Voice Search: You Aren’t Ready

It’s no secret voice search is quickly weaving itself into the very fabric of mainstream consumer engagement. Device integration and consumer adoption have surged and show no signs of slowing. Alexa emerged as the media darling of CES 2017, and similar voice assistants (Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, etc.) are driving new headlines every day. This trend is further evidenced by the fact that 20% of all Google mobile queries in 2016 were voice searches.

It’s clear that voice search has quickly become a critical requirement for brands and a key means of engaging customers in 2017 and beyond.

For retailers, the real challenge is not deciding whether they need a voice search strategy (they do), but realizing that integrating voice search is not as simple as cutting and pasting a voice-enabled front end to their existing site search function. To make it an effective and relevant engagement point, retailers must understand customer expectations and how best to deliver a successful voice-enabled search experience.

Here are 5 strategies to keep in mind as you scope and develop voice search for your brand and your customers.

  1. Ensure Voice Search Results are Relevant to the Individual
    As consumer adoption and usage of every existing voice solution increases, it raises the bar for consumer expectations, regardless of what your brand delivers. Launching a voice search solution that isn’t on par with Siri or Alexa will only frustrate customers and make them think less of your brand. Whenever you engage with one of these voice solutions the results must have individual context and relevance. For example, when I say “re-order razor blades” it’s recognizing me as an individual and considering my past experiences and purchases before placing that order.
  2. Natural Language Processing is Critical
    Voice search is based on the way people express themselves not on the concept of entering text into a box. While on a web site, an individual may type the text “black dress,” but conversationally they might add more context such as, “show me black dresses under $100.” The majority of site search solutions can’t deliver relevant results for that conversational voice query. They will instead simply show black dresses. For consumers, that is a failed experience. They’re left to believe the voice search function is either broken or technically inferior to others they’ve experienced. If I asked for “t-shirts available in XL” would your current site search be able to deliver accurate results?
  3. Get the Most Out of Your Content with Universal Search Results
    For years, brands have been adding content to their sites to help customers get great suggestions, strengthen the brand relationship, as well as expand their SEO reach. Many retailers are realizing that the content they spend time and money developing isn’t part of their existing search results. In order to ensure they are getting the very most from the content they are producing, brands must ensure content assets are delivered alongside products in search results.
  4. Voice Search is Critical, But Don’t Forget Photo Search
    In updating their site search functionality to best handle voice searches, it’s easy for brands to forget about photo search. Today’s digital customer has adopted images and photos even more than voice. Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat and others provide great examples of how many photos and consumable images we take in every day. On the road to more engaging search results brands must also consider adding a photo search option as well, particularly on mobile. If I saw a bag I loved while out with friends and snapped a quick picture, I should be able to quickly attach that photo to a search query and see if you offer anything similar. Trying to describe a picture of a bag via text and scour through results is a time consuming endeavor that no customer wants to deal with.
  5. Voice Search Goes Beyond Product Results
    In a recent chatbot pilot, almost 30% of visitor queries asked some version of the question, “where is my package?” That is a huge percentage! If almost 30% of voice searches on your site produced no response or a failed search request, customers would certainly begin to question the quality or usefulness of your voice search. To succeed with voice search, you must deliver relevant responses to queries; that means adding additional data points to your results. Integrating shipping data (“When will my package arrive?”) and extending product attributes to enable better results (“Show me fall deer hunting camouflage.”) are just two examples of how to ensure your voice search results are more relevant and successful.

As you can see, simply adding voice search and adding voice search functionality that is successful and useful to your visitors can actually be two different projects. To ensure you are launching an effective and relevant voice search solution, make sure you’re able to check the boxes above so you are best able to meet the expectations of today’s digital consumer.

Site Search Feature Landscape

Matt Helmke

Matt is the senior director of communications and content at Reflektion. He’s led global communications, content and brand strategy programs for high-profile, culture-shifting Fortune 500 business divisions, as well as innovative, early-stage startups. The common thread running through his career is a passion for disruptive technologies focused on improving and redefining end-user experiences. Outside of technology, his passions include his family, music, bourbon, craft beers, fishing and swimming… but not all at once.