to influence?
Micro-Moments can happen anywhere, anytime and during these moments, consumers expect brands to answer their needs in real-time. Search, and in particular voice search, is perfectly suited to cater to these moments. For a successful Micro-Moment, that is, one that has informed or influenced, we need context, intent and immediacy.
Google says Micro-Moments are the new battleground for brands. Is your brand ready to influence?
According to Google, to win at Micro-Moments, you need to be there, be useful and be quick. In other words;
- Anticipate what questions that users in your industry may have.
- Provide answers in FAQ-style formats + be relevant to their needs.
- Be fast & friction-less in the delivery of the answer.
How wide is your funnel?
To win in this new era of AI and voice, it’s imperative that your brand is visible throughout all three stages of the buyers journey; the Awareness Stage, the Consideration Stage and the Decision Stage.
Be there when the consumer is researching their problem. Plant the seed early-on and influence consumer intent.
If you’re only visible at the bottom of the funnel, then the consumer’s already likely made up their mind – about going with your competition.
A quick look at how Voice & AI improved my day-to-day
When I first received a Google Home for my birthday, I thought it would be a fun gadget for asking general search questions, or for the weather forecast. Little did I know it would change the way I do my shopping, watch TV and work around the kitchen.
When I cook at home, I get my Google Home to play the music I like. Not by telling it what song to play, but by asking it to play a curated Spotify playlist that’s aligned to my music tastes. It can also play that song over multiple speakers at the same time (ie. multi-room audio).
I ask it to set countdown timers simply by voice (it knows to pause and restart music as I do this). I ask it to add ingredients to my shopping list as I run out. It converts between ounces and grams, if I’m following an American recipe.
It reminds me to put the washing in the dryer – and that reminder appears on my phone at the right time, too (just in case I’m not in earshot of my Google Home). I can check my calendar and add appointments. I can ask it what’s for dinner and it suggests nearby restaurants that are open at the moment. If I ask for more detail, like “Mexican only”, and then “What’s rated over 4 stars?”, it knows I’m referring to nearby Mexican restaurants that are open now.
I tell it to play Star Trek Discovery on my Living Room TV and it knows how to turn on my amp, my TV, sign in to Netflix and play the next episode. It does this all in under ten seconds and It. Just. Works. Soon, I’ll be able to say “Hey Google, order my usual from Domino’s” and it’ll be at my door in under 30 minutes (American’s already have access to this functionality). I can even program custom actions based on certain phrases.
Where to now?
So while voice has certainly changed the way I search & interact around the house, it’s also changed the way results are presented to me.
If your business doesn’t have detailed contact information (or good reviews, for that matter!) on Google, or if you don’t have an FAQ on your website, then there’s no way Google is ever going to serve-up voice answers to my questions about you.
The future of AI and voice search is all about context and detail. It’s now up to us marketers to hit the right notes.