In recent years, voice search has been dominating the landscape. It enables users to search for products or answers simply by speaking to their devices rather than typing keywords. It is widely perceived to be faster and more convenient than typing.
According to PwC, 65% of 25-49-year-olds speak to their voice-enabled devices at least once daily. Moreover, 55% of households are expected to own intelligent speaker devices by 2022.
But why did voice search become so popular only recently? And more importantly, how will it change how we find and buy products?
What is voice search, and how does it work?
Voice search is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. That is, using your voice to ask questions and give commands to devices like smartphones or smart speakers, executing the user’s command or answering their question.
For example, if you ask Google Assistant on your Android smartphone, “Hey Google, what is the weather like today?” the device will pull up data from the Internet and tell you what the weather forecast is for that day.
How does voice search work? Virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa use speech recognition technology to process and transcribe someone’s voice into text and then analyze that transcript for questions or commands.
By saying the assistant’s name (e.g., “Hey Siri”), the user can ‘wake up the virtual assistant so that it will be ready to listen to requests and respond to them. Moreover, the virtual assistant will keep learning over time as you talk to it to better understand your preferences and provide tailored answers or recommendations.
Although smart speakers such as Alexa were already pretty popular with users, voice search took off with the introduction of voice assistants in smartphones, tablets, and wearable technologies.
Nowadays, almost all modern wearables, such as smartwatches, have a voice search feature that enables users to search for information using their voice whenever they want.
When it comes to how we will be looking for products in the future, it’s no wonder that voice search technology is expected to be the next big thing:
- One-third of the US population use voice search features.
- 71% of consumers prefer to conduct voice searches instead of typing.
- 3/4 of US households are thought to own at least one smart speaker.
- More than half of all smart speaker owners use their devices daily.
- By 2022, 70% of consumers will use voice to shop instead of visiting brick-and-mortar stores.
- 71% of consumers who wear devices say they’ll utilize voice search in the future.
- By 2023, roughly 8 billion devices will provide voice assistants.
of consumers prefer voice search to typing.
Why are retailers interested in voice search?
Voice search is not only appealing to potential internet users; retailers and e‑commerce agencies are also taking an interest in the technology. The rise in the popularity of voice search could be a game-changer for the market.
Businesses can take advantage of voice search in several ways, from allowing customers to find a product they want wherever they are to providing more options for personalizing their shopping experience. Even though customers aren’t yet using voice search for making regular purchases (only 10% use voice search every day, while 50% never have), this doesn’t mean businesses should overlook the power of voice search.
According to BrightLocal, 58% of consumers have used voice search to find information about a local business like office hours or directions. A survey conducted by Narvar also found that 51% use voice searches to research products before buying. It’s therefore critical for your brand to make certain information about the business and its products available for voice search.
It’s especially noteworthy that both retailers and e‑commerce brands that are embracing voice searches now have an advantage over their competitors. Many companies do not yet support voice search, leading to voice search users finding the brand or product of those that do first. This means you could use voice search to gently nudge consumers toward discovering (and buying) your products over those of your competitors.
How will voice search change the way people shop for products online?
Thanks to being one of the most natural and fastest methods of communication, voice search is definitely going to become one of the most popular ways for people to search for information or place orders.
While there are still some problems with voice technology trouble understanding accents or mishearing commands, the situation is improving each year. And there’s one crucial difference when it comes to searching through voice assistants compared to a regular internet query, which is the number of results the user will get.
Say you type “Warm woolen blanket” into Google, the search engine would then show 19,700,000 relevant results (together with paid links). Technically, this means users may visit any page, whether it’s the first or millionth result.
Meanwhile, a voice search will only give a handful of results if not just one. Therefore, if you don’t rank at the top for a given query, your chances of being seen drop significantly.
However, if you are an early adopter, you have a far greater chance of attracting voice search users and converting them into customers.
Voice search can also provide great benefits to your brand, such as:
1. A more personalized shopping experience
Using voice search can add a never-seen-before level of personalization to a customer’s shopping experience. Sure, personalized recommendations and mails with shopping basket reminders are pretty much standard now.
How about getting a virtual assistant to search and order daily groceries through online supermarkets, though? If a customer is regularly shopping with the help of voice search, then Siri or Alexa could order the desired products with just one command.
It could also even remind the customer that they are running short on something (based on the last purchase date) or suggest additional products that match their preferences. As a result, customers would be able to order the products they want in a matter of seconds, which might encourage them to shop more frequently and purchase more items.
2. Easier to gather feedback
Customer reviews and comments are a goldmine of information for retail and e‑commerce owners, as long as buyers will actually leave a review. While they do usually find time for negative reviews, customers are not so likely to leave a positive one simply because writing them takes time.
Customers would be far more likely to leave a review if they could just dictate it to their device rather than type it out. Due to how quick and easy this would make it to leave such reviews, customers might also be encouraged to write longer and more insightful comments.
Voice assistants could also be used to ask your customers to rate their shopping or support experience, giving you access to plenty of information about what they think of your service and what you should improve upon.
3. Faster service
However, the main reason why voice search is popular is because of its speed. The average person types between 38 and 40 words per minute, which equates to between 190 and 200 characters. When it comes to speech though, the average person says approximately 100 to 150 words per minute. See the difference?
Because of this, many users find voice search very exciting since it allows them to communicate and locate what they need more quickly. Moreover, customers can use voice search while doing something else – for example, they could ask Alexa to order more milk and eggs while preparing dinner.
A voice search feature might also be handy for disabled, elderly, or non-tech-savvy people who simply have trouble with using a regular keyboard and search browser. Instead of typing a query into a search engine, they could ask Siri or Google to check the weather, call a given phone number, or order groceries, helping them be more independent.
4. Enables smart shopping
The true power of voice search doesn’t come only from speech recognition capabilities. Virtual assistants are powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, making them smart enough to understand users’ shopping behavior and habits.
Going back to the grocery shopping example, let’s say you regularly buy a specific brand of coffee from Amazon Fresh. Knowing this, the voice assistant can inform you when there’s a sale on that particular brand and ask if you want to order it.
The benefit of this would be not only for customers (who find out right away about the offer), but also for shops because they can reach out to their customers immediately with the latest special offers.
5. Voice search rankings can drive more traffic
Google’s unique algorithm ensures that users receive the best results possible when using voice search. That means that users trust that the information they get from voice searches is the best match for their needs.
What if the information or recommendation comes straight from your website? Users are more likely to trust your business and return to you again next time. If you optimize your website for voice search, you are essentially putting your business in front of more customers.
Additionally, adding voice search capabilities to your website can increase traffic to your page, boosting your brand’s reputation and trustworthiness even further.
6. Improves the customer experience
All in all, implementing voice search into your business could improve your customer experience tremendously. By doing so, you are more likely to gain happy customers who will gladly recommend your services to others.
What’s more, voice assistants can help you with brand-building because it is definitely something you can boast about. For example, if you tell your customers that you offer voice commerce shopping, then people who already use it often might be convinced to try out your product or service.
Moreover, people who didn’t previously know about voice search might be happy to try this method in your store. Then, if they like it, they will come back and recommend your app or online shop to others, resulting in even more customers for your brand.
What should companies do to stay ahead of this trend?
With how sophisticated voice assistants have become, we can only expect voice search to grow in popularity even more rapidly in the coming years.
Since the voice market is likely to be far more competitive than the SEO one, businesses of all sizes should adapt to this trend in advance of voice search becoming the norm.
Those who delay or ignore the trend may find it much more challenging to catch up later, especially if the competition changes their digital marketing processes first to gain the top spot in results of smart speaker queries.
How can your business prepare for voice search?
Here are a few tips:
1. Index page for natural speech
Companies typically compete for the most searched for short and generic keywords when it comes to SEO. People using voice search, however, do so in a slightly different way. They rather use phrases starting from “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How” to find an answer to their questions quickly.
One of the best ways to get your page seen by those users is to create an FAQ section where you provide answers to common questions that your users might have, written in a conversational tone. Doing this will make it easier for your customers to find answers to any of their queries.
For example, if they are looking for a nearby pizzeria through their smartwatch and there are directions for how to find your place on your website, there’s a good chance the virtual assistant in their smartwatch will point out your business as the place the customer should go to.
2. Simplify the shopping process
Internet users are increasingly looking for an easy and convenient experience when browsing the Internet or online stores, especially when using mobile devices. That’s why hidden fees, several checkout pages asking for too many details, a lack of information about payment options, or forcing buyers to create an account before completing their purchase can quickly cause them to abandon a website.
To keep the checkout process short and sweet, it’s recommended that you simplify your shopping cart checkout to just these three pages:
- product information
- billing (with available payment options and shipping costs)
- payment and order confirmation
You should also offer your clients the option to complete their purchase as a guest. This saves time and improves the overall user experience for new customers, which might convince them to make an account soon after.
3. Use schema markups
You are probably familiar with rich snippets, meaning google search results that show additional valuable information next to the standard link. Schema markups work in a similar way by labeling your content and telling search engines what your site is about.
With this HTML add-on, search engines can better understand your content, which will lead you to rank higher in text query results and be more relevant in voice searches.
4. Set up product categories and tags
It used to be fine to include simple tags (“T-shirt,” “sports,” or “V-neck”) on your e‑commerce site, with the product variants taking care of everything else like color or size. For clients searching for products on your website or mobile app that’s fine, but what about someone using an Amazon Echo?
To help people find what they need quickly on your page, make sure that product descriptions, titles, and category tags all contain relevant details.
AI is also now becoming able to distinguish between male and female voices, so you should make sure that any ‘gender specific’ items are tagged as such. For example, a “Blue sports T-shirt with V-neck, for female size 36” would be a perfectly working description for voice search.
5. Get Alexa Skills for e‑commerce websites
Adding a few Alexa plugins to your e‑commerce website is also an excellent way to get your page ready for voice search. Alexa skills are like apps that drive Alexa’s voice capabilities.
You can enable and disable skills using the Alexa app or a web browser in the same way that you install and uninstall apps on your smartphone or tablet. All these skills require are clear commands that can be given in natural language, and they will perform a given action.
The online grocery retailer Ocado, for example, has a skill on Amazon that allows a user to say, “Alexa, ask Ocado to add onions to my order.” This way, people can shop at any other online shop or perform any action they wish simply by giving orders to Alexa.
Through skills, customers can also control their cloud-connected devices and appliances, decide what to watch on their screens, or even order food.
6. Test and optimize
Like any new technology you add to your website, voice search needs to be tested to make sure it works as smoothly as possible. A good tip here is to get different people to try ordering various items, returning deliveries, or navigating your site using just their voice.
All of these testers will have different voices and will probably say things in slightly varied ways, so this will give you a good idea of how voice search works for your brand.
Digital marketers know that the search process is constantly evolving, and this new era of local and voice-driven searches is transforming marketing once again. Now is the time to adapt your digital marketing efforts to voice search, regardless of the size of your business.
Suppose you ensure that every single one of your pages is optimized for local search, mobile search, and voice search. In that case, you will increase your chances of ranking higher than your competitors and bringing in new customers in this highly competitive digital marketing era.
Using apps such as Luigi’s Box voice search can give you a head start in this soon-to-be hyper-competitive market, so why not consider adding voice search to your business today?
Barbora does magic with words in Luigi's Box as a product marketing specialist. She got into writing while studying at university as a volunteer for various civic associations. Besides being part of Luigi's Box marketing team, she co-organizes the TEDxBratislava conference, where she cares about marketing and PR.More blog posts from this author