It’s the most natural way we all communicate: voice.

I’m sure everyone reading this has spoken to Siri, asked Alexa to add something to their shopping list, told Google Home to look up something, or asked Cortana to show you today’s top headlines. Voice is growing at a frantic pace (Microsoft stated in July of 2017 that Cortana now has 141 million active users, and Amazon Alexa’s user base grew 128% year over year by mid 2017) and it’s something your business should be monitoring closely and building strategies around. Here’s why:

More and More Searches are Done Via Voice

According to Comscore, by 2020 50% of all searches will be done using voice. There is much to consider in your search strategy as it relates to voice searches. As marketers we adjusted to mobile searches as it emerged by being aware of the differences in context of a mobile user doing searches vs. how desktop users were doing searches. A lot of that optimizing was around location (‘near me’ searches, for example) and understanding the customer journey at a different level than just straight SEO.

For voice, it’s important to understand how these assistants get their results and provide their answers when someone performs a search. Google, for example, uses what’s called position zero snippets, or featured snippets, to return results of a voice search from the web. This means that you need to do the research and spend the time getting your search result in that coveted featured spot so it’s your result that Google provides the consumer. There has been an explosion of articles about how to do this (up 178% in 2017 alone), but one big thing stands out:  Google needs to provide value to their customers using voice search and in order to do this needs a solid position zero snippet for as many topics as their consumers might ask.  Something that the always secretive Google should do in this case is to share what types of queries trigger snippets in voice search and add that information to Search Console so everyone can improve (or Google can just lose market share to another platform that does this well).

Another consideration for voice search is that the phrases are much longer. Text searches are 1-3 words whereas voice searches are 3-5 words.  This means more attention to your content adding conversational style copy, building out your view of customer intent and what those queries might look (sound) like, and paying attention to the structure of your data.

More Content is Being Consumed Via Voice

This is probably the most exciting area of voice today. First of all, at Red 5 we preach to our clients constantly about the fact that to win today you must produce content – audio, video, photos, written.  You must, must, must, must do this. That said, Alexa and the other devices offer a fantastic opportunity by giving you a new channel to provide valuable content to your customers and prospects. Consider doing a weekly podcast and having it available as an option on Alexa. How about doing a Q&A app where customers can get support about your products and services via your own voice app? Own a restaurant? Build an app that offers customers your menu.

There are just so many ways to use voice creatively and create excitement for your brand in this space. At Red 5 we are hard at work on a few things on this front that we can’t wait to share with everyone.

Voice is Becoming More and More Popular for Controlling Devices

Right now, today, if you don’t already have one, you should go out and buy an Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home, or whatever your voice flavor preference is.  When you do that, also pick up a few Phillips Hue light bulbs (as of this writing a single bulb runs around $15).  It will take you about 15 minutes to setup, if that long, and you can make a little magic happen in your home: “Alexa, turn on the living room light”. Boom. It’s simple, but elegant and if you try it you’ll be getting a peak at what is happening right now and the convenience revolution that it is bringing.

Voice is such a natural way to interact with devices.  It’s seamless.  It’s frictionless.  It really is the thing that makes the ‘Internet of Things” (IoT) something that is useful and desirable to the masses.  Much of this is still early adopter territory, but when you try it and see just how easy and convenient it is, it’s likely you’ll be setting up your switches, thermostats, security system and media devices for voice.

This aspect of voice has impact on manufacturers, builders, and anyone who has synergy with connected devices.

Voice is possibly the most common way we interact with AI.

As CES 2018 winds down, it’s clear that the battle of the ‘everyday AI’, or virtual assistants, is on. This battle is taking place on your phone, in your home, in your car, and in your office.  The number of AI-capable devices is set to grow to 7.5 billion by 2021, according to UK-based research analysts Ovum. These AI voice assistants are all vying for being the integration of choice for your various gadgets, appliances and cars.

AI offers promise in the form of offering convenience to us and making tasks easier throughout our day.  As these devices get smarter and make better use of machine learning, that promise rises.  There is a sort of ‘dark side’ that some are concerned with when it comes to AI (albeit far more advanced AI that what is currently in voice assistants).  This concern comes from the idea that there are no firm ground rules when it comes to AI and how far we should take it – that in doing the research and development of super-powerful AI’s scientists and engineers could lose control inadvertently.  Elon Musk called super-powerful AI humanity’s “biggest existential threat” and that “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.”  Well, those are big philosophical and ethical questions better left for another conversation, but it’s worth noting that in those concerns the real power of AI is obvious.

Another good news/bad news aspect of voice assistant AI is all of the data that we willfully hand over for the convenience.  The data, from a marketing perspective, is incredibly valuable and can help marketers tailor experiences and advertising with hyper-precision.  This also could be horribly abused by marketers if done unethically.  It could also be used by nefarious parties should the systems become compromised.  So, on that front, be aware that the price of convenience is a near full surrender of privacy.  This has been true for awhile now – by being attached to your web browser and smartphone that ship sailed a long time ago.

Conclusions

So, there clearly is a lot to consider when it comes to voice.  It can help your business and brand in really exciting ways, particularly if you take advantage of it now and get your flag in the ground before your competition does.  The technology is becoming ubiquitous so the smart money is on getting a voice strategy in place today.