In a world where we're almost always connected to technology and devices, we have instant access to information wherever we are—causing a transformation to the search experience. Whether people realize it or not, search is embedded in their daily activities; it's on their mobile devices, cloud-connected game consoles and, increasingly, on smart devices throughout their homes. This transformation is changing how we interact with search as it becomes an intelligence platform powering devices and technology—making it become more human.
As search becomes more ubiquitous, people expect an experience that goes beyond search and understands them in a more personal, intimate way. And search is evolving to do just that.
Our Changing Relationship With Search
As consumers interact with technology in new, deeper ways, such as through personal assistants, search is quickly adapting. Voice-powered search is a big reason why.
Unlike keyword-based searches, voice search lets us express ourselves naturally, using conversational phrasing that matches human speech patterns. Spoken language connects people to what they're searching for with an immediacy, convenience and intimacy that text-only search just can't provide. Because of this intimacy, search can discern what information the user is seeking with far greater precision.
Search isn't just becoming more human; it's becoming interwoven into the fabric of our everyday lives. With a growing technology ecosystem of phones, tablets and smart home gadgets, search is the intelligent fabric that delivers the most relevant information when and where it's needed.
Our internal research at Microsoft shows that consumers search consistently—all day and well into the night. Increasingly, those search results are being delivered through a speaker by a synthetic-but-friendly voice or presented as a short list within a phone app.
Search Gets Smarter
Search is getting better at understanding consumer intent and delivering actionable results. Why? With search becoming more embedded into our lives, an unprecedented amount of information about the people who are searching begins to add up.
This knowledge helps move the search experience from one that provides straightforward answers to search queries, to one that mimics human thinking, providing better results based on our intent and preferences. Not only do we know more about users—location, past search activity, purchasing habits, likes and dislikes—but we also have access to data sources that provide facts about people, places and entities the user may be searching for.
Tapping into this treasure trove of information gives us a good idea what the consumer is likely to be seeking when performing a search. This, in turn, lets us give the consumer what he or she wants without explicitly asking. The result: a higher-value experience that gets the searcher that much closer to taking an action.
Marketers Must Evolve, Too
As technology and search continues to evolve at a break-neck pace, so do consumer expectations. The search industry, with its billions of human interactions per day, is uniquely qualified to offer a personalized experience to consumers.
The ability to instantly surmise consumer intent offers the chance to target highly personalized brand messages and content wherever the consumer might be. This means harnessing the conversational language of search and evaluating marketing strategies across the board—from keyword targeting to content creation to investment allocation.
As the number of search-powered devices in the marketplace multiplies, marketers will need to harness the potential of the massive amounts of data generated by an interconnected web of devices, including future technologies such as virtual reality headsets.
In this new era of marketing, it's going to be possible to see where users are interacting with offline messaging, when and where they are at in a retail store, which device they're using and whether they're even in front of a traditional screen. Most important, marketers will be able to tie that information back to online user behavior and respond accordingly.
For brands, opportunities to reach consumers with personalized messaging and content have never been greater. The combination of a more human search experience, more places and ways that search is integrated into technology and better data insights will help brand stakeholders find the most efficient methods for bringing consumers closer to taking action.
It's not just about gaining more business or even creating new audiences—it's about harnessing the promise of the future.
To learn more, download "The Humanization of Search."
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Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT" @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.