The Future of Search is Voice Search

We live in a world that is changing faster than most people realize. We will soon be sharing our roads with self-driving vehicles and our sidewalks with delivery robots. Upwards of 50% of tasks Americans perform at work can be automated with technology that already exists today.

In the digital marketing world, the landscape is always changing. Today’s example is voice search.

Just as people were finally coming to appreciate mobile search as a departure from desktop search, we have a new trend that is fast becoming critical for businesses to understand.

Voice search may seem like the future. Or it may seem like a fad that consumers will grow weary of. I’ve heard both opinions expressed, but the truth is that voice search is here already (and here to stay).

Google, the world’s leader in search, readily admits as much if you ask them. As of mid-2016, 20% of all mobile searches were voice searches, meaning someone spoke their query instead of typing it. According to more recent data, 41% of people in the US use voice search on a daily basis. And with the rise in popularity of IOT (Google Home, Amazon Echo), where users interact with digital assistants by voice alone, we can expect this trend to continue.

What does it mean for marketers?

Just like mobile search is different from desktop search, we must realize that voice search is different from mobile search. The biggest difference will be in user behavior. Search terms people use when they speak will vary from those typed. This means that companies will need to rethink their keyword strategy in both search engine marketing and search engine optimization.

Google and other search engines should start to break out voice search keywords in the next 12 months. We can start by taking a close look at how the search terms different from what users have traditionally used, and then match our strategy to consumer behavior.

The Promise of Virtual Reality for Marketers

Like all new technologies, virtual reality and its close relative, augmented reality, have marketers licking their lips. “Think of all the possibilities,” they’re saying to each other, imaging branded experiences, product placement, virtual stores and more.

As is often the case, it is important for marketers not to get too far out ahead of the technology. It remains to be seen what consumer adoption of this new technology will look like.

But if it’s anything like what people in the industry expect, marketers are right to start the planning process now.

So what types of things are marketers talking about when it comes to virtual and augmented reality?

  1. Branded experiences – think content marketing in the virtual world. With branded experiences, brands would foot the bill to create games or world’s that consumers would consume free of charge, exposing them to the brand at the same time. Imagine a Red Bull branded virtual experience where we are placed into the role of a daredevil leaping off the side of a mountain.
     
  2. Product placement – this is not a new concept, simply a natural extension of its practice in this new technology. Where virtual and augmented reality experiences exist, brands might find sponsorship opportunities where in exchange for payment, their products are featured in the virtual world.
     
  3. Virtual rewards – taking product placement one step further, brands may further incentivize virtual reality users with real-life rewards. In a pay to play scenario, Pokemon Go can send users to Starbucks or other real-world retail locations. Gamers might collect coins or points to be used on real-world purchases, etc.
     
  4. Virtual shopping – retailers will be able to bring the “in-store” experience into the virtual world and make it accessible to all. A virtual store would take online shopping a step further by making it more hands-on.
     
  5. Test drives – imagine “experiencing” a hotel before booking, or a new home design before paying for the work. In a virtual reality world, we would be able to try before we buy with a lot more types of products and services than we can today. The concept of a test drive will be a reality across a wide variety of different purchases.

These are just five of the many, many possibilities that will exist for marketers in the new, virtual world. I am sure people far smarter and more forward thinking than me have already planned for much more.

2017 Marketing Trends to Keep An Eye On

2016 is on its way out the door. Did you blink? Did you miss it?

Worry not, because next year is almost certain to bring as many new possibilities to grow your business through more effective marketing. Before we get it started, though, I wanted to quickly discuss just a few of the marketing trends on my radar that I think we will see a lot more of in 2017.

Chatbots

You may or may not have heard of chatbots before, but they are quickly becoming the “it” thing for technology-focused companies. And they come with some pretty exciting possibilities for marketers and small business owners across a wide variety of industries.

Essentially, a chatbot is a service that allows a user to “chat” with a company in order to accomplish something, using a messenger service like Facebook Messenger, Slack, or SMS. But the company does not have a human on the other end, instead it’s all powered by simple AI. It is programmed to recognize patterns of text and respond in certain ways.

Already, you can order a pizza or book a flight with chatbots. The smartest companies are investing in bringing this technology only rapidly and training consumers on how to take advantage of the ease they create in customer service or purchasing.

VR/AR

Virtual reality and augmented reality have arrived. From Facebook to Samsung, the hardware is available and getting cheaper as the technology advances. Currently, the primary use for VR and AR technology is in the gaming field. But that will change soon.

Already, companies are exploring with delivering “real world” experiences in VR. For example, in the tourism space, it would be great to see what it would be like to “be somewhere”. VR makes that possible.

We will see virtual shopping, virtual “try before you buy”, and the like take off next year. We will see product placements in gaming and new ways for companies to interact with consumers in these virtual worlds.

Hypertargeting

We have gone from mass marketing to experiences that are more targeted. And where we are headed are completely personalized marketing campaigns. Advertising and experiences created for an individual person, at scale.

Technology makes this possible, and eventually it will make this less expensive. Right now, only very large companies have the ability to come close to anything like this.

But areas like addressable TV ads, where companies can target commercials to individual households, are already disrupting the marketplace.

Pushback on Mobile and Social

Mobile and social are not going anywhere. More and more web traffic is coming from mobile devices, Facebook and Pinterest continue to grow, and those trend are not likely to change.

But the businesses who have spent the last few years throwing every strategy at the wall, hoping some would stick, are going to stop. Call me crazy, but I expect that 2017 will be the year most companies begin to recognize what works, and what doesn’t. And they’ll pull back in those areas that don’t work.

The old, “we have to be mobile” and “we have to be on social” will give way to real strategies and level headedness.

What do you think? Am I right? Did I miss any?

Top 5 Things to Focus on in 2016

I don’t pretend to know the future. That’s why I try not to take part in the “my predictions for next year” type posts that run rampant in December.

However, I do know that a lot of marketers and small business owners are looking for ways to stay ahead of the pack as they go into the New Year. They need to set their budgets and outline a strategy that will give them the best chance of success.

Regardless of how you fared in 2015, here are 5 areas to put your focus into next year:

  1. The Mobile User Experience – everyone is finally starting to realize that the mobile user is a different type of user than his desktop brethren. Mobile users want and need different things. They are at a different stage of the buying cycle. It’s time we stop trying to treat everyone the same and really focus on giving the mobile user exactly what he or she is looking for in a friendly, easy to use format, both on the web and in our advertising and email campaigns.
     
  2. Market Segmentation – just like mobile users, we want to stop treating everyone in the market the same way. People are different. They have different problems that they’re looking to solve, and the same solution doesn’t work for everyone. Our ability to review data and learn about our customers should help us begin to segment them in meaningful ways. That could be based on where they live, the products they buy, when they buy, etc. The more we can segment the market and customize our marketing to each group, the better our results will be.
     
  3. Customer Service as Marketing – how can I help? Those four little words should be at the heart of how you serve the marketplace. Customer service is a more public activity than ever before. And the companies that get customer service right use it to their advantage. By going out of your way to make customers happy, you increase goodwill and build brand advocates. Rather than negative and hurtful reviews, you’ll start to see positive reviews and strong word of mouth marketing. Invest in service and you should see the rewards on the marketing side.
     
  4. Measurement and Analytics – make 2016 the year you commit real manpower to understanding your data. Technology has allowed us the ability to study and learn how our users and customers behave like never before. The companies that will succeed in the coming years are the ones that will take the time to understand how that data can help their business. Ignoring the data is no longer an option.
     
  5. Product or Service Expansion – if you really want to grow your business, you need to find the one or two things you’re not doing right now that are a natural complement to whatever you are doing. Are there related products that your customers are buying from other places you might offer? Are there other uses to your product you haven’t thought of or marketed yet? You don’t always need to find new customers to grow. It’s often easier to invest in selling more to the people you already reach.

Marketing Trends Blog Series Reviewed

What are the top marketing trends in your industry? Are you testing new methods, new advertising channels, new ways of connecting with consumers?

As marketers, it is important we remain forward thinking without abandoning those things that got us where we are. Staying aware of new trends and strategies is critical.

The last ten weeks, we highlighted some key trends we’re paying attention to. Here is a recap of all ten posts from this series:

  1. Audience Targeting
  2. Peak Google
  3. Negative Calls to Action 
  4. Featuring Customers
  5. Remarketing
  6. Marketing Partnerships
  7. Marketing Specialists
  8. Storytelling
  9. Direct Competitor Comparisons
  10. Activity-based Marketing

Stay tuned next week for the start of a new series on Mondays.