Voice Search and the Opportunity for Brands

The rise in content associated to voice search has already stolen the marketing headlines but are we getting ahead of ourselves when it comes to brand strategy? But before jumping head-first into exercising a “voice strategy” lets take a brief look at the opportunity and what it means for brands looking to take advantage of this tactic when it comes to marketing your brand through voice enabled devices.

For those who have not subscribed to the free online digital marketing conference, Digital Olympus, I would seriously recommend subscribing to it here. The event brings together expert speakers from the world of digital marketing to present slide decks on specific subject areas, one of these was Voice Search presented by speaker Jono Alderson which you can watch below

Jono presented a fascinating glimpse into the origins of platforms and technology through to the dawn of voice enabled devices and how this could be impacting brands, their future and what brands need to be considering to adjust their strategy to retain awareness and relevancy through voice enabled devices.

The change in Search

With voice, it’s suggested that consumers will no longer be part of the buying cycle. All advertising works on the assumption you can interrupt or purchase a user’s attention.

If I am looking to purchase a new pair of running shoes I might be aware of say four brands based on my needs and wants for example, they offer: the right price for my budget, the correct tread for the type of running, correct design and offer good customer endorsement. 

I might have have researched the brands runnings shoes through multiple browsers open on my desktop and I’m scrolling through each product page to consider which is the best product to suit my needs.

The next stage of my decision making process would be to reduce my choice of brands based on further personal preferences as I move further along the purchase funnel e.g. I may reduce the initial four brands based on my further needs and requirements such as the delivery time, free delivery or if there is a seasonal promotion e.g. voucher code

But in a voice search environment – this changes completely

In other words, the decision making, filtering of choices and also the number of brands you initially decide on is completely taken out of the consumers control.

The tech giants stealing the market when it comes to voice enabled devices are Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Siri and it’s suggested they use three concepts to make decisions to build sets for users

1) Availability – What is the availability of the product/service the user requests

2) The Suitability of the best brand relevant to my needs (is it cheap, 4 stars, locality)

3) Implied preference – based on all the vendors, which one looks like a good fit based on your past preferences and behaviour?

Brands will need to consider how to positively influence this consideration set (availability, suitability, implied preference). In other words, as a brand you need to be asking the question: How can my brand retain it’s relevancy through in voice search results to meet the broad criteria of the user?

What’s important to understand here is the changing environment for brands to interrupt the customer and their decision making journey.

So what are the opportunities for brands?

We could be see a shift in brand strategy to look to engage in the concept of mass marketing: can brands get users to read an article, like a post, download an app, subscribe to a newsletter – by doing this, you’re developing brand reach across potential customers who would have interacted with your brand through a digital touch point and therefore you will be recommended as a brand within the decision-making system 

Brands will need to market proactively to consumers many months before they exhibit a specific need – the marketing might not directly convert but it’s job is to ensure it is building out “brand currency” that is considered an attribution to final conversion and visibility through voice.

To expand on the logic of mass marketing and driving wider touch-points with more diverse audiences, this could see brands venture into new markets through product development or through content marketing – appealing to new audiences via related industries.

For further reading on this approach, I would recommend you take a look at Blue Ocean Strategy – this is a framework, created by W. Chan.Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Blue Ocean suggests that rather than compete in “bloody red oceans” where competition is rife and price-led strategies are the key point of difference, organisation should ignore the competition and opt to create new markets (Blue Oceans). A good example of a brand that did this is Starbucks and how they redefined the coffee industry and experience

In the context of voice search – this similar strategy could be applied to organisations that are looking to shift their brands into new, uncontested market places (where their competition does not exist) and look to create new products and services that will help fuel the opportunity of new audiences who can build “brand currency”.

How to influence the consideration set to increase your “brand currency”:

To take advantage of growing your brand visibility there are a number of practical techniques and tactics to consider when looking to driving potential touch points of your brand for example:

  • User Engagement – Has the user already installed the app, are you driving social shares, have you built out opportunities to build a content model, are you actively driving email subscribers, are you driving reviewed services? If a user has read an article, you are likely to be included in consideration set
  • Build out your Questions and Answer Content – Are you addressing user questions within your industry? Start with keyword research and ensure your content efforts are answering the questions of your audience (who, what, why, where, how, when) – map out these types of questions and create useful content that addresses their needs
  • Understand Intent – Don’t just focus on the keywords but understand the intent surrounding the keywords. Is there an opportunity for your business to develop content associated. Take a listen to this podcast by Dan Shure – http://www.evolvingseo.com/2018/03/08/090-aj-kohn/
  • Customer Service – Data alone is not going to provide the full picture. You need to be getting first hand information from your customer facing departments and look to adapt customer feedback into relevant content that could be used, what are the common questions, pain points to be adapted to content structure in supporting awareness of your brand
  • Analytics – Begin to plot out opportunities to explore new markets by data mining Google Analytics and Audience reports, specifically Interests and Affinity Categories and look to identify the types of categories that drive users to your desktop/mobile platforms – are there opportunities here to create new markets for your brand?
  • Domain Authority – A recent article by Backlinko.com analysed 10,000 Google home results and identified a number of findings to consider when optimising for voice. For brands with that have developed a high domain authority the research suggests that “authoritative domains tend to produce voice search results significantly more than non-authoritative domains” (source: https://backlinko.com/voice-search-seo-study).

By building your brands domain authority will therefore provide additional opportunities in maximising brand exposure through voice and a good place to start is to better understand the position of the brand as well as the opportunity voice search may mean.

There are a number of quantitative and qualitative insights available that can help to piece together what this opportunity or threat may be and how as a brand it can take advantage or indeed create new uncontested markets in satisfying the needs of your audience and new audiences

A recent video by L2 suggest that to understand the role of voice, brands need to be clear on what their goal is e.g. is it to sell product? Is it to support smart & connected homes, content and category authority e.g. providing utility supporting and assisting your audience.

If voice presents the decline in interrupting the consumer through a range of online/offline tactics, then brands will need to take an organisational view as to how this medium will be supporting and enhancing the brand and that means a move to understand and start with their audience, build a better understanding of their needs and wants and the role their brand plays in building a direct relationship.

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