Use the power of speech recognition to search the web.
‘Alexa – add washing up liquid to my shopping list.’ ‘Hey, Google – what should I wear today? ‘Siri – where’s my nearest beer garden?’
Today we find ourselves in a world that we’d have laughed off as science fiction a few years ago. Major advances in speech recognition, natural language processing and artificial intelligence have fundamentally changed the way we’re interacting with computers. Voice recognition error rates now equal those of humans, meaning that voice search – already the most natural mode of communication – is better than ever.
Analysts have forecast stellar voice search growth. ComScore has gone so far as to suggest that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. Research consultancy Ovum reckons that by 2021 there will be more native digital assistants installed than people on the planet. If you’re thinking this seems punchy given that you own one Echo Dot and you mostly ask it to tell jokes, bear in mind that the next wave of internet users, especially those in emerging economies, will jump straight to smartphones over laptops, PCs and tablets. Given that speaking to your phone is significantly simpler and more convenient than typing, these smartphone owners will become voice search power users.
What does voice search mean for brands?
This brave new voice search-driven world is remarkable, if a little terrifying, for brands. Amazon, in particular, has been quick to clamp down on attempts at advertising hacks and black hat tactics, dissuading brands from intruding on consumers engaging with a very intimate audio medium. The laws of traditional disruptive mass marketing simply don’t apply in a voice search driven landscape.
What’s more is that the way consumers voice search is worrisome for brands, especially for those with low brand awareness or players in low-interest categories. We often search and command at a category level, eliminating the brand mention, ‘Hey Google – add kitchen roll to my shopping list’ as opposed to ‘Hey Google – add Regina Blitz kitchen roll to my shopping list.’ Brands risk fading into anonymity in a voice search world.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Brands who will thrive in this new environment are investing time, resources and energy developing bespoke, value-added branded audio content for consumers. Some brands are taking a close look at their consumer decision-making journeys and spotting opportunities to create branded voice solutions. Let’s take the kitchen roll example. The likelihood is that you may reach for the kitchen roll when you’re tackling a spillage. Your hands are full, so there’s little chance you can tap your phone for assistance. In this instance you could cry, ‘Hey Google – ask Regina how to get red wine out of a carpet’, work through the audio instructions and hey presto! – spillage crisis averted.
Other brands are turning to podcasts and audio series to create engaging, subtly-branded, value-added audio content. Take global law firm, DLA Piper. To champion the firm’s expertise in emerging technology, our specialist content division, we have been working in partnership with the organisation to create an insightful thought-leadership podcast series showcasing leading legal and industry expertise.
Naturally, this requires a step change in thinking for many brands. It’s not about jumping up and down, waving arms wildly shouting ‘I’m here, I’m here! Look at me!’ It’s about being truly customer-centric, valuable and on-demand.
How can it be incorporated into product launch?
Any new brand coming to market needs to think about how their brand is going to gain traction in a voice search landscape. Marketers need to delve into their target audience’s purchase journeys, identify likely voice interactions and think about ways of creating great, enhancing audio solutions to meet their audience’s needs in that moment. Say, for example, you’re a new antihistamine coming to market. It’s likely that your target audience will seek advice on the pollen count in spring and summer months at the start of the day to avoid punishing hay fever. How about developing a pollen count detection and advice tool to help hay fever sufferers prepare for the day? Or you’re a new baby care brand. How about a children’s story podcast series in partnership with emerging children’s authors?
To win a branded mention in voice search, your brand needs to be top of mind. Nascent brands need to invest in building brand equity and awareness. Part of this involves thinking about the brand’s audio characteristics as much as its visual identity. What should your brand sound like? What dialect, for example, best conveys your brand’s personality?
On a practical note, new brands need to respond to changing search behaviours with voice versus type. We tend to voice search in a much more conversational way than when we type search, ‘Alexa – tell me about vacant office buildings to rent in Farringdon’, as opposed to ‘vacant office Farringdon to rent’. From an SEM perspective, you’ll need to think about buying and creating content tailored around much more conversational keywords.
In short, voice search is going to explode in the immediate future. New brand coming to market? Don’t panic! Get in touch and we can plot those likely voice interactions, identify opportunities to satiate your audience’s needs with voice, develop top audio and visual brand guidelines and produce winning bespoke audio content solutions to give you a competitive edge.
By Harriet Nicholson
Senior Strategy Planner, UK