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Modern Digital Marketing and the Transforming Customer Journey

The consumer journey is changing along with the modernization of business communications, bringing about impending changes to digital marketing.

Thanks to the arrival of new marketing trends over the past 5 years like voice-enabled searches, digital marketing professionals must devise new strategies and face new challenges, if they wish to keep up with modern consumer behavior and stand out among their competition.

The stats are literally stunning. According to online marketing sources, 40% of adults are now using voice searches at least once a day and it is estimated that by 2020, nearly 50% of all online searches will be voice-enabled. It is totally evident that we are actually in the middle of a voice-search revolution that we marketing professionals should not ignore as the trend keeps on getting bigger and bigger.

Today’s Marketing Environment

Interacting with Siri on our phone or Alexa in our living room is no longer an extraordinary form of communication. Today it’s standard and common. While traditional text-based search is still integral in 2019, the current state of marketing is rapidly shifting beneath our feet. The act of literally conversing with smart devices is becoming a part of people’s daily lives. Obviously, people still search and shop using their keyboards, but we are increasingly asking digital voice assistants to take us where we need to go search-wise.

Our Voice-Enabled Future

To envision the future of digital marketing, one must simply study the trend on how people make a purchase. The arrival of machine learning, IOT, and interactive technologies are changing the way consumers buy products and services. Programs like that are becoming smarter and more proactive at detecting consumer behavior and responding to user demands. The day is not far when we no longer need to visit a company’s website to make a purchase.

The advent of voice search via digital assistants, like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, and Cortana, means that consumers can now interact with their favorite brands right from their living room, without having to use web search. Amazon already stores our last purchase and our browser matches merchandise for us based on our past purchasing history. Think about it, orders like “Alexa, reorder my laundry detergent” are a reality already.   This touchpoint (without even, so much as a single, digital page-view) ushers in an era of advertising, analytics, and optimization apart from your website.

Today, it is difficult to imagine a televised newscast without an accompanying video, or a newspaper or magazine without photos or graphics. Multimedia has quickly become the dominant feature of those mediums and continues following the same pattern today. Voice-enabled rich ads will quickly be an integral component of rich media advertising and there is a valid reason behind this--people simply love to interact with rich content that appeals to their visual and auditory senses.

What Does this Mean for Marketing Teams & Professionals?

Communications professionals understand that brand touch points are not exempt from the public’s demand for digital assistants. For CMO’s and digital marketing firms, this means keeping pace with technological advances and being able to think beyond a typical screen.

The following parameters should, therefore, be considered by marketers before creating new plans and strategies for voice-search.

1. Leverage analytics, AI, and Automation

Digital Marketing is much more than distributing messaging on digital channels. It involves understanding what makes customers tick through data. Data insights is a way to connect the dots and to see the patterns the data is revealing. It’s these connections that help marketers craft compelling stories for their clients’ audiences. That is why it’s wise to leverage analytics to drive buy-in and detect spending patterns. I believe we are set to see a wave of voice analytics providers hit the scene in the very near future.  

2. Human Conversation and User Interface (UI)

It’s amazing how we can use simple voice commands to discover new info, adjust the temperature in our rooms, order products online, and much more. It’s no wonder then, that top brands like Google and Alexa are blending voice intelligence with new design principals to drive ROI targets. Conversational AI platforms are growing in importance as they are becoming more successful in communicating with human users across apps.

Digital assistants are becoming increasingly savvy, too. Today, they can manage nonlinear dialogues and track them, even when the user switches topics. They can also deploy system-initiated conversations to push insights and initiate a dialog with the user.

Marketing departments can no longer afford to transact with customers through legacy systems. Companies should, therefore, be able to implement some form of conversationally intelligent applications in order to adapt to the new voice-search interactions of users with their brand.

3. Conversation-Driven Sales

Based on the latest Forbes stats, it is estimated that voice-enabled shopping sales could reach a whopping $40 billion by 2022. Sales first shifted from brick-and-mortar shops to laptop purchases. And now, thanks to smart devices with voice recognition, we are heading towards a future where voice commerce will be perhaps the most popular choice for making purchases online.

People are literally buying anything from their smart devices: from common household items to electronics. And even though a significant portion (around 45%) of users still don’t trust voice commerce enough, this number will dwindle as voice-enabled ordering technologies get more sophisticated.

4. Think Beyond Your Brand’s Website

The user experience is evolving. Customers are on the go and on their phones. As example, in the U.S alone 39 million Americans now own a mobile, smart speaker. That is why you need to think in terms of voice-enabled search.

Consumers don’t “have” to be led back to your site to purchase your product any longer. Voice intelligence with new design principals is exactly what big brands are doing. And brands that respect themselves and are open to innovation should follow through too.

Keep in mind that to optimize content for voice-enabled search, you must think in terms of the question’s users are seeking to answer. What are they looking for specifically? What are their online options?

This might be different from a text-based search. For example, when searching online, other websites are displayed. In a voice-enabled search, artificial intelligence is used to pick up a user’s intent. Unlike a web search, people won’t even see (or hear) other companies. They will simply be redirected to their first possible option. And as you may have already guessed, the competition here is pretty stiff and you don’t want to just disappear in the voice search results.

How to Optimize Content for Voice-Search

Implementing your optimization strategy for voice searches just takes a bit of planning. If you have kept up-to-date on your content strategy over the last few years, then this is not a full overhaul.

Here are the top ways to optimize your content for voice-search and digital assistants:

Create Question-Driven Content

Keywords won’t always answer a customer’s questions or figure out what problems to solve. If your copy isn't aligned with problems people are trying to address, you will simply fail to connect with your audience. Think about creating rich-content that answers the questions people really want answered.

Then, format that content into your FAQ section, your blog post, explainer video, or product section. Think about how the question is posed via voice versus type and conform content accordingly.

Be sure to phrase answers in a conversational tone and implement a conversational-based SEO strategy. Providing clear answers will deliver value and help you get ranked. It takes time to get that content out. No argument there. But voice-search optimization is more than a buzz-word. It’s about creating the conversations that people can consume through their device.  

Content can no longer merely revolve around selected keywords - it must delve deep into answering a user's question, conversationally.

Use Conversational, Long-Tail keywords

Long-tail keywords account for approximately 70% of all search queries, meaning they’re less competitive – but no less important. A keyword strategy plan must delve deep into answering a user's question, conversationally. As search evolves, it is more important than ever to connect with your audience and the fastest way to achieve this is through using long-tail keywords.

The more specific you are, the better. For example, let’s say that you are an online merchant selling and delivering pet supplies in Chicago. A long-tail keyword would be something like: “Best shampoo for dogs, home delivery service in Chicago”. Keep in mind that users are becoming more and more specific in their queries and so brands that implement such keywords will have a definite edge over others that don’t.

Include "near me" In Your Title Tags, Links, and Meta-Descriptions  

It is estimated that 22% of voice queries are for local content. ThinkwithGoogle has also revealed that there is an exponential growth of up to 500% in “near me” searches. And specifically in the categories of “kids/family”, “events/attractions”, “shopping” and “things to buy”.  

This makes total sense as most people nowadays are constantly on the go or traveling and are looking for ways to explore and make the most of their surroundings. If you wish to take advantage of this massively growing trend, you should aim to include “near me” phrases in your title tags, links, and meta-description, in addition to localized content.

Implement Structured Data Markup

As new technologies like schema.org are able to identify areas within an article or a page that are best fitted to audio playback, adding data markup allows search engines and other apps to identify easily content and read it out loud. Websites that use speak-able structured data markup can distribute their content via new channels and reach a wider pool of users. To get a rough idea on how your website and individual webpages perform and if they are any errors in your structure, you may check your URLs here: https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool.

Enable Voice Ads

The future of audio search advertising is here! Thanks to A.I technologies, you may interact with users through voice ads, once they express their interest in your brand. It’s something that goes beyond static and ordinary audio ads. The user will be able to check and hear your ad and interact with it through audio queries such as “tell me more”, “remind me later” or “buy the product”. This, in turn, increases user engagement levels, gives you valuable clues on how consumers interact with your brand, and can even lead to higher conversion and ROI rates. It’s a great investment in your audio marketing plan that you don’t want to miss.

Continue to Build Experiences for Consumers

Voice-enabled user interfaces haven’t yet reached an advanced stage and technologies are still not foolproof when it comes to accurate user interactions. But even though there is a long way to go, companies and marketers that take early advantage of these new trends are certainly having a significant edge over their competition.

SUMMARY

Having just come back from a panel discussion on AI, presented by LivePerson and EqualAI, where I heard Alex Spinelli, LivePerson CTO, talk about voice-enabled interfaces as a means to giving the consumer the thing they are asking for, I can tell you that the  largest brands in the world are embracing conversational experiences.  It is incredibly startling to think about getting rid of a web presence, but I think we can all relate to enabling our business to interact wherever consumers are going.  

This article was originally posted at DMInw.com

Written By Michelle Hansen