Say What? Why Voice Will Change Everything, By 2020

Ever been in one of those conferences where someone's telling you how everything is going to be very different very soon? With Dmexco just winding up, it's probably a very recent memory for many. Sometimes the word of warning is misplaced and a new technology doesn't revolutionise the digital world. Sometimes, however, the experts get it right.

I remember a year ago being in a room full of digital marketers who were told that everything about accessing and searching the internet was about to change. The drivers of that change? Biometrics and voice. 

Arguably, the impact of biometrics will be felt more on the customer side. People will be able to pay for goods and services with a thumbprint and maybe a scan of their face. They will also be able to sign up for notifications, join VIP shopping clubs, opt in for newsletters and so on without having to type out a long email address and click the right box to remain relatively spam-free. So, some of the friction in how brands and consumers interact will undoubtedly be taken away. That has to be a win-win for each side without much of a leap for brands, other than supplementing password boxes with requests for fingerprint scans.

To get a hook on biometrics, it's worthwhile recognising that recent research forecasts nearly two in three smartphones will have a biometric capability by next year, and by 2020 every smartphone, wearable and tablet will support logging in by thumbprint or facial recognition. 

Voice, however, is probably the biggest leap for digital marketers, as Campaign has been suggesting. For starters, there is the obvious route of building an Alexa skill so consumers can ask Amazon's assistant to look up information from the company or perhaps order some products or services. 

However, one of the more interesting aspects will be how brands market themselves around generic search queries. The advice from experts is that when Google is given a voice search query, it goes looking for information that fits the query. So -- nothing new there in the mechanics, but where there is a major difference is the informal, off-the-cuff way people speak to their mobile device or Echo speaker. 

The experts Campaign has been talking to reveal that these queries will generally be steered toward immediate "how" or "what" questions that need to be answered very early on in the text of a web page to score highly in search results. Ideally, these common search terms should be in the page title. 

If you look around the web, particularly at newspaper sites, you will already see many pages that are clearly tapping into this trend. If you want to know the background to any issue, there are pages with "how did x become y" and "what's the difference between x and y," and so on. A favourite of mine is how many pages are given over to answering football questions, such as "When is England's next game?" or "Which channel is showing the next England game?" 

These topics might have been discussed in articles previously, but they would not be pulled out into individual features or presented as a single feature based around a series of subheadings that pose commonly asked questions.

This is an important point to make because Gartner is predicting that 30% of search inquiries will be made by voice by 2020. That means brands will have to tap into how people look for information once they use voice, typically with an immediate tip or pointer they need to be provided with right away. So expect to see many companies with pages themed around the types of questions that people commonly ask their voice assistant.

I think we can also expect to see renewed importance placed on consideration and awareness in brand campaigns because people want to buy a product via voice will not always have a screen in front of them to look up a brand recommendation. Instead, they will have a small group of brands they trust lodged in their head, which will need to reach the tip of their tongue when they come to ask Alexa, Siri, Google or Cortana to buy a particular product. 

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