In this guest column, Dan King (pictured below), managing director of content marketing agency Edge, ponders how Siri, Alexa, Cortana and the likes are going to change marketing as we know it…
As digital AI assistants change the way we search, how can brands make sure their voice is heard?
Google, Siri, Alexa, Cortana: the rise of smart homes and virtual assistants means the way we search for (and interact with) content is changing. By 2020, comScore predicts that 50 per cent of all searches will be voice searches, while a recent study by Northstar Research Partners reveals that 41 per cent of adults are already talking to their phones each day.
The way people phrase their searches is also shifting. While you might type, “Best car insurance” when punching out a search on your phone, when using your voice you’re more likely to use long-tail phrases, incorporating key words such as who, what, where, why or how. As a result, there is more information available about where a customer is in the purchase funnel, because they are asking a complete question in natural language.
But while we’re getting to know more about what the customer is thinking and what stage they might be at in the consumer journey, the entire advertising and marketing paradigm will be disrupted. Just think – people aren’t viewing your website, engaging with your social content, and what happens to banner ads? The same for Googling something – if we’re not running a text-based search, what’s the future for PPC?
That’s not to say the proliferation of voice search is all doom and gloom. At the moment it’s a largely untapped space, presenting a big opportunity for brands and content marketers to interact with their customers in a way that hasn’t been possible before. To get a jump-start in this new era of search, there are two things marketers need to focus on: better use of SEO to rank higher in voice search results, and creating content based on a user’s intent and search journey across all stages.
Instead of targeting keywords, look at the types of phrases and long-tail sentences your customers are likely to be using. For example, “Bali flights” might become, “What is the cost of a flight to Bali from Sydney?” Make sure your landing page content mimics natural conversation and leans towards a question-and-answer model.
You should also take into account what devices they’re on, including smartphones, tablets or smart home devices, and what location they’re searching from – at home, in the car, at work, etc.
The other facet to voice search is the smart home. Amazon’s Echo speaker and accompanying virtual assistant software Alexa are changing the game, and opening up new opportunities for brands to create content. For those unfamiliar with Alexa, it provides capabilities or ‘skills’ that enable brands to create a more personalised experience.
There are now more than 15,000 skills from the likes of Uber, Domino’s Pizza and Campbell’s Soup – with the latter’s skill allowing users to ask and get an answer to the daily question of
“What’s for dinner?”. Users can also see and hear step-by-step recipe instructions when using Alexa software through a smart device.
Campbell’s chief marketing and commercial officer Greg Shewchuk said at the launch of the skill that the company “anticipate that visual and voice technology will change the way our brands connect with our consumers. The Campbell’s Kitchen skill brings new utility to the connected kitchen by encouraging users to engage, discover and cook meal solutions that work for their busy schedules.” In short, Campbell’s sees a future of creating new types of content to fit with the modern customer experience and behaviours. This emerging link between voice search and ‘how-to’ video content provides new branded content marketing opportunities for the connected home.
And it’s not just global brands that are eyeing this content opportunity. In the US last year, insurance brand Safeco launched the first ‘skill’ from an insurance company called ‘Insurance Advisor’. Safeco taught Alexa to answer over 100 commonly asked questions and terms about insurance.
To use it, customers just need to say something along the lines of, “Alexa, ask Insurance Advisor what types of insurance Safeco offers,” and Alexa will recite an appropriate answer. If the user has a more complicated question or wants an insurance quote, Alexa will find the closest-located insurance agent. Safeco says it created the skill to give customers an easy way to navigate the “complicated, confusing space of insurance”.
While we are still at the dawn of voice search from a brand perspective, the beauty is that it allows companies to deploy their expertise, knowledge and tools in an on-demand format. It’s a new and exciting frontier where success will be defined by the ability to ensure that the purpose and value of content is captured by search engines and present for customers when they need it.