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The impact of voice control on marketing

In this #IndustryInsights report, we look at how voice control technology is impacting marketers and give tips for making the most of emerging channels.

We have a deep need and desire to connect. Everything in the history of communication technology suggests we will take advantage of every opportunity to connect more richly and deeply. I see no evidence for a reversal of that trend.
– Peter Morville, president of Semantic Studios

Voice control has been on the verge of hitting the mainstream for years. Now it’s here… so what should marketers be doing?

There are challenges and opportunities aplenty. Take a look at some tips for getting ahead and be inspired by the brands that are doing it right.​


1. State of play

Why should marketers be using voice control?  

Voice-controlled tech is not the future – it’s here now. Try it yourself. Invest in, for example, an Alexa for the office. Encourage people to try it out.

Perceptions of how voice tech works and the reality of it are still quite far apart. As marketers, you need to speak from a position of authority – so get engaged with voice-tech interfaces where possible. Encourage more tech-minded people within the company to share their understanding of voice-tech. Host a company session to discuss and share knowledge. 

2. Challenges

  • Marketing through electronic communications such as voice-controlled tech without the user having opted in can breach the e-privacy directive and is included in GDPR.
  • Breaching GDPR can cost up to €20 million (around £17.5 million) or 4% of global turnover – whichever is greater.
  • 66% of marketers have no plans to begin preparing for voice search.
  • The way people search and what they search for is changing. 20% of mobile search queries are done using voice commands.

What to be aware of when it comes to voice technology

Be vigilant to evolving data regulations. What data do you hold? Where is it coming from? Do you have ‘unambiguous consent’? Do you need to employ a Data Protection Officer to help prepare for how voice-controlled tech is affecting your data? The ICO has a number of useful resources to help businesses tread the GDPR line, including a self-assessment toolkit.

Set aside as much as you can for your technology budget to keep systems fresh and up to date. Technology can, of course, be expensive but the increased number of providers – and therefore competition – means costs are going down.

A half-day SEO training session can be a cheap and quick win for SMEs. Send along a chosen representative who can then write up a summary of their findings for the rest of the business.

3. SEO for SMEs

How can SMEs improve SEO with voice search?

SEO needs a rethink. Voice searches are less about single key words and more about direct questions. Address those specific questions in your titles – the kind of questions your audience will be asking.

Adding an FAQ page to your website is an easy and SEO-friendly way to address the specific questions people may ask.

Add and claim your ‘Google my Business’ listing so that your business info is as easy to access as possible for anyone searching your company, or your type of company. 

Strike a conversational tone that will match with the sentence structure of a voice-search query.

Use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to tag your content more effectively. It helps search engines provide more information about your webpage in rich snippets – and therefore be picked out by voice searches. It’s easy to use and generates the code you need to optimise your site for SEO – head to Google Structured Data Markup Helper to take you through the process.

4. Brands embracing voice tech

  • The drinks brand Patron Tequila has a ‘Cocktail Lab’ recipe library, accessible via voice activation, which guides people through mixing drinks.
  • Similarly, food company Campbell’s Kitchen is answering that common question ‘what should I have for dinner tonight?’ by offering recipes and tips – an ideal hands-free use of the technology.
  • The online education platform Canvas has created a skill for Alexa so students and teachers can link their account with their Alexa-enabled device. With no log in required, users can get, for example, details about courses, instructions for homework that’s due and contact information.
  • Moen makes taps, showerheads and other kitchen and bathroom accessories. Its FAQ page is a lesson in good SEO practice and answers the kind of informal, direct questions that voice searchers will be asking. Not only that, it acts as a jargon-buster for related queries and a information hub for anyone looking into kitchen/bathroom modifications – whether they are Moen customers or not.

How could your business embrace voice technology?

For the moment, voice-controlled tech pretty much means voice-controlled searches. Start looking into how your brand can integrate more effectively with voice apps (called ‘Skills’ on Amazon Echo and ‘Actions’ on Google Home). They’re not going away any time soon. Could you build your own?

Start internal conversations now about brand voice and what that might sound like.

Consider how or if developing a voice app could enhance your business output. But don’t dive in if it doesn’t fit your strategy. Is it through adding a personal touch to customer chatbots? An interactive element to the manufacturing production line? Speeding up the transcription or admin system?  

For detailed insight into the other technologies, roles and skills that are driving the marketing industry visit our interactive report, State of Skills.

Visit State of Skills

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