Shopping of the Future: How to Target Voice Assistants

In late 2017, we featured voice search as one of the Top 9 Retail Trends For 2018, and throughout 2018 we watched the adoption of voice search for shopping purchases grow and grow – primarily due to the ease of use in comparison to typing (the average person types approx. 40 words per minute, but speaks approx. 150 words per minute, allowing for greater specificity with less effort). In July 2018 alone, the global average rate of usage hit 37%, with the highest rate of usage occurring in Indonesia (49%). And early adopters aged 16-24 used it far more often (45%) than so-called silver surfers aged 55-64 (17%).

However, as consumers increase their reliance upon virtual personal assistants like Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant, and devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, the adoption of voice search for shopping is only set to grow. Comscore predicts 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. While Capgemini have calculated that 3 years from now, 40% of consumers will use voice assistants instead of websites or apps and 31% will opt for voice assistants over visiting a brick-and-mortar store or bank branch. Which is why all brands must now make it a priority to optimise their marketing strategies for voice search.

But how can you begin making your eCommerce site friendlier to voice searches? Thankfully, it’s easier than you think:

Understand your users’ intent

Think back to when you last conducted a voice search on your home voice assistant or mobile device. Chances are you asked for a very specific piece of information like the location or opening hours of a retailer, the price of a specific product, or the current time in a particular city. As such, it’s crucial that you bear user intent in mind when structuring your site and your content. One of the best ways to do this is by pre-emptively answering any specific questions they may have as regards your brand, product, or physical store.

Ensure that important information like your phone number, street address, and opening hours (if applicable) is readily available on your site should be your first step. And be sure this crucial information isn’t hidden in images – make sure it’s available as HTML. Google can and does parse image content to provide search results but forcing it to do so will almost certainly harm your visibility.

Next, you need to ask what questions your prospective customers typically have about what your brand/product does? What vital information do they need to make an informed decision about your brand? What’s your USP? Is it clear from looking at the content on your site? Anticipate and pre-emptively answer these questions.

Target long-tail keywords

When we use a computer, we use short phrases to find information because it saves physical typing effort. When searching using a voice assistant, our searches are a conversation with a virtual assistant. While you might type “best restaurants in South Dublin” into your computer or phone, when using voice search you will probably ask “Which restaurant serves dinner now?” Both queries contain 5 words. But speech searches tend to be longer through the tail as they usually reflect how people speak naturally in everyday life.

By targeting long-tail and more conversational keywords and phrases, and by answering questions your prospective customers are likely to have, you stand a much better chance of ranking for these queries and appearing prominently in voice search results.

Tip: Use the Answer the Public tool to start your long-tail keyword research. Just enter a keyword or your brand/product name and wait for it to populate with questions.However, don’t make the mistake of equating voice search optimisation to using long-tail keywords in your content. Voice search is more likely to contain question phrases, so be sure to feature these questions.

Keep answers to question queries under 30 words.

When a voice assistant returns an answer to a user’s query, the snippet they read back is 30 words. Anything more and the user experience would start to resemble that of listening to an audiobook! Therefore, voice assistants favour shorter, more concise answers.

Since many other sites nest the answers to users’ queries within longer content, by separating the direct answer into its own paragraph or via formatting (e.g. using bolded text) you may help your chances.

Think local

22% of people use voice search for finding local information, which makes sense when you consider that most people use their phones on the go. And according to Google “near me” searches have grown 130% year on year over the past 5 years.

“Near me” and other location-based questions typically deliver a read-out of local business listings (which is probably why 50% of local mobile searches lead to a store visit in a day). To take advantage of this local intent, you need to get your keywords right. You can gain a lot more business by carefully incorporating the following keywords into your SEO strategy:

  • Phrases people use to describe the neighbourhood around your store location.
  • “Near me” in your title tags, meta description, internal links, and anchor text.
  • Landmarks around your business location.
  • Titles of local institutions that are relevant to your business.

Create videos that answer specific consumer queries about your brand

When a voice search for product queries is conducted on a mobile device, it often returns video results.

While it can be tough and extremely competitive to secure a top Google placing for general product queries (e.g. “best coolers”), there’s one subset of queries that’s easier to own—those that include your brand. When tested the theory, they found that when they typed “Which Yeti cooler to buy” into a desktop search, while it was videos that were returned as the top result, an Amazon was listed just after them. However, that same query when searched for via voice search delivered a listing of YouTube videos only – none of which had anything to do with Amazon. Instead, independent YouTubers dominated the search results. This is a missed opportunity for Yeti (who could easily rank for a query that includes their brand name), it proves what a big opportunity brands have to get their products to the top of voice search results.

The dominance of video in voice search results gives brands and eCommerce retailers a protected space. This delivers persuasive product videos to purchase-ready consumers. To identify opportunities for what to create videos about:

  • Catalogue brand-product queries (e.g. “Yeti coolers”).
  • Identify brand-product voice queries (e.g. “Which yeti cooler to buy”) for which you don’t rank first.
  • Narrow the list to those that return a carousel of YouTube videos.
  • Publish YouTube videos that answer those questions directly.

On the whole

The importance of optimising for voice search is growing rapidly. However, as Richie Lauridsen, the Director of Digital Strategy at Ignite Visibility, argues, it’s important to remember that your efforts may not yield lots of positive results immediately, but that the benefit of your voice optimisation work is part of a longer play. “While some users may get the answer to their question from voice search and move on, the experience will help grow brand recognition and can play a big role in the funnel for users who now see the site as a trustworthy and authoritative source,” he said.

To learn more about how voice assistants can help with your brand’s consumer experience, check out our eBook, ‘The Digital Impact On The Consumer Experience: How To Get It Right’ to find out more!