Recently, there’s been a new trend that’s rising exponentially and, if it continues, it will have great implications on the way we use the internet just the same as how social media changed the way we communicated with our friends over the internet.
We are talking about voice search!
In fact, back in 2016, voice search usage has been reported by KPCB Internet Trends Report to be up by 35 times since 2008 - that’s sustained growth over years. However, big as this number may seem, the majority of searches are still made through text queries. In the same year it was reported that only about a quarter of 16-25 year-olds actually use voice search.
Despite this, what’s for sure is that eventually voice search will be used by more and more people. Speech recognition error rate has dropped to 8% according to Google Zurich Principal Engineer Behshad Behzadi. Additionally, smart speakers are becoming more and more popular. Canalys reports that smart speaker market grew 187% in the 2nd quarter of 2018.
Eventually, voice search will be as commonplace as apps or social media and undoubtedly, this will change how we use the internet and how brands engage with their customers.
Only one search result
Text queries put into a search bar usually turns back with hundreds or even thousands of search results. However, with voice search, it’s impractical to provide more than one result. Think about the snippets you see as the first result when you search for facts or information. Google now points you towards a small, condensed preview.
This means that brands should forge a stronger connection with their customers so that when they do voice searches, keywords associated with brand names will be included in voice searches.
The focus is not to sell but to be useful
Voice search and responses are designed to be immediate and concise interactions. That’s the whole point of voice search anyway. It's because typing is slower and a prolonged conversation defeats the purpose of voice search.
This means when designing content for voice search, you have to shift from trying to push your product all the time, to providing helpful and direct answers. It’s great for future users of voice search, but for companies, they will have to change the way they market. This means voice-optimised content will be direct to the point, helpful and optimised almost the same way we optimise blogs to appear as snippets in search results.
Businesses may eventually need to adopt a voice-first strategy
Companies that provide consumer goods and services should be the first to think about switching to a voice-first strategy. We’ve already covered voice marketing and how changes need to be adopted to be noticed in voice searches. But how about the way businesses operate?
The first step is to think about ‘how do I make my customer’s life easier?’ If I’m a supermarket, then that means my customers should be able to easily order groceries just through voice and have it picked up or delivered. Banks should be able to provide essential banking functions such as payments of bills or providing account information through voice. Magazines should have apps that can make searching through articles easier, renew subscriptions and provide flash briefings all with a quick voice command.
After covering the essential tasks, the next step is to expand the service offering through voice apps. And the key here is to “be helpful”. Taking the example of the bank, these institutions can eventually provide personalised financial advice or coaching. With this, there are opportunities to increase revenue. For magazines, how about creating an “interactive article” that can provide personalised information based on their voice input?
Voice search will change the way people interact with the internet. Behaviour is already shifting as usage skyrockets. Eventually, there will be lots of talk on voice strategy, voice marketing, voice search optimisation and more. As early as today, organisations have to think ahead and see how they can take full advantage of this shift and ride the wave as an early adopter.