Hey Google, do I need to prepare my marketing strategy for voice search?

If you haven’t already started adopting voice search into your marketing strategy, then you may want to rethink...

12 Jun 2019 2089 Views

Written by Charlotta Carlquist

It’s predicted by ComScore that by 2020, 50 percent of all searches done online will be performed through voice (Sentance, 2018). Is that not eye-opening enough for you? In that case; it’s also predicted by Gartner that 30 percent of all searches done online in 2020 will be done completely without a screen (Pemberton Levy, 2016). This emerging technology has quickly become popular and a continuous increase of usage has been clearly seen (DeMers, 2018). So how will this new way of searching affect your brand? And how do you need to adjust your marketing strategy accordingly?

Looking at digital marketing as a whole, the continuous and rapid development of technologies are changing the environment in which business exist (Kannan and Li, 2017). These developments increase potential touchpoints between brands and consumers, where the number of touchpoints is annually growing by 20 percent (Bughin, 2015). It has become noticeable that voice search is a new touchpoint that’s emerging into popularity by consumers, and it’s essential to take this new way of searching for information into consideration. Although this trend has not yet become mainstream, it’s important to start preparing to ensure that your online marketing strategy doesn’t fall behind. (DeMers, 2018)

Google home assistant device

Voice search devices and what they’re used for

Devices offering voice search are today available for consumers in both their homes and pockets. In homes you will find smart speakers such as Goggle Home, Amazon Alexa, Samsung Bixby and Microsoft Cortana. On the other hand, you’ll find voice assistants such as Apple Siri or Google Assistant in consumers’ smart phones, securely kept in their pockets or an arm reach away.  As the need of using your hands or eyes are extracted, users are able to browse online while driving, cooking, or any other activity (Pemberton Levy, 2016). 

In the network society we live in today our attention is limited (Van Dijk, 2012), which in turn can suggest that our appreciation for efficiency and multitasking increases. In this sense, it’s to no surprise that voice assistants have grown popular as it decreases the amount of attention needed and increases our ability to multitask.

In order to adapt your online marketing strategies to this emerging technology, it’s important to understand what consumers use voice search for. In the following table, you will find what consumers are using their voice assistants for.

What users are using voice search for through smartphones and home assistants
Table 1 (Valentine, 2018)

Consumer behaviour and search information

As voice recognition and assistants are a new searching tool for consumers, it can therefore be expected to affect consumer behaviour in the digital environment. Both in the online and mobile context, consumer behaviour alters with new access to a variety of technologies. The technologies that act as decision aids play a particular role online (Kannan and Li, 2017) and voice search is today a new aid for consumers. Before the Internet, consumers were mainly dependent on marketing for receiving information regarding products and services. However, in the digital environment and the technologies it entails are reducing the information asymmetry between consumers and marketers as consumers now have access to a generous amount of information sources online. (Labrecque et al., 2013) The information gathered by consumers before making their purchase, play a central role in their buying behavior and it’s essential to understand their search behavior in order to create an effective communications strategy and to successfully reach consumers (Akalamkam and Kumar Mitra, 2017).

Looking at commercialization

A challenge that brands will have to face with the emergence of voice search, is the fact that more power will be put in the hands of the companies offering this dialogue-based interface. This can specifically be seen through Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. Both have the largest market share in the US and UK and operate under two different business models. Alexa, for example, is operated in such a way to draw the consumer towards Amazon’s ecosystem. In one way or another, Alexa will primarily refer the customer to make their purchases through Amazon before suggesting another website. However, Google is working towards preserving their position as a trustworthy search engine and will aim towards continue monetizing from online advertising. (Valentine, 2018)

Video 1 (L2inc, 2017)

Will there be room for advertisements?

In today’s digital environment, consumers are increasingly using software to block online advertising. It’s a way for users to avoid adverts tampering with their user experience, maintain control over what’s communicated to them, increase their online security, and a way to decrease the amount of data that companies collect regarding their online behavior. (Streitz and Tynan, 2016)

So, this raises the question; how receptive will consumers be if adverts are presented to them through this dialogue-based interface? It’s clear that there is an already-existing frustration towards online advertising. Looking at the home assistants for example, the experience it provides is calming, entertaining and interactive. Will there be room for advertising or will it only be perceived as intrusive by the user? There is the alternative of sponsorships, but you need to bear in mind that voice assistants have a pressure of retaining an authentic experience to their users. (Valentine, 2018)

Think creatively

Voice search will raise the stakes for online marketers as this new method for consumers to search is fundamentally different than what’s available in the typical search engines and social media. Marketing managers will need to respond by being creative and thinking outside of the box. For example, how does your brand sound like? Does it have a gender or maybe an accent? You might even need to look at its’ personality. Is the personality formal or casual? Is it informative, entertaining or more personal? (Valentine, 2018)

Optimizing your content for voice search

In the race of being seen in the search and online environment, SEO plays a dominant role. It’s a strategy of making content more attractive towards search engines and thereby increasing their visibility online and generating click-through-rates. (Patrutiu-Baltes, 2016) In the digital environment, businesses need to cope with search engines as a collaborator and a platform in order to be able to compete with other companies to capture customers’ attention. (Kannan and Li, 2017) So how do you need to generally optimize your content in regards to the development of voice search?

By clicking the microphone in Googles search field, you can do a voice search
Notice the microphone incorporated in the searching field on Google’s home page.

Here are three tips that you can use as a starting point for optimizing your content for voice search:

Focus on answering questions

The uniqueness of these devices is the fact that it offers a human-like relationship to technology and 41% of users say that it feels like talking to another human being or even one of their friends (Kleinberg, 2018). This leads them to asking questions rather than solely typing in simple keywords as one would normally do when searching on Google. Users will typically ask a question with who, what, when, where, why and how. You can respond to this by ensuring to answer these types of questions in your content, for example through a regularly updated FAQ page on your website. Another trick is to add questions in your content’s headers to make it easier for the voice assistant to find you. (Valentine, 2018)

Decrease loading time

By increasing the speedof your website and mobile experience, there is a higher chance that your content will be presented to the user. When using voice search, users are looking for immediate answers. For this reason, the voice assistant will aim to give the fastest possible response, which means that you need to respond by decreasing the loading time of your content. (Valentine, 2018)

Don’t forget the locals

A large percentage of users will use their voice assistant to find more information about local businesses. This revolves around questions regarding opening hours, the location of stores, and what products are available. It’s therefore a good idea to make sure to provide this information online in a voice search friendly manner to attract local consumers. (Valentine, 2018)

There are opportunities for businesses

Although this emerging voice technology will create waves for brands online, there are still opportunities that brands can take advantage of. It’s found that users welcome brands into their voice search experience as they are open to receiving information that is relevant to their lifestyle and information that answers their queries. (Kleinberg, 2018)

The following table is created by Google and presents what type of information users are open to receiving about brands through their dialogue-based experience:

What information users are open to receiving about brands through voice search
Table 2 (Kleinberg, 2018)

So, if you haven’t already started considering voice search into you online marketing strategy, you might see now why it can be beneficial to start. Don’t only see the challenges and changes that needs to be done, remember to see all of the opportunities that come along with this new trend. At the end of the day, digital marketing uses these touchpoints as a way of generating value for stakeholders (Kannan and Li, 2017).


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BrandBase | @BrandBa_se
Students from the International Marketing and Brand Management program at Lund University are the contributing authors for the BrandBase blog.