Untapped Opportunity: Putting the Power of Voice to Work

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You could be missing out on a major opportunity to reach an even wider swath of customers

Voice Search AdWeek

Using speech to ask questions, get directions and give commands to smartphones and smart devices, voice search lets the searcher speak right to the device which, in turn, answers the question or fulfills the command. It not only provides relief for typing-weary fingers and addresses younger, digital generations, but voice also gives marketers a new way to engage with their target audiences.

Even though 55% of households in the U.S. are expected to own a smart speaker by 2022, there’s a missed opportunity when it comes to selling goods and services via this channel. As more consumers use their voices to get answers from smart speakers—be it asking Siri for directions from an iPhone or asking Alexa for the current temperature—Talk Business & Politics says few are using it to make retail purchases. “[T]he voice commerce frontier is wide open for retailers and suppliers to open lines of communication with consumers.”

Getting on board with voice
Now, this opportunity lies in front of all performance-focused marketers who need new ways of connecting and engaging with their audiences in an ultracompetitive business market. Marketers looking to form bonds with Gen Y and Gen Z consumers are paying particularly close attention to this trend, as younger buyers are among the first to use voice in lieu of typing out keywords, phrases and search queries.

Maybe that’s because voice search is about 3.7 times faster than typing: The average person types 38-40 words per minute but speaks 110-150 words per minute.

“In just a few years, you may be spending as much—or more—time interacting with devices that have no screen as you do with devices that have screens, such as laptops and smartphones,” wrote Perficient, a digital consultancy, which, in a recent survey, found that 55% of people use search on mobile and that nearly 40% use voice assistance at least once a month.

“Voice has the potential to be a disruptive force in the industry and will, therefore, result in new winners and losers,” according to Perficient, “and you want to be among the winners.”

Some tech giants are also getting into the voice game, with Microsoft being one of the most recent to make the move. In April, it acquired speech-recognition company Nuance Communications, which sells tools for recognizing and transcribing speech in doctor’s visits, customer-service calls and voicemails.

Ready, set, go
As more consumers expand their use of voice search, more companies will be looking for ways to optimize voice-based search. One way to do this is by thinking locally with your ads, knowing that someone in Houston is going to ask Siri for recommendations for “a plumber in Houston” or an “Italian restaurant nearby.” Brands must utilize voice search much the way they do with paid and organic search, accessible to convert when a consumer is taking action.

You also want to make sure your website is mobile friendly and that any paid search efforts are focused on keywords (versus natural language). Think about how you would ask for a nail salon, a hardware store or a good restaurant recommendation—versus how you would type that out on a keyboard—and parlay that into your own marketing approach.

Search Engine Watch says using long-tail keywords (specific words that your audience is likely to say), curating content that provides direct answers, optimizing your Google My Business page and striving for increased domain authority are some of the other good ways to optimize voice search.

For now, many companies are expanding voice search. This presents an incredible opportunity for the marketers that put the time and effort into this engagement channel. With at least 4.2 billion digital voice assistants being used in devices worldwide, and with forecasts that suggest the number of digital voice assistants will reach 8.4 billion units by 2024, the time to explore and exploit this untapped opportunity is now.

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