Future Search: Smart Speakers and Virtual Assistants Pose New Challenges for Brands
What: Smart speakers sales are exploding, along with increasing use of voice search. Adoption of this new technology is highest among educated millenials with higher disposable incomes.
Why it matters: Voice search increased by 35-fold between 2008 and 2016. But brands don’t have to re-invent the wheel to make sure they’re on top of consumers’ search results.
Burger King had its own way last year when it ran a television ad with a young male employee speaking these words directly into the camera: “OK, Google, what is a whopper burger?”
The question triggered innumerable cell phones and smart speakers within hearing distance of televisions to wake up and search the internet for the answer. Their owners likely then heard a description of the burger chain’s iconic Whopper read by their device’s virtual assistant from a page on Wikipedia.
Google, which was not consulted before the ad ran, quickly modified its virtual assistant not to respond to the ad, according to The New York Times.
Restaurants feeling the voice-search pressure
Burger King’s foray into voice search can be seen as a harbinger of the brave new world brands face as more and more internet searches are done by voice activated assistants on smart speakers and cell phones.
More customers than ever are asking AI-powered services like Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa detailed questions about restaurant brands.
Restaurants are already feeling the pressure to get with the voice search game.
“In this new environment, more customers than ever are asking AI-powered services like Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa detailed questions about restaurant brands, locations and menu items," said Lee Zucker of the New York City technology company Yext.
A study by Yext found that nearly half of all respondents (49 percent) said they would use voice search to get restaurant-specific information. “AI is quickly changing the game for restaurants everywhere,” Zucker said in a press release announcing the study results.
Brands don’t need to panic
Brand managers, however, don’t need to panic as they steer into the uncharted waters of smart speakers and voice-activated searches.
Adapting to voice search is not a case of re-inventing the wheel, SEO expert Chris Rodgers, founder of Colorado SEO Pros tells Portada.
“If you have already been performing SEO properly, then you have already done some of the work to make sure that you rank for voice search.”
What are the key things brand managers should watch out for?
- Focus web page content on the questions people are asking.
- Use natural conversational language on web sites.
- Understand the problems and solutions customers are looking for when building site content.
- Be the best resource on the web to answer customers’ questions.
“You need to pay attention to how your content solves problems via voice search,” and that often means ensuring that your site has an excellent FAQ section, says Rodgers.
If you have already been performing SEO properly, then you have already done some of the work to make sure that you rank for voice search.
“The truth is, this is just the next step and it’s just an evolution of what we’ve already been doing.”
More smart speakers, more voice search
The smart speaker market spend is ballooning. It will grow from $4.3 billion last year to $23.3 billion in 2025, according to Allied Market Research.
Amazon’s Alexa led in revenues in 2017 but Apple’s Siri is expected to grow the fastest. More will be spent in North America on smart speakers than anywhere else in the world.
The biggest adopters of smart speaker technology are affluent educated millenials as well as young gen X and children, according to Global Market Insights.
Along with smart speaker sales, voice search is growing, too.
More than 40-percent of adults “used voice search on a daily basis in 2016,” Forbes Magazine reports, noting that comScore predicts that “50 percent of searches will be voice-based by 2020.”
Most voice searches according to Forbes are also local, putting an emphasis on the ability of the search engine used to deliver up local results.
The search engine used in a voice search depends in part on the device used.
The search engine used in a voice search depends in part on the device used, Rodgers tells Portada.
While Amazon has its own database for shopping inquires made using its Alexa, Apple’s Siri has its own knowledge base but also uses Google. While Google serves as a main database, “it’s not a case of all smart speakers relying on Google.”
Microsoft and Amazon are teaming up against Google and Apple by making their virtual assistants Alexa and Cordana compatible, as recently reported in Portada.
Brands jump in
Burger King’s not the only brand to dive into the brave new world of smart speakers and voice search.
Marriott is trying out the Amazon Echo in rooms at select properties allowing guests to access information and hotel services as well as their favorite music.
Saint Louis University is installing Amazon Alexa smart speakers in student living areas and preloading them with the answers to the most common 100 questions about getting around the university.
"Amazon Web Services is proud to work with Saint Louis University to provide students with quick access to important information," Andrew Ko, director of education at Amazon Web Services said in a press release announcing the university’s smart speaker installation. "We applaud SLU's commitment to using technology like Amazon Alexa to enhance campus life for its students."