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What: Marketing technology struggles to keep up with increasing use of voice search. Adoption of smart speakers is highest among educated millennials with higher disposable incomes.
Why it matters: Voice search expands 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. 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. They woke up and searched the internet for the answer. Their owners likely then heard a description of the burger chain’s iconic Whopper.  Their device’s virtual assistant read the description from a page on Wikipedia.

Google, which was not consulted before the ad ran, quickly modified its virtual assistant so it would not to respond to the ad, according to The New York Times.

Voice-search increases need for marketing technology

Burger King’s foray into voice search can be seen as a harbinger of the brave new world brands face. More and more internet searches are done by voice activated assistants on smart speakers and cell phones.

More customers ask AI-powered services like Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa detailed questions about restaurant brands.

Restaurants are responding to 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 changes the game for restaurants everywhere,” Zucker said in a press release announcing the study results.

Brands ramp up marketing technology

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?

Rodgers says:

  • 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, Rodgers says.

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 represents 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.”

Forbes reports that most voice searches are also local. That puts an emphasis on the ability of the search engine used to deliver up local results.

The search engine voice searches uses depends in part on the device itself.

Rodgers tells Portada the search engine used in a voice search depends in part on the device used.

Amazon deploys its own database for shopping inquires made using its Alexa, and as a result Apple’s Siri has its own knowledge base. But Apple 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 have teamed up against Google and Apple. Portada recently reported they are making their virtual assistants Alexa and Cordana compatible.

Brands jump in

Burger King’s joins a brave new world brands diving into smart speakers and voice search.

Marriott is trying out the Amazon Echo in rooms at select properties. Guest can access information on hotel services as well as their favorite music.

Saint Louis University decides to install Amazon Alexa smart speakers in student living areas and preload them with the answers to the most common 100 questions about getting around the university.

Andrew Ko, director of education at Amazon Web Services said “Amazon Web Services is proud to work with Saint Louis University to provide students with quick access to important information,” 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.”

What: Social Lens Research teamed with MocoSpace and response:AI to conduct an in-depth study on voice command usage across devices, locations, age groups, and ethnicities.
Why it matters: Even though voice command is not yet mainstream, it is expected to become one of the leading technologies of the near future.

 

Julie Diaz-Asper (right), Founding Partner, and Denisse Icaza (left), Head of Community, at Social Lens Research, co-authored the below report on the importance of voice first experiences for reaching multicultural audiences. Denisse Icaza  is the founder and editor of the award-winning blog AhorrosparaMama.com, that offers Spanish-speaking moms new ways to save time and money without sacrificing quality or their favorite brands.

 

While voice command has not yet become mainstream, multicultural women are leading the way in the early adoption of this new technology. According to the Social Lens Research Voice Command Study: current state, diverse moms who are constantly online and own multiple devices are the current power users of voice. Reaching and engaging multicultural moms with voice command will be a smart strategic move this holiday season and into 2019.

Multicultural moms are more likely to use voice commands across more devices, locations, and for more reasons. Important is building voice experiences that meet their unique needs (simply translating an App into Spanish won’t be enough). High voice use cases that are important for brands to focus on include:

  • 45% use voice to find a store. Local businesses would benefit from optimizing for local voice search that is culturally relevant and useful (e.g., best Rosca de Reyes bakery near me).
  • 42% use voice to find a movie. Entertainment companies could help users find/recommend content to watch (e.g., most educational cartoons in Spanish for a 6-year-old).
  • 83% use voice in a car. What important tasks can you help your customers finish on their daily commute (e.g., create a shopping list for Chilaquiles and find me some deals).

A comprehensive voice strategy will need to prioritize building a useful voice first experience (help me find what I want, complete a task faster). Depending on the use case, it will need to work across the devices the user wants to use such as smart TVs, smart speakers, smartwatches, and smart home devices. Important will be tapping into voice first functionality already built by device manufacturers (Alexa Skills or Ok Google commands) and app providers (GrubHub voice first ordering).

To avoid multicultural audiences having usability issues, voice-activated products and services need to take accents (international and regional), unique, culturally relevant requests (e.g., best healthy meriendas for hungry teens, find the nearest mercado) and word phrasing into account.

Google Home’s adoption of Spanish commands

Google’s smart speakers can now understand and respond in Spanish. Furthermore, Google recently announced that its Assistant has become bilingual, meaning that it now can understand two languages simultaneously, making it a very user-friendly smart assistant for a multicultural market.

Comcast’s X1 Voice Remote Commands can now be set to Spanish

Smart TV is leading the way for first experiences with voice usage for Hispanics. Hispanics over-index (+19%) on smart TV voice command usage, according to the  study. Comcast has improved artificial intelligence in its X1 Voice remote for commands in Spanish. In addition to using the language of your choice (the X1 interface has to be set to the preferred language) to change channels, search for shows, get recommendations and more, the smart remote control also has a whole new range of commands for connected homes.

Marketers and developers are still in the early days of building robust voice first experiences that are truly designed to meet multicultural consumers’ needs.

Important considerations:

  • Build unique experiences that meet the interests and needs of your multicultural customers. Understand the context of when, where, and how your target customer might be completing a task across the devices they use (starting a grocery list in the kitchen, adding items/comparing prices in the car, and checking off items at the grocery).
  • Include Spanish/bilingual language options. Adapt to how your users actually talk and what words they use in both languages.
  • Make it an end-to-end experience. Don’t start with voice first and then lead to an experience that requires you to access a computer or punch in a number.
  • Assume that customer will contact you hands-free and build customer service user paths that work well with voice commands.