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Voice - The Killer App

By Ilana Rabinowitz, VP Marketing, Lion Brand Yarn Company

Ilana Rabinowitz, VP Marketing, Lion Brand Yarn Company

Voice assistants are changing the way people interact with websites.  The standard method of website search requires typing into a search bar or using pre-ordained filters.How do we design these sites? We make assumptions by looking at analytics software, and by relying on anecdotal evidence and marketing surveys.  As a result, our decisionsfurther limit customer choices.

Along comes voice search. One of the reasons that voice search is revolutionary is that it is free form information, direct from the mind of the consumer.

"According to Gartner: By 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%"

Let’s take the example of a site designed to help a visitor select a dress.  The site offers filters that drive the consumer to categories including women, casual, dress.  Now consider a person who comes to the site using voice search looking for a dress. The voice prompt says, “What are you looking for?”  The response would include sentences that look like these: “I’m looking for a cotton dress to wear to the office,” or “I’d like a knee length, polka dot dress.” As you can see, the site design is not aligned with the result when a visitor speaks to the computer.

Benefits of Voice Search

There are several benefits to having the natural voice of the customer request information.  First, It’s faster.  We speak more quickly than we type.  As luck would have it, I broke my arm while writing this article and was forced to interact with programs and websites through voice.  Once you get past the small learning curve andbecome accustomed to using voice, there is freedom in speaking directly to a computer.

Voice search improves that experience and encourages specific groups of users.  This includes those with carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritisand others with physical limitations. Voice search also appeals more to a demographic of 18-36 but could just as easily help older demographics who may not be as comfortable with technology.

Knowing that a website visitor will click away in frustration after a matter of clicks or seconds, if you can help her get what she wants, you reduce the abandon rate. As you can see, there will be a significant benefit to the SEO ranking of a site that addresses this issue because Google prefers sites that help people find what they are looking for.

Finally, most voice searches are longer than search bar searches and provide long tail information about consumer needs. 

Redesigning Your Site ForVoice Search

As a result of testing voice search with a start-up called Voice able, we have uncovered a wealth of information about customer intent. This led us to adding information to our website to respond to these questions. We are seeing questions that we don’t get through any other means including customer service calls.  We have beefed up our FAQ sectionand designed the layout of information so it is easier to find.  We have also added information that we were not previously aware consumers wanted.

We discovered through the questions that we received through voice search, that visitors were confused about the products that were included in our sales. The option to ask these kinds of question was nowhere on the site.  Reviewing voice search queries, we were able to address it through clearer messaging, making it easier for visitors to click the buy button.

The Future of Voice

Voice is arguably the most important trend in technology.  Here are some predictions that illustrate its growth.

• According to NRP and Edison Research, about one in six Americans owns a smart speaker.
• EMarketer forecasts nearly 100 million smartphone users will be using voice assistants in 2020.
• By 2020, 30% of all website sessions will be conducted without a screen.
• A Gartner study predicts that 30% of all browsing sessions will include voice search by 2020.
• Smart speaker shipments grew 200% year over year in the third quarter of 2018.

The beauty of voice search is a technological advance that reverts to a more human form of communication.  This is one of the reasons that voice search is going to grow exponentially and take over the way we use computers.  It is a technology that does not require us to behave and think more like a computer but one that follows human behavior and human communication.  

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