Retailers, it’s time to start thinking about voice-activated search and voice-shopping as an extension of your content, SEO and search marketing strategies. Voice-activated devices are quickly becoming part of everyday life for consumers. Device accessibility, consumer adoption and the increase in the accuracy of natural language processing are driving this trend and presenting a new opportunity for retailers and brands.

Voice is Here and Now

  • According to Social Media Today, ​nearly 50% of people are now using voice search when researching products.
  • In a survey conducted by Walker Sands, 20% of consumers have purchased a product via voice shopping and another 33% say they plan to purchase via voice in the next year.
  • ComScore predicts that by 2020, 50% of all Internet searches will be conducted through voice.

What Does Voice Include?
Voice is not limited to a single device or platform. It spans across all digital devices including:

  • Virtual Assistant Devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home
  • Mobile Assistants like Siri and OK Google
  • Browser-based Voice Search via Google Chrome
  • Microsoft’s integration of Cortana into Windows 10

Why Do Consumers Use Voice?
In considering how your brand can adopt a voice search strategy, it is first important to understand the context in which consumers use voice search and the reason they are gravitating toward this method of search.

In today’s fast-paced world, we have become masters at multitasking. Voice search further enables this behavior and is primarily used when we are otherwise occupied. Whether in the home, in the car or on-the-go, voice search is a predominantly mobile activity. Consumers turn to voice search because it often yields faster results and eliminates fat-finger mistakes that can be common with the difficulty typing on some devices. Keep in mind that voice search also tends to be locally focused, as consumers are often looking for quick answers in the moment. For example “Where is the nearest Starbucks?” while walking down the street.

Here are some tips for Implementing an effective voice search strategy:

Be Conversational
Your voice search and content strategy should be built around the fact that voice queries are conversational, and mimic the way shoppers naturally speak and ask questions.

For example, a typed search might look like this:
Running shoes for over-pronation

While a voice search for the same product might look like this:
What are the best running shoes for over-pronation?

Go for the longtail, since voice queries tend to be 6-10 words, while text queries are generally around 1-3 words. Focus on sentences, phrases and topics rather than keywords.

  • Answer the who, what, when, where, why and how questions. These types of questions will become more frequent as voice search usage continues to increase. Keep in mind that consumers will ask very specific questions via voice and that the type of question being asked can signal where they are at in the purchase funnel.
  • Keep answers short and simple for the on-the-go consumer. Think about how you’d verbally ask and answer the question as if you were talking directly with someone.

Optimize Your Content
Add natural language to your site to give yourself a greater chance of showing up in voice search results. Be an early adopter. Start this now to generate rich SEO and get ahead of your competitors!

  • Create Q&A content that uses common questions, words and phrases spoken by your consumers. Seek input from your customer service department to determine frequently asked questions.
  • Keep consumer intent and context in mind as you plan and prioritize new content. The reason for a search can vary based on the consumer’s location and whether they are looking for ideas or tutorials, researching a product, shopping online or planning to visit the physical store.
  • Add Schema.org markup to your site to improve search visibility with content rich tags that help search engines better understand and display your content in more relevant ways. There is schema markup available for products as well as several other categories. Once implemented, test your markup using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

Tip: To build out your content strategy and longtail question phrases, check out the free tool at AnswerThePublic.com. You can input any subject area or product type and it will generate common questions and content ideas for you.

Think Local

  • Revisit your Google and Apple Map listings. Be sure you’ve claimed your business listings (the process of verifying and enhancing the details Google displays about your business) and have optimized each store location with accurate details, updated store hours and photos.
  • Optimize content for “near me” searches by adding “near me” to title tags and text on your store locator pages.

Voice Shopping
Voice-activated shopping is, for now, primarily marketplace based and is happening via Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Amazon Echo. Purchases are limited to smaller, everyday items that don’t require photos or text to make buying decisions. Over  time, demand for bigger ticket items is expected to increase as shoppers become more comfortable purchasing via voice. Security and privacy concerns are slowing the rate of adoption for voice-activated shopping but like all new technologies, it’s only a matter of time before those concerns are allayed.

What Should Retailers and Brands Do Now?
Voice search is here and it’s already having an impact on the way we search for, discover and buy products. To win early, brands and retailers need to optimize their content and marketing strategies with conversational questions and answers. Doing this will also give savvy brands a big leg up when voice shopping becomes more mainstream.