The power of voice.
What listening devices mean for the modern marketer.
“Hey, Siri, call Mom” is fun to yell into a crowd. Especially when speaking at a conference. A few iPhones usually go off and I hear some quick curses. But this is the power of voice today (and of the pulpit, I guess). Controlling a phone is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll find virtual assistants like Siri in your car, in your kitchen, on your laptop and even in your bathroom. They’re especially helpful anywhere you need your hands or eyes away from a screen. Who wants to put oil-covered hands on their phone just to change the song on the shop stereo? Hands-free is as amazing as it is ubiquitous.
While driving my car, I can hold down a button on my steering wheel and call a friend without looking away from the road. I can ask: “Hey, Siri, where’s the closest gas station?”, and my iPhone will give me directions. Hungry? Ask Siri. What’s 11% of 788? Thanks, Google. How many teaspoons in a cup? Alexa knows.
We take this help for granted and don’t give a thought to the amount of engineering that goes into making a computer “hear” and make sense of your northern Wisconsin accent: “Oops, let me squeeze by you, der.”
Even with technical — almost-magical — advances, the devices themselves got cheaper. I bought my dad an Amazon Echo for $25. He uses it for news, music and, of course, metric-to-imperial conversions. Cost and usefulness go hand in hand and are why the popularity of smart speakers in the United States has grown exponentially. A few studies suggest that U.S. households will have more smart speakers than tablets as soon as this year.1,2 Amazon is projected to sell over 130 million Echos by 2025.2 That’s a lot of speakers. And they are all listening.
The point in all of this is that voice assistants are here to stay, and the modern marketer cannot ignore this immense audience. Within home automation, voice calls, informational searches and music are opportunities to those who can see them.
Be a part of their daily routine
The Holy Grail is becoming part of a person’s daily routine. Podcasts are a perfect medium for the internet-connected speaker. Getting into our busy schedules is the trick. Tracking engagement will show you when to publish your content. Quick, timely content with personality is key to keeping users’ attention. Check out NPR’s Marketplace morning flash briefing for an amazing example of a useful news podcast that is less than a few minutes long.
Optimize your content for voice search
Other opportunities exist for optimizing your web content for voice search. This is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on a new level. Maybe we should call it Voice Search Optimization (VSO), as it is a specialized form. Setting your product data or business location hours requires help from a developer to tag content in a very specific way using Microdata, schema markup and structured data. This tagging system is very similar to getting your results in cards at the top of Google search results. With more searches being conducted via voice, proper tagging should be a standard practice.
Consider custom voice skills
Developers can create applications, known as “skills,” for Echo and Google Home that can extend your business with functions like controlling farming equipment or giving financial portfolio updates. For example, the Capital One skill allows you to check your credit card balance or make a payment when one is due. The possibilities are very exciting.
We’re getting closer to having real conversations with computers and writing captain’s logs from the bridge.
My kids already talk to Alexa, asking to play “Baby Shark.” I can’t wait until the speaker can recognize my voice from theirs so I can override that command, just like a real captain.
About the Author
As the Associate Director of Digital Implementation, Dirk Watkins brings his extensive expertise in all things web to a wide variety of clients at Bader Rutter, including Corteva Agriscience and Zoetis. Over the last 18 years, Dirk has led a variety of projects from interactive digital experiences to enterprise-level applications. He views technology as a creative outlet and a way to connect people. In his limited spare time, Dirk raises two children, builds robots, plays guitar, reads, day trades, works on his house and sleeps on quiet beaches.