Amy Webb (@amywebb)
is the author of The Big
Nine: How theTechTitans
She is the founder of the
Future Today Institute and
a professor of strategic
foresight at the NYU Stern
School of Business.
AMY WEBB ; LEADING EDGE
by voice, and all driven by Amazon. And Amazon and Marriott
launched Alexa for Hospitality, which lets guests ask general
questions to a virtual concierge, or request fresh towels.
Not surprisingly, by the end of the next decade, the vast
majority of shopping purchases will be made by voice. Already,
37 percent of Millennials say they always or usually shop by
voice. Retailers are scrambling to add artificial intelligence to
ensure their sites can be crawled via voice and virtual assistants.
The startup BlueRoo makes a chat plug-in that lets customers
shop by voice on a retailer’s website, Facebook Messenger, and
social media, or inside a brick-and-mortar store.
It’s not only retailers that must rethink how they’ll be found
and communicate with people. Every business needs to. Currently, spoken and typed queries can bring up di;erent results.
This means companies must start using structured data with
a defined length and format (think numbers and names) to
accommodate VSO and “featured snippets,” which are heavily
used for voice search. This is one reason Google released a tool
called Speakable, which allows publishers to mark up sections
of news articles and optimize them to be read aloud.
Audioburst uses artificial intelligence to index audio
broadcasts and make them easier to find and surface what a
consumer might want. For example, if she wants details on
local sports or elections, or product recommendations, she
can ask a voice-activated app on Google Home or Alexa to
deliver a set of clips. In 2019, Audioburst and LG Electronics
will collaborate to build conversational dashboards for cars.
Which brings us back to my friend. Like you, he has an
opportunity to get ahead of what’s next. Those who move
to optimize voice search for their businesses will be the first
to claim that conversation with consumers, which is a huge
opportunity to build relationships with current and potential
customers. Intimate, one-on-one voice time with people in
their homes? That deserves a glass of the good stu;.
CEO friend invited
me over for dinner
recently. While splashing a final drizzle of
hot oil over his famous
green curry, he asked
Alexa for an update
on March Madness.
His college had won,
While we ate, I asked him if he remembered who’d told
him the score. “Alexa,” he said.
“No,” I pressed. “Where did the news actually come from?”
It took a minute. Then he understood: Not only had he
missed the source of the news, but he’d also missed a sweeping
change already underway in how people get information.
If talking is the new typing, then the new SEO (
search-engine optimization) is VSO (voice-search optimization). By
2020, more than half of all internet searches will be made
without the use of screens. That means, rather than typing a
topic and clicking through links, many consumers will instead
get answers while conversing with smart speaker devices,
their cars, TV remotes, and more.
At the moment, voice-interface platforms—Alexa, Siri,
Google Home, Cortana, Bixby, and Watson—control the
conversational ecosystem. There is little transparency to
show how results are returned to people. Consequently,
startups and clever marketers will soon set about learning
how to game VSO systems in their favor.
Maybe even sooner than you would think. It’s estimated
that by the end of this year, almost half of U.S. households
will own a smart speaker. Among those that already do,
three-quarters of them use it daily—and a quarter have made
purchases via these devices.
Amazon is betting big on this voice-driven future. In recent
months, it has partnered with or invested in several home-builders—including Lennar, the nation’s largest—that will
construct Amazon-connected homes driven by voice-activated
digital assistants. Meaning: security, lights, garages—all driven
Talking Is the New Typing
How voice search will
revolutionize your business.