This article is part of CMO.com’s February series about mobile. Click here for more.
Back when mobile search was first beginning to walk and talk, consumers searched in much the same way they did on desktop, plugging in the same keywords and phrases.
However, as mobile experiences grew into adolescence and audiences became more sophisticated, those behaviors changed. People began searching with different keywords and for different purposes than they did on desktop.
At first, those differences appeared in the specificity of their searches. Rather than typing in a broad search for a particular product, they would type “stores that sell [insert brand] near me.” Instead of returning vaguely relevant responses, search engines used mobile device data to detect users’ locations and served results based on that information.
Now that text-based mobile search has reached adulthood—it officially surpassed desktop nearly three years ago—we’re experiencing yet another watershed moment for mobile search, accelerated by artificial intelligence technologies, such as deep learning and natural language processing.
Conversational User Experience
Voice search increases personalization and relevance exponentially. Requests such as, “What’s my schedule for today?” represent an entirely new category of search terms, allowing for more engaging, customized user experiences—and creating new challenges for brands.
Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon’s Alexa signal the rise of voice-activated assistants (PDF) and voice search. Brands must now anticipate not just the keywords their customers might use to identify products; they must learn their speech patterns as well. The more people become accustomed to speaking queries instead of typing them, the more important conversational search strategies will be.
As of 2016, 20% of mobile search queries through Google and Android were voice-activated. Two years later, mobile voice search is only growing. Brands will need to adapt to this new mode of engagement, especially because most people don’t write the same way they talk.
Turning Conversations Into Conversions
When a consumer searches in a mobile browser, she uses the shortest phrase necessary to find the results she wants. But if she asks her Android for directions or recommendations, she’s apt to use full sentences and more detailed language.
Brands that want to rank high in voice searches must key in on their audience members’ natural speech patterns and optimize for the words and phrases they’re likely to use in spoken conversations. The error rate for voice search programs is as low as 8%, so companies that crack the conversational code will see a significant boost in their rankings.
Of course, ranking well is only half the battle. The ultimate goal is conversions, which is why brands should take a broad view of this ever-shifting field. Today, it’s all about discovering natural speech patterns and catering to those. But as AI drives the creation of smart chatbots and sophisticated voice recognition software, brands will be able to go well beyond basic searches in their audience communications.
Already, researchers and programmers are developing chatbots that can detect human emotions and alter their communications based on a person’s mood. Brands that know not only what people are searching for but also whether they’re anxious, excited, or aggravated as they search can deliver truly customized experiences.
To Win Big, Go Local
The rise of mobile voice search is driving an increase in hyperlocal marketing as well. The personalized nature of voice commands will soon allow consumers to go beyond mere search, enabling them to book appointments and order pizzas directly through their phones.
That ability makes it all the more important for brands to capture local audiences. When someone asks Siri to find a local dentist and book a cleaning, it’s crucial to be at the top of the rankings. If a customer searches for a date night restaurant, those that rank high and offer an easy reservation system will win the person’s business.
While mobile voice search and AI represent uncharted marketing territory, they’re also leading to exciting and unprecedented user experience opportunities. The more data your brand can gather about target consumers, the better you can serve them.
Imagine the impact of detecting that a consumer based in San Francisco originally hails from New York—a fact illuminated by her accent. That knowledge, combined with data based on her mood and demographics, allows brands to generate messaging that speaks to her homesickness and caters to her circumstances.
Mobile voice search will drive more personal, conversational marketing and could even replace the current dependence on visuals. ComScore predicts that half of all searches will come through voice by 2020, which emphasizes the importance of investing in voice and AI now. Brands that have yet to implement mobile voice strategies are already behind, but there’s no time like the present to prepare for the future.
When everything depends on voice, you can connect with people through your words, though in a more intimate and dynamic way than ever before.
Catch Dara Treseder's keynote 'Think Like a StartUp: Lessons for Women in Tech' at 12:40pm on March 21 at Women of Silicon Valley 2018.