Ready to Burst: Voice Technology in 2017
The advent of voice technology to the mainstream has been silently bubbling under the surface for some time now, with many predicting 2017 to be the year that it finally becomes the norm. It’s strange however, that talk has been somewhat mooted as to its future in everyday applications until very recently, with the announcement of Apple’s voice-controlled Homepod reinforcing the notion that voice is here to stay. It’s fair to say that some of the statistics of voice technology’s rise is bound to take more than a few people by surprise:
It’s inevitable judging by these figures that a whole new “vocal internet” is on the cusp of becoming part of everyday life. Think about a world where keyboards no longer exist, and commands are accurately and easily performed by the spoken word. Exciting, isn’t it? But for us in the advertising industry, just where should we stand on this impending revolution? Here, we look at some potential consequences, both positive and negative, that might drastically change how agencies like us work with clients.
End of Brands?
Conducting your research on products and subsequently purchasing them through the medium of voice has huge implications for established brands. Packaging, design and anything else that made it stand out from the crowd could be deemed almost purposeless, due to the removal of visual interactions throughout the consumer journey.
This is obviously a big problem for premium brands, as research shows that search engine users are gradually using brand names less and less as a prefix to their product queries (table below). This research suggests that voice search will accommodate and accelerate a shift from brand-based to price-based product searches.
For example: By saying to Amazon Echo, “Alexa, buy me some batteries”, it will throw up Amazon brand batteries first. In fact, if you reject the Amazon brand batteries, Alexa will tell you that no other batteries are available, even though other brands can be bought on the online marketplace. You can see an example of this here.
Of course, branding will still have its place on the shelves of brick and mortar stores, but its value on the internet may plummet significantly. Can you imagine the effect on other branded goods if an Amazon Echo, which prefers to suggest to its consumers Amazon-branded products over alternatives, is present in 40% of households? Third-party brands stocked by Amazon will see their products drowned out by the all-powerful voice of Alexa!
Effects on PPC & SEO:
The fundamental basics of the pay-per-click advertising model will become dramatically altered by any rise in the popularity of voice search. How do you serve an ad (or multiple ads) to someone who isn’t looking at a screen? Where do display ads live if nobody is scanning headlines on a screen?
Gartner has predicted that by 2020, 30% of web browsing will be screenless, with information being delivered vocally to users with room-based voice assistants. No longer will this 30% be shown the traditional search results page consisting of ads on top and organic results, but instead an accurate, singular response that connects the user directly to their desired information. This removal of choice scraps the need for ads and leaves Google with the task of finding an alternative voice-friendly advertising platform.
So what will they replace the PPC model with?
It’s extremely difficult to say. Will there be an auction-based audio advertising platform that dictates the highest bidder’s product to the user? Or will the ability to pay for an aural presence in someone’s home diminish the accuracy of information so necessary to the effectiveness of voice search?
One thing we can do as digital marketers is learn, prepare and implement. As we create content going forward, we should do so with voice search in mind…
- Questions & Answers: Tailor content to how you think a person would voice search for your product. A big part of this would be questions phrases. For example, somebody might voice search “How can I save money on my phone bill?” Which service provider will be in there first serving the answer to a prospective customer?
- Nail the Long-Tail: Voice encourages searchers to be more specific in their quest to find the most appropriate answer to their queries. Being specific with your products and services enables them to be served to these people. So your “red shoes” are now “red high top-style runners with white sole and trim.”
- Utilise Schema: Nothing makes Google happier than when webmasters outline rich data on the site, allowing this to be served up to a user at the top of the SERPs.
It’s a scary time, and an exciting one for search marketers, but those who adapt first will be the ones who benefit most!
eCommerce and ePayments:
What’s really interesting is the route that eCommerce and payments are taking with regards voice.
The ability to send and receive money by voice alone opens up a whole new world of eCommerce and ePayments. Business Insider predicts that over the coming years, voice payments interactions with your virtual assistant will be as natural as talking to a store cashier.
Speaker recognition has become so accurate that voice is now a mainstream biometric used in banking apps by Santander, HSBC and more. ‘Skills’ are the name given to what are essentially voice apps for the Amazon Echo, while American Express are the latest big financial giant to release their own ‘Skill’, allowing customers to check balances, pay bills and more.
This development of voice payment, alongside the Internet of Things, will see payments companies conduct their business on a whole new ecosystem of devices – away from the usual point-of-sale, desktop and mobile payments. In the near future, enabled by voice, your fridge, your car and your wearables will all be making purchases on your command. “FitBit, get me that tub of protein you suggested yesterday….”
Shift from Text Ads to Audio Ads:
Digital audio advertising has already undergone a somewhat false dawn with the advent of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music – but for some reason advertising on these platforms never quite felt like it was catching on.
But now, with a voice assistant in every home a real possibility, audio ads may just become the new text ads of digital marketing.
And who said radio advertising was dead? Radio is the legacy technology that never seems to know when it’s defeated. Its adaptability to new technologies means its place in our lives is all but guaranteed for the foreseeable future. According to research, radio listening accounts for 72% of the audio entertainment time on the Echo. These devices might just signal a huge renaissance in radio listenership, and subsequently radio advertising, especially in the household.
But importantly, voice technology will take audio advertising to a new level, where real creativity will be needed to overcome being the unwanted voice in a room or that infuriating interruption. There will be no ‘Eurocycles, Eurobaby’ in my home!
Brands and marketers will need to add an air of conversation to their audio efforts, giving the listener the opportunity to willingly interact with it. For a basic example, the ad can invite the listener to respond “add to Amazon cart” or “hear more about x”. There’s an exciting and fun world of possibilities with interactive audio ads out there. And we at Huskies certainly look forward to leading the way!
So to close, it’s clear from all the above revelations and predictions that voice is not another fad destined for the ‘nearly’ pile (3D Printing or Google’s computer glasses, anyone?), but it’s curious that there’s yet to be a very clear effort made amongst advertising industries to grasp this new technology and run with it. Because right now, there’s never been a better time.