Will voice search mean big brands have to get even more local?

The grow­ing adop­tion of voice search is in the mid­dle of fun­da­men­tal­ly chang­ing the con­sumer jour­ney.

David Jowett By David Jowett from DAC Group. Join the discussion » 0 comments

The grow­ing adop­tion of voice search is fun­da­men­tal­ly chang­ing the con­sumer jour­ney. For many brands, respond­ing to this shift in behav­ior is going to demand a far more mobile and local strat­e­gy to engage cus­tomers. So what do you need to know?

What is voice search?

Voice search is when users uti­lize voice recog­ni­tion soft­ware to con­duct their search queries, either via smart­phones and desk­top com­put­ers which pro­vide a dig­i­tal per­son­al assis­tant, or via an entry point (or hub) that uses voice such as Google’s micro­phone or Amazon’s Echo.

In most cas­es, if you’re using a per­son­al assis­tant and acti­vat­ing these devices with your voice, you’re doing some kind of voice search.

Who is using it and what for?

Google com­mis­sioned a study in 2014, con­duct­ed by North­star Research, to under­stand who, when, and where peo­ple use voice search. The study sur­veyed 1,400 Amer­i­cans across all ages.


As you can see, as ear­ly as eigh­teen months ago both teens and adults were already using voice search in a wide range of their dai­ly activ­i­ties.

So as the tech­nol­o­gy devel­ops, dra­mat­i­cal­ly improv­ing accu­ra­cy and we all begin to feel less awk­ward using voice com­mands, it appears that we are rush­ing to embrace the con­ve­nience of these dig­i­tal per­son­al assis­tants.

And accord­ing to a sur­vey con­duct­ed in Octo­ber 2015 by Mind­Meld, adop­tion rates are mov­ing fast, with 41.6% of us start­ing to use voice search and voice com­mands with­in the last 6 months.


So what?

So, a lot!

Com­bine these sta­tis­tics with the over­all fore­cast for mobile phone search (eMar­keter esti­mates that in 2015 there will be 81.8 bil­lion annu­al mobile phone search queries in the US) and the size of the prize – or the penal­ty for miss­ing out – becomes clear.

But Text? Voice? Isn’t it all ‘just’ search?

No. We uncon­scious­ly change our behav­iour when using voice search.
When we are search­ing for a restau­rant a desk­top or phone, we might type in “best lunch in High­gate.” But when we use voice search we change your behav­iour and ask a ques­tion, like “What restau­rant has the best Sun­day lunch in High­gate?” or “What restau­rants are open for lunch right now?”

As a result, voice search queries are longer than their text coun­ter­parts – they tend to be three-to-five key­words in length, and they tend to explic­it­ly ask a ques­tion, char­ac­ter­ized by words like who, how, what, where, why and when, with the expec­ta­tion that the search engines will pro­vide an answer back.


Voice Search Shows True Intent

But that is great news for busi­ness­es, as this ‘nat­ur­al lan­guage’ shows you the real intent of the con­sumer. If I were to search for “dig­i­tal cam­era,” a brand would have no idea whether I want­ed to buy one, have one repaired, or was sim­ply look­ing for stock images of cam­eras.

Here’s where the nat­ur­al lan­guage usage with­in con­ver­sa­tion­al search changes everything.The type of voice search ques­tion asked can reveal the degree of intent:


Of course this has real con­se­quences on bid­ding strat­e­gy. I can bid high­er for ques­tion phras­es with the high­est like­li­hood of action, e.g. “Where’s my near­est Shuh store?” vs. “What brands does the Shuh store sell?”

By under­stand­ing and design­ing bid strate­gies around this intent, voice search will allows brands with more lim­it­ed bud­gets to com­pete with larg­er, heavy spend­ing brands because they can choose when to com­pete for cus­tom, and focus their more lim­it­ed bud­gets at exact­ly this moment when the user shows their spe­cif­ic intent.

Voice search is local

Data shows that mobile voice search is three times more like­ly to be local-based than text search. This is large­ly due to the fact that most smart­phone search­es are local, as they’re car­ried out while on the move. If you’re a busi­ness with a local phys­i­cal pres­ence, or a mul­ti-loca­tion busi­ness, it’s impor­tant to be con­sid­er­ing the impli­ca­tions. Think care­ful­ly about the key­words that would be rel­e­vant to a local searcher, and the nat­ur­al lan­guage they might use to describe the area.

If you haven’t already, cre­ate a land­ing page for each indi­vid­ual loca­tion, build­ing in loca­tion-based key­words. These could include local places of inter­est, land­marks, pop­u­lar schools and sports cen­tres, etc. So if a voice searcher enquires, “what’s the near­est cof­fee shop to Dun­combe School in Hert­ford”, you’ll be pre­pared for that and ready to appear with a rel­e­vant SERP list­ing.

And just as a foot­note, Bing search in this case was way more gran­u­lar & help­ful than Google search.

So get smart with key­words rel­e­vant to your local searcher:

  • Are there land­marks you need to call out, such as “in old city” or the sta­di­ums or any­thing else sig­nif­i­cant that will be a cue for your searcher?
  • What are the local places of inter­est that mat­ter to your com­pa­ny?
  • How do folks describe your neigh­bor­hood in nat­ur­al speak?

Voice search gets quick answers

Voice search trig­gers more quick answers in the SERPs. This is because ques­tion words are close­ly relat­ed to local search­es. For exam­ple, “Where is the best Thai food near me?” and “Where can I rent a car today?”

These are dis­tinct­ly local search­es and they trig­ger ads in the SERP that allow the user to act with­out going to a web page.

You can see reviews, a phone call but­ton, and a “book now” but­ton. Users don’t have to come to your web­site to com­plete their inten­tion. This will have a strong impact on crowd-sourced sites, such as Yelp and Tri­pAd­vi­sor, where it’s your company’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to update hours and phone info, as well as to mon­i­tor and respond appro­pri­ate­ly to cus­tomer reviews.

Make it a pri­or­i­ty to keep your local list­ing, your busi­ness list­ing, and your crowd-sourced sites updat­ed and active. These sites have a great deal of pow­er when the search doesn’t leave the SERP.

For exam­ple, is your address cor­rect? What about your hours and your phone num­ber? Are there cus­tomer reviews you need to man­age?

Take Local Seriously

Local and small­er retail brands spend more time on their local foot­print (they don’t have as many). They under­stand their local audi­ences bet­ter and build bet­ter con­nec­tions with them. Big retail brands are going to have to work hard­er to engage these cus­tomers at the hyper local lev­el to pre­vent fur­ther dis­rup­tion to their busi­ness mod­el.

As a final small exam­ple, see the local search result below for a ‘phar­ma­cy in Hert­ford’.

In what oth­er media chan­nel could 3 sole traders be the only vis­i­ble pres­ence? Where are the big phar­ma­cy chains?

Brands, it is time to get seri­ous & local about voice search.

David Jowett

Written by David Jowett

President, Europe, DAC Group

David Jowett oversees operations and portfolio strategy for DAC Group in Europe, including DAC’s technology sister company, ConvergenSEE. His significant expertise drives our geo-local digital offering and strategic growth mandate within the UK and into European markets. Previously, David spent more than 20 years in media agencies including WPP & Dentsu Aegis, with experience in both mature and developing markets, and a high level of understanding and expertise in new market introduction and expansion strategies

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