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as consumers begin to shop via virtual assistants, what brands can fo to stand out

As customers begin to shop via virtual assistants, what brand can do to stand out?

It is well known that the Internet has changed how people shop and reshaped the retail industry. Voice assistants are about to unleash another revolution. As people increasingly shop via assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, they will tend to demand products, starting with everyday items such as batteries and eventually including more complex purchases such as electronics. Digital assistants will use algorithms to compare product specifications, make suggestions, and do comparisons, so that customers can find “the longest-lasting battery pack” or “the cheapest bag of flour.”

If digital assistants with trustworthy recommendations become a significant source of sales, competition will increase even more. Companies that have negotiated with retailers for shelf space up to now will have to find ways to convince the digital assistants to put their products at the top of verbal searches.

Some of the strategies highlighted by David R. Mayer and Nick in a recent HBR (Harvard Business Review) suggests:

Go Niche

The strategy is to develop brands that algorithms recognize as the first choice for niche audiences. These “tribal” brands can develop strong emotional connections with customers that go beyond product specifications: They relate to people’s values and reflect their aspirations. Mass-market brands can aim to meet specific niche needs, while retaining a coherent brand expression across many tribes. Tribal brands can help digital assistants identify their products’ natural customers. Manufacturers will retain an edge if they can map out how millions of consumers’ preferences are changing in real time by analysing social media comments, audio, pictures, and videos.

Manage Customers, Not Categories

Online commerce is triggering a shift from category management to customer management. With the customer no longer physically confined to a supermarket aisle, algorithms can suggest products from an entirely different category, for example, an insurance plan with an electric scooter, a recipe book with a new rice cooker or baby toys and diapers with a car seat.

In the voice era, this practice will spread and become more sophisticated through an understanding of customer loyalties. For example, a customer who buys an environmentally-friendly detergent may trade up to a bundle of eco-products including dishwasher tabs, soap, and shampoo. A customer who buys a new pair of running shoes may also buy some running clothes and energy pouches.

Understanding the local nature of voice searches

The starting point for every business is to understand the increasingly local nature of search behaviour. When you conduct a voice search for most products or services, from electronics to shoes to vets, the first result you get will be local result derived from maps channels. Any business with physical locations needs to be fully optimised for local searches to have a chance of being on the lips of Alexa, Siri or the Google Assistant.

To compete for these all-important top results, you first need to ask yourself some important questions:

Are your local listings optimised?

Is your listing complete with all the necessary information: business name, address, phone number, website, hours of operation? Complete and accurate listings make it easier for potential customers to find your business via voice search.

How about your content?

Your content must be organised, structured, and it should sound natural when read out loud. If possible, avoid pages full of links or tables of data. Instead, format content into bullet points or step-by-step instructions, or consider building an FAQ page. All of this will help your chances of being featured in voice search results.

Are you keeping tabs on your online reviews?

Customer reviews are a critical factor in the ranking algorithm for voice search. Voice assistants will only tell you about the best businesses, and consumer reviews are a defining factor in identifying those businesses. Encourage positive reviews and, in the case of negative reviews, ensure that you are responding to them in a timely and effective manner.

Is your website’s local SEO configured properly?

You need to optimise your local SEO for voice search. This goes hand in hand with optimising content and local listings. Knowing that the searches made through voice are usually significantly longer than text searches, using long-tail keywords is good practice when it comes to optimising for voice search.

What is your mobile experience like?

It is well known that delay in a mobile website’s load time decrease conversions rate. Consider optimising the mobile experience has become critical for voice searches that often come with a “right now” intent. Keep your loading time to a minimum.

In conclusion, in this new world of voice search, businesses will need to adapt to a different approach. The need to be visible to a choosy digital assistant will not only be important but it will be critical for survival. Unlike traditional search, where ranking on page one is a great start, for voice it is about being number one. Not an easy task.

Investment in tech, patience and potentially a change of strategy are key and the potential rewards are absolutely worth the effort. With fewer overall results presented to voice searchers, there are massive returns on offer to those who manage to rank highly. But make no mistake: now is the best time to optimise for this new medium and ensure your visibility to new and existing customers alike.

Daniela R Murphy

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