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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: OnBrand and Bynder have published the results of their latest branding report, which gathers answers from 504 marketers on branding trends and challenges for this year.
Why it matters: As consumers’ expectations rise, brands struggle to provide a seamless experience that aligns with their needs across all new channels.

OnBrand and Bynder joined forces with Survata this last January in order to gather answers from 504 marketing decision-makers in the U.S. and the UK on their goals, challenges, and priorities for this year. The selection of respondents encompassed a wide variety of industries, from Consumer Products and Financial Services to Telecommunications, E-commerce, and Sports. The main conclusion, as proved by other recent studies, is that customer experience is the number one priority in marketers’ minds; however, fulfilling customer’s expectations is not only more important than ever, it’s also more difficult because of the number one challenge that goes with it: identifying the right technologies for a seamless experience. Based on the participants’ answers, the team behind the study identified 5 key findings.

1. Brands Want to Personalize but Struggle to Find the Right Technologies

The digital landscape has drastically changed marketing. To quote the study, it has “blown up”. Customers want their individuality considered, they expect each transaction to become a personalized experience, and this forces brands to use technology in order to deliver. According to a study by Segment quoted in the report, 44% of consumers say they will likely repeat a purchase that was a personalized experience. Among the participants who answered the survey, 56% expressed intentions to personalize their marketing this year, and while 89% agreed that technology plays a key role in developing a personalized experience, 90% think that finding the right technologies to do so is a significant challenge. “The two-fold challenge facing marketers today is how to deliver relevant and consistent customer experiences across all channels, while filtering through the clutter of the rapidly evolving marketing technology landscape.” The image below shows the biggest challenges in 2018 when incorporating new technologies into marketing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Voice Assistants Dominate Tech Investments

According to the report, 40% of marketing decision-makers will invest in voice assistants this year, and 39% are developing integrations that run through platforms like Facebook, Alexa, and Siri. Interestingly, brands will need to choose the voice they want to present to the consumer: “The rise of voice technology has turned the discussion of a brand’s voice from metaphorical to physical, and brands need to consider the delicate politics of gender, personality, and accents,” states the study. 75% of the respondents agree that an ethical development of voice-based technology is a top priority, and characteristics they would take into account are tone, speaking speed, accents, and personas. While gender was reportedly the least important aspect, 54% of marketers would still prefer a female voice. The chart below shows the technologies marketers will be investing in in 2018. We shouldn’t be surprised that 68% will invest in mobile apps, but it’ll be interesting to see how voice assistants shape customer experience.

3. Influencer Marketing is Still Hot

The magic of Influencer Marketing is that they provide access to an already-engaged base of consumers. Good results are not guaranteed and even though influencer marketing could still be proved to be a passing fad, the report’s results show that most marketers are still betting on influencers. 79% of the respondents will invest in influencer marketing this year, and 43% are planning to spend more than they did in 2017. To quote the study, “Influencer marketing is not just a new broadcasting channel, and the brands that achieve cultural relevance in smaller, niche communities will win in 2018.”

The most successful brands no longer market to the world, but behave in the world.

4. Brand Activism is on the Rise

Today’s world is interconnected and transparent: there’s no way a brand will do or say something without everyone finding out the next minute. Consumers expect brands to use their power and influence to give something back to the community; there’s no reason not to contribute to or get involved in social issues, and in fact, customers don’t mind spending a bit more in a product if they know the brand is supporting a cause. According to the study, “The most successful brands no longer market to the world, but behave in the world,” which is why 79% of the respondents said that social and cultural issues will play a role in their marketing this year. 

5. Marketing Teams Are Hiring More Tech Talent

As customer’s expectations rise and the digital landscape explodes, companies will need to largely invest in hiring the right talent that can adequately handle the technological challenges ahead. 53% of respondents said they’ll be hiring experiences designers and developers in 2018, while 34% said they’ll add data scientists to their teams.