Voice technology: What are the opportunities for brands?

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

With voice-assisted technology improving by the day and use therefore increasing; it’s time brands start assessing how to adapt their online presence for this shift in consumer behaviour.

How are brands adapting for voice?

In the US Domino’s has already seen promising results since making its one-click Easy Orders option available through Alexa.

Two months after launching the skill, 20% of customers with Easy Orders set up have used Alexa for the service, according to Nick Dutch, head of digital for Domino’s UK.

Restricting the offering to the existing easy orders option once again demonstrates how voice commands, and subsequently voice commerce, is driven by convenience.

There’s a balance to be made between driving innovation and maintaining, or ideally, increasing customer satisfaction, as shown by the volume of one star reviews all three brands have received in the Alexa Skills Store to date.

Given Google’s own dependence on search driven e-commerce, they would be remiss to let this growth go unchallenged. Actions on Google represents the company’s alternative solution to Alexa Skills - these have not been as heavily publicised as Skills so far, and the implementation for consumers is not as explicit (users don’t have to enable an Action within Google Play, unlike Alexa Skills).

While Amazon’s strengths lie in retail, and Google’s in search, we can expect to see development from both companies in the other’s area of expertise.

Amazon will continue to improve the way it surfaces information, even if the goal is still to move the user nearer to a purchase with every query. Alexa currently queries several resources, including Bing, Yelp and a database of enabled Skills including WebMD for medical queries.

Without a heritage in this space Amazon will continue to rely on partners to ensure the quality of its responses, presenting opportunities for technology and data platforms, as well as brands.

What are the opportunities businesses can take hold of right now?

1. Experiment. Get used to interacting with the voice assistant that’s in your smartphone, or purchase a smart speaker and discover first-hand the areas of your life where they can (or can’t) be useful.

2. Research: Use voice and web analytics to establish how customers currently talk about your brand. How do they use the Live Chat function on your site or in your app? How do they talk to staff in your stores, both on the shop floor and at the till? Make a record of and analyse conversations in focus groups

3. User experience: Consider the role for voice within the customer’s experience of your brand, product and services using all the information you’ve gathered:

  • Build a persona and leverage your brand through voice and tone, how can you add value or reduce friction?
  • Look at the user journey customers are taking – what search queries are they using early and late in the purchase process, and what content is helping them answer these queries?
  • Think about the context of these searches; what would the queries sound like through voice, and how could audio content answer them succinctly? Think conversationally, like a screenplay rather than fragmented statements.
  • Optimise your on-site content for voice search, ensuring you’re visible regardless of how your customers are searching.

4. Create a Skill: Review the existing Alexa Skills provided by retailers such as Domino’s or early Actions on Google adopters such as Ticketmaster. Can your brand provide a one-touch ordering service such as Domino’s Easy Order, or facilitate a multi-search process such as finding concert tickets? Can you simplify any other part of the user journey, even after a purchase? How can you keep customers coming back? Trial an appropriate Skill or Action; don’t promise more than you can confidently deliver, let the ease and convenience of your added service speak for you.

Build your brand

The value of a strong brand cannot be overstated if retailers are to remain relevant in the minds of consumers. The strength of a brand continues to increase in importance within search results, as our head of technical SEO, Malcolm Slade, discusses in Brand: The Only Future Ranking Factor.

Voice commerce will only compound this trend too, due to both Google and Amazon’s even greater ability to control access to brands. Google’s control will come through search and the evolution of featured snippets, while Amazon’s will be through the recommendation or even direct ordering of relevant products in response to generic product requests.

Retail brands have two choices – master these access points through increasingly specialised search engine optimisation and retailer marketplace prominence, or build a brand strong enough to ensure that customers are asking for you by name. A retailer can no longer succeed through PPC and SEO tactics alone.

The brands that succeed in both aspects will ultimately have the best chance of success in the voice activated future. Take a look at the Epiphany voice search report for more detailed information on preparing for the shift to voice search.

Meghan Burton, director of SEO, Epiphany

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.

Come on in, it’s free.

This isn’t a paywall. It’s a freewall. We don’t want to get in the way of what you came here for, so this will only take a few seconds.