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January 10, 2019

CES 2019 creates urgency around voice-first experiences

Written by David Corchado
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CES is more than a consumer electronics show. The self-described global stage for innovation also provides a glimpse at technologies affecting any business, no matter who your audience is. The adoption of voice-based technology is a good case in point. At CES 2019, companies are unleashing a flurry of demonstrations that show how voice is powering cars, alarm clocks, televisions, and host of other consumer-facing products. These developments parallel enterprise adoption of voice, as seen with the rise of Alexa for Business, an Amazon offering that helps businesses use voice to be more productive and efficient.  

Developing a strategy that optimizes your website content for voice-search traffic can seem daunting, and perhaps it’s tempting for a business to put off voice as tomorrow’s to-do. But now is the time to prepare for a voice-based world. CES may seem like it’s ahead of the curve, but the event reflects how a number of consumers are already behaving. According to Google, 20 percent of mobile queries are voice searches, and eMarketer says that 74.2 million Americans own smart speakers. To be sure, people are mostly using their smart speakers to check the weather, get traffic reports, hear about cooking recipes, and catch up on the news. But we see voice search as a technological shift in how people behave, and the day is coming when:

  • Investors will use voice commands to look for your annual report.

  • Potential employees will conduct job searches to find the company that best matches their requirements (“Which employers have the strongest reputations for sustainability?”)

  • Customers will find brands the same way, whether using smart speakers or mobile devices.

No one can say when the inflection point will hit, but we’re already seeing signs of it coming. For example, in July 2018, Google released the beta version of Speakable, a feature that makes it possible for publishers to mark up news content that is most relevant to be read aloud by Google Assistant. According to Google, the markup allows search engines (and other applications) to identify content to read aloud on Google Assistant-enabled devices using text-to-speech. It’s easy to see how Speakable will become a widely used tool to align a corporation’s branded content with voice searches.

The challenge for businesses is to be ready when the inflection point happens. The answer is not to panic. Instead, businesses should take a thoughtful and deliberate approach to incorporate voice-based interfaces. Start preparing for a voice-based world by:

  • Learning how to optimize your web content for voice-based searches, which tend to be more complex than text searches. A number of resources (such as insights from Search Engine Land) are just a Google search away. Optimizing to be found via voice is something Investis Digital does with our clients, too.

  • Getting familiar with emerging tools such as Google Speakable and other approaches to tagging your existing news articles so the language is natural to the spoken word.  

You should of course get a read on how your employees, investors, and customers are using voice. One way to do that is to look at Google Analytics for your website and filter on voice search. You may find that few people are currently finding your website through voice-based interfaces. But even limited traffic will give you clues as to how a growing audience will interact with your brand (e.g., mobile phones vs. digital assistants). The clues are useful first steps to help you prepare your engagement strategy.

When technological shifts happen, they tend to come quickly, and the most enduring brands are prepared to ride the wave. Prepare yourself now to be ready for the day when your investors ask Alexa for your stock price or your latest press release. Will they be directed to your website for the authoritative answer, or will you let Wikipedia tell your story?  Investis Digital can help you own the answer. Contact us.

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