Making Voice Search Pay

As we’ve covered recently, marketers are strategizing the best ways in which to optimize search results in a future where voice search plays a bigger role. Today, figuring out this future is still a guessing game. Nobody knows for certain where searching by voice is headed because the field has yet to be fully monetized. Once advertisers start paying substantial funds to search hubs and voice assistants, the model will be much clearer, obviously. Also, in ROI-obsessed marketing, advertising on search will grow when more sales through voice are registered.

Currently, the revenue streams are at a trickle. With Google’s revamped mobile Voice Assistant, released last fall, Google introduced ways for developers to receive payments for digital goods by voice command. In the long run, this could grow confidence among those who use voice – developers first, then the masses. And in the blog comments by Tarun Jain, Group PM, Actions on Google, from around that time, another priority was voiced: seamlessness. Voice must serve as a complementary channel in the journey to completing a purchase, not a weak link in the chain where payments are dropped.

The slow build toward voice search is being tracked by customer experience and commerce experts like Bloomreach’s CEO and co-founder Raj De Datta. He told me that his company’s AI-driven digital experience and merchandising solutions grow to include “broader sets of data, expanding on location, voice, data from beacons and more social feed data.” Voice specifically is a “new source but with a small base.” He explained, “Still, most of what people are using voice for is as a consumer trend. There is a difference between using it to set a timer on Alexa and using voice to actually shop.” He added that the use of voice for transactional purposes “is still very early.”

These broader use case and purchasing considerations lead back to search, and are shared by those who aim at solving the voice search conundrum.

Recently, I sat down with search technology innovator Dominic Joseph, the co-founder/CEO of Captify. The unique Semantic Technology developed by the company provides search intelligence that informs the campaigns of major brands like Nike, Apple and Adidas.

Joseph points to an eMarketer study from earlier this year that shows that making purchases is still the least likely action users take over voice.

“Although the era of voice is here, there is still a need for voice search to provide a visual response as an option in order to enter its next phase,” Joseph stated. “This causes a really big problem for brands that are trying to connect with consumers and drive sales through voice. Google and Amazon are currently the first touchpoint for consumers voice searching and will prioritize their products above other brands, which ultimately leaves consumers with a biased response.”

Joseph sees the limited results from current voice search as hampering what users want when they use text search, the ability to explore.

“Currently, the voice experience shifts away from search’s core value — the ability to discover more about what users are most interested in,” he said. “Right now when users utilize voice search, it’s like going into a restaurant and letting someone else order for you. The consumer lacks their option of choice.”

He added, “What’s the way forward? Content owners need to integrate voice capabilities into their websites so that consumers can use personal devices to engage directly with the brand. If brands see voice as a command-based action, they will forget the fact that search is a really important tool for discovery and exploration. In the future, voice will become a more dynamic, two-way conversation between brand and consumer, and will help close the loop between search and purchase. Ultimately, voice search will be able to guide the consumer, but the consumer will maintain control.”

Joseph also stresses the importance in understanding the distinctions between different kinds of users. Older and younger consumers, he observed, are both early adopters of voice.

“For example,” he explained, “older generations are utilizing voice for things like home help, virtual support, reordering items or seamlessly refilling prescriptions. Talking to a device is easier than navigating a computer or a cell phone…On the other hand, savvier, younger consumers are leveraging voice for more involved processes like product research and eCommerce.”

This provides an opportunity for publishers and content owners (including brands that create their own content hubs) to take control of the consumer experience, according to Joseph, providing alternatives to Google and Amazon and their proprietary voice assistants.

“Voice assistants bring consumers to a publisher website through the home device, but then once they’re on the website, voice tech isn’t enabled, causing a broken user experience,” Joseph said. “This is where content owners need to create a seamless voice experience and enable this type of tech for consumers, which will help create an end-to-end voice experience, from search to purchase.”

This richer level of data provided by increased voice search engagement, he concluded, “[will help] content owners plan content creation, understand audience behavior and inform product development.”

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