It’s 2019 and nearly everyone has a built in assistant – voice assistant that is.

Voice technology and its underlying software – voice recognition, artificial intelligence, natural language processing and beyond – is evolving rapidly and becoming omnipresent. With the rise of position zero, the coveted search result spot that voice assistants are pulling from, it’s more important than ever for brands to be aware of the power of voice and develop a strategy to maximize this opportunity.

Is this thing on?

We’ve all asked: “Hey Siri, what’s the weather like today?”

35% of people have asked: “Alexa, turn on the bedroom light.”

Soon, we’ll be talking to our appliances: “Fridge, order more milk from Walmart.”

In the age of instant gratification and short attention spans, voice is further simplifying routine habits and making it easier for busy customers to make purchases. To maintain relevance, brands must keep up or risk losing market share. So how are brands evolving?   

Recent tech headlines covered Marriott hotels testing smartspeaker devices in their guest rooms to automate certain tasks or questions, and improve the client experience. In the finance space, Capital One launched an Alexa-based skill for customers to perform simple actions such as checking their account balances. Government institutions, healthcare providers, car manufacturers – the country’s leading brands and organizations are already testing use cases and paving the way for other businesses to explore voice technology.

Regardless of industry, many brands are already testing the voice market, even toilet makers, so the opportunity to plant your brand flag is now.

Voice is Crucial Now

Industry experts estimate that by 2020, 50% of web searches will be performed with voice. Perhaps even more impactful, 30% of web browsing will potentially no longer use screens.

And that’s just the future of search. According to eMarketer, 26% of internet users already own a smart speaker in the U.S. alone. Roughly 74 million people! Adoption is increasing quickly and smart speakers are becoming mainstream.

While these stats are both amazing and ambitious, it’s important to note that voice technologies are still new to the market and therefore somewhat unpredictable. User adoption, behavioral changes and innovation will be determining factors in the future of the voice ecosystem.

Businesses Need a Voice Strategy

The key to success is to base voice strategy on providing value and adapting to how consumers are likely to use voice technology.

Brands will need to research and understand the differences between voice and screen interactions. Voice provides a much more linear experience and typically only allows one interaction at a time, creating a higher level of engagement. In comparison, a screen offers space for multiple types of content–texts, images, navigation, videos, ads and more–presented all at once and vying for attention.

Because voice creates such a streamlined experience and users are still learning how to interact with its applications, most searches conducted today focus on finding local content, asking simple questions or searching for a particular product. Other usage through voice-activated applications is concentrated on simple one-sided interactions such as playing a song or turning a light on.

Interactions will evolve from these basic requests as voice assistants’ conversational capabilities become more sophisticated and users become more comfortable with the technology.

How to Optimize for Voice Search & Performance

First, brands should optimize their online presence for voice search. This means tailoring content for specific intents and questions that are more likely to be activated through voice. For example, specific questions like “What is…?” or “How to…?” This type of content is already more likely to be visible in screen-based results as search engines have been focusing on providing answers directly within their results.

It also means optimizing website structure and code markups to make it easier for search algorithms to parse and return in a voice format.

Voice search optimization is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a must to maintain visibility and increase opportunities to reach consumers.

Second, brands should identify potential use cases for other voice applications. Voice will become a medium for many different types of interactions between businesses and consumers. The shape of these interactions will depend on the industry, products or services and user needs.

Finally, brands should prepare for the “no-screen experience.” How will consumers find them and their products when all they rely on is voice? Those who have taken the time to not only optimize their web presence but also position themselves in voice environments will be able to maintain critical connections with customers.

We’re already seeing users interacting more and more using voice, but its true value has yet to be realized. Brands that invest now have a chance to gain critical ground and define future conversations – stay ahead of the curve and start developing a voice strategy. 

For more information on building and executing voice strategies, contact us today.