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The revolution will be vocalized: how voice is changing everything

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Credit: DAC

As marketers we have become used to dealing with new ideas, new ad formats and new platforms, many of which have presented incremental changes to our business. But the change being driven by voice-activated technologies has happened at remarkable speed. Within the next year and a half, there will be more than 1.6 billion digital assistants in use, and fully half of all searches will be voice-based. The revolution is not coming; it's already here, and those at its vanguard are working to build unified strategies that leverage data and integrate experiences from the brand to the local level.

For marketers interested in making the most of voice-related opportunities, the most important thing to consider is context. For example, according to Search Engine Watch, mobile voice-related searches are three times more likely to be local in intent than text-based searches. The 2018 Voice Search Survey from DAC finds that the types of local information Americans are looking for when using voice assistants are the phone number for (68%), directions to (67%) and hours of operation (63%) of a business. In addition, 36% of consumers are looking for reviews and 43% are using voice assistants to buy something. Further, 70% of millennials report shopping using their voice assistants—and 56% of those shoppers say they use voice assistants on a daily basis. Since the use of voice assistants is heavily skewed towards the last mile in the customer journey, marketers can maximize the value by paying attention to four key principles:

Optimize local data and content. For voice interactions, where you are truly matters as much as who you are. Platforms such as Google My Business, Apple Maps, Bing and Yelp have long been the building blocks of local search. Using these in combination with traditional SEO principles such as schema markup and optimizing for rich snippets is even more important with voice search.

Engage audiences to encourage user-generated content. At the local level this takes the form of ratings and reviews. Build frameworks to actively ask for customer feedback through digital channels, and ensure that you have monitoring and response mechanisms in place to interact with incoming digital commentary.

Create conversational content. Consider the language people use when interacting with voice assistants. The brevity that comes with typing into a mobile browser goes out the window with the more unrestricted and conversational style people adopt with a voice assistant. Modify content accordingly. For instance, create content in the form of FAQs that cater to this more natural language style of query, and adapt paid media campaigns to capture these queries.

Build skills for Alexa and Actions for Google. These are applications within the voice platforms designed to integrate directly with your brand content, similar to the way a native mobile app connects mobile devices with your brand experience. An example of an interaction with one of these assistants is "Ok Google, get me an Uber." Ensure that the way you are building these are consistent with the brand promise, deliver value to the audience and establish you as an authority on the subject matter.

Successfully delivering on these tactics will require a unified strategy that leverages data and allows you to integrate experiences from the brand to the local level. This means having a clear digital strategy and understanding local audiences and competitive landscapes in order to adapt that strategy to each location. As always, marketers need to eliminate internal silos in order to ensure a consistent and exceptional experience across every digital touchpoint. This strategic, unified and locally-driven approach provides the brand with the agility and authenticity necessary to successfully engage when responding to user-generated content. It allows the brand to stand as the authority in every location it operates. And it gives it a highly optimized platform to build on once Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple inevitably decide to monetize the use of voice assistants.

This alignment between brand and local, coupled with the integration of initiatives is going to prove difficult for many brands. But it is immensely exciting for those that decide to embrace it. Brands that successfully embraced digital disruption, either with the advent of Google, Facebook or the rise of mobile transformed their fortunes. The voice revolution is an opportunity to do so again now.

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DAC is one of the largest independent digital media agencies in North America, with a growing international presence and offices in the US, Canada and Europe. We drive transformational growth for our clients with integrated, data-driven solutions. We combine best-in-class digital media expertise with deep knowledge of our clients’ businesses to strategically engage customers, no matter who they are and—uniquely—where they are.
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