By Marcel Gemme
Just a few short years ago, voice search was a bit of a novelty. But similar to other technologies, voice search has matured to the point where marketers can no longer ignore it. To be competitive, it’s become necessary to include voice as an essential component of your marketing strategy. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Voice search is highly accurate
In the past, if you wanted relevant answers from a voice recognition technology, well—good luck with that. But today, machine learning systems can compete with people in terms of accuracy. Google’s voice recognition, for example, boasts a 95% word accuracy rate for English.
These improvements mean that, while you can trust good voice systems to match customers with the right products, services, or information with increasing degrees of nuance, leading businesses already have set customer expectations for delivery. Translation: buyers aren’t going to tolerate subpar systems.
2. The interest in voice is only going to grow
Because voice search systems are at a point where they actually can perform reliably and meet customer expectations just as well (if not better) than traditional query options, customer trust in them is growing:
- 65% of 25-to-49-year-olds talk to automated voice systems at least once a day.
- Voice shopping is expected to reach $40 billion by 2022—up from $2 billion in 2018; global smart speaker sales expected to exceed $30 billion by 2024.
- 34% of people who don’t have a voice assistant would like to buy one.
- 52% of smart speaker owners would like to get information about deals, sales, and promotions.
Yet, only 4% of businesses are properly optimized for voice search. What’s with the disconnect?
In other words, business leaders are at an ideal intersection where reliable systems are available and there are still many customers who haven’t been reached or who might want more out of the systems they currently use. Bringing those systems and customers together will help companies avoid being left behind.
3. People are after convenience and all types of information
When people use voice search, they don’t just want to locate a great pair of shoes or a TV. Chaitanya Chandrasekar, CEO of QuanticMind, writes that they want all kinds of other information, too, such as your store hours, how to connect to support specialists, and when you’re having your next sale. This is partly why some experts have predicted a “totally different internet” within the next five to 10 years, one where voice-activated chatbots have all but replaced the e-commerce channels we’re used to using.
Shoppers are also after general tips that can take some of the friction out of everyday life—think life hacks and how-tos. In fact, words like “how,” “what,” “best,” and “easy” are among the top voice search queries, according to seoClarity.
This means that when it comes to online marketing, you probably need to change your entire optimization approach, taking elements like grammar and semantics, the structure of your site, and structured data markup that influences Google’s ability to find your content. Of course, optimizing from the start, not as an afterthought, is ideal.
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4. Voice can be part of many different customer-brand interactions
Looking at data from Narvar, you can see that as customers want different types of information from voice systems, they also can use it at many points in the customer journey. For example, about half of shoppers (51%) use voice to research products. Customers also use voice to:
- Add items to shopping lists (36%)
- Track packages (30%)
- Make a purchase (22%)
- Give a rating or review (20%)
- Contact support (18%)
- Reorder something (17%)
These statistics show you should think beyond just having customers find you or your products. Voice search and commands can take your buyers from start to finish, so give your customers as much convenience and satisfaction as possible by integrating voice options into more types of interactions.
5. Voice is often just the starting point
A survey by BrightLocal showed that, once a consumer makes a local voice search, their next most common action is to call the business (28%). Customers also are highly likely to visit company websites (27%), show up at the company’s location (19%), and do more research into that business or additional businesses (14% and 12%, respectively).
So, in short, while voice services can allow a customer to complete many steps without human interaction, you shouldn’t see it as a total substitute. Many people are going to take further steps after the initial search, and they still will want to hear a human voice respond back once in a while. They are going to have more questions, and they’re willing to physically connect with you and what you offer. Don’t drop the ball in other areas, like making your site aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate, having enough staff ready to chat, listing an accurate contact number, or keeping your store well stocked.
Voice search already is shifting the way customers engage with brands, but there’s still time for companies of any size to get involved with voice systems in ways that can benefit both the customer and the business’s bottom line. The next step is to find voice search solutions. However, as with other technologies, these are not necessarily one size fits all, meaning it’s critical to shop around and be specific about your goals. If you can customize and update your options in a scalable way, they’ll be even more effective for your business.
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