How Voice Activated Search and Intelligent Agents Will Reshape the Search Landscape

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How Voice Activated Search and Intelligent Agents Will Reshape the Search Landscape

This article is written by Ivan Roubtsov, Chief Marketing Officer of Clientspectrum

The way we search for products and services is facing a new horizon. According to a new Google study conducted by Northstar Research, approximately 50% of US teens and 41% of US adults use some form of voice activated search on a daily basis. So, as voice-activated searching starts playing a bigger role in the day-to-day, how is all of this going to impact digital advertising?

With products like Amazon Echo and Google Home, more people are starting to use voice commands for common search queries. With this notable spike in voice commands, voice-activated searching is about to go through another evolutionary phase; but this time, powered by the growth in smart speaker adoption.

Consider this; in past two years, Amazon sold approximately 8.2 million Echos – with over 3 million units sold during the 2016 holiday season. Voice Labs, a platform for Alexa and Google Assistant voice analytics, is projecting that in 2017 alone, roughly 24 million voice powered devices will sell to consumers across the globe.

How Does This Change Things for Consumers?

As consumers, our interactions with devices like Amazon Echo include tasks like ordering food, buying items off Amazon, and booking appointments. However, devices like Amazon Echo will eventually develop into intelligent agents that learn about their users and their product preferences. Any information that sharpens their search capabilities and offer generation will aggregate to their database.

So, the next time you order pizza, you will likely not find the need to specify from where, which kind, and which size you want – the smart speaker will have already registered your preferences. With similar learning mechanisms, smart speakers will eventually advise owners – with the addition of audience data from similar consumer groups – what potential products and services may be of interest to them.

Because intelligent agents will start becoming the ones responsible for placing purchase orders and advising product selection, the way marketers think about advertising goods and services will change – drastically. On the surface, it is easy to see how text-searching and voice-searching are fundamentally different. Instead of using keywords, voice activated searches focus on complete sentences to generate responses – something relatively new for marketers and the industry.

However, if we take a closer look, we see another, more important layer that drives the way we think about digital advertising. Ad optimization for humans is very visual and multimedia driven – color, text copy, and image composition all play a significant role when relaying a message to the consumer. With intelligent agents, such as smart speakers, it is all about data. Things like product description, affinity data, past purchase data, product feedback, pricing, and delivery time are becoming the new center for reference. After all, artificial intelligence (AI) will not care how appealing your display may be – it is only there to make decisions based on the database of attributes available.

There is another important aspect that, as a marketer, interests me very deeply. What happens with big “walled gardens” – a term for controlling user access to content in particular environments – behind voice powered devices and how fast are they going to adapt their technology to push promoted offers. If somebody is asking his or her Google Home device about a nearby pastry shop or dental clinic – is that individual going to see an advertised listing in the mix? The same way text-based search is a good indicator of intent, voice inquiries would be an even better gauge of product interest or the intent to buy. It will be interesting to see if voice queries as impressions will trade as commodities in live auctions across different ad exchanges.

As a local store or large business, how worth it would it be to make sure that my listings appear at the top of the list of available options? What would be the opportunity cost for not taking part of this movement? Sure, there will always be an abundance of organic opportunities for local businesses; but, just like traditional searching, it would be naive to think there will not be an equivalent of search ads for this new emerging channel. Like it or not, voice activated search without a screen is now a channel on its own – same as the ‘internet of things’ and programmatic TV – this is one more channel that adds another layer of complexity to the marketing mix.

I want to end this article with one more question directed to the marketing cloud platforms of the world: “How are you planning to adjust to this new channel, and are you going to provide marketers with the tools and functionalities to interact and leverage this channel?”