Voice search and virtual assistants have evolved at a rapid rate and we’re almost at the point now where we can’t remember a time without them. Asking the likes of Siri and Cortana for answers to questions on your mobile phone was billed as “the next big thing” as little as five years ago but now we’ve got the Google Assistant and Alexa who are getting smarter with every update.
Smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home have become must-have gadgets that do far more than just play music via a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection. You only have to watch the adverts and online user guides to see how they work and how beneficial they can be in everyday life, especially in your smart home.
What is voice search?
Essentially, voice search is a command from a user that is interpreted by the software within your device – be it a smartphone, tablet or smart speaker – and the virtual assistant will either provide a response or an action to that command.
If you were to ask your Amazon Echo speaker, for example, to “play the latest album by Ed Sheeran” then it would go to your chosen music player (or with the Echo it’s most likely to be Amazon Music), and it would start to stream the music. Similarly, you could ask the Google Assistant to give you the latest weather forecast for Manchester so that you can dress for the day ahead.
All of the virtual assistants including Alexa, the Google Assistant, Siri and Cortana; are web-enabled meaning that they have instant access to your Wi-Fi or mobile Internet connection helping them to provide fast and accurate responses or actions.
How can businesses use and benefit from voice search?
From a business perspective it’s important that your website is optimised for voice search. This often means that you should be providing clear, concise responses to common informational search queries related to your product, service or brand. At least this way the virtual assistants will be able to interpret the search query and provide users with an answer from your website, or they may even direct them to your site for you to look up on your laptop, tablet or phone.
What this means for those creating the content on a company website, whether it’s an agency site or an ecommerce platform where your role is to promote your products; is to target longer, more conversational keyword variations than you may otherwise go for.
For example, rather than optimising a website for “cheap HP laptops” you might optimise for “where can I buy cheap HP laptops near Peterborough”, allowing the virtual assistants to use your location settings – combined with the keywords – to find the most suitable response.
How can customers benefit from voice search?
From the perspective of a potential customer the benefits of voice search are growing all the time. With each software update the smart speakers and virtual assistants get smarter and they can learn new, tailored responses to your requests and commands.
There are the obvious and already-spoken-about benefits of being able to find out what the weather forecast has in store, plus fairly routine search queries such as “what’s the score in the Manchester United v Liverpool game”, but voice search is also evolving to make ordering and purchasing quicker and simpler than ever before.
Some smart speakers are capable of working with smartphone and tablet apps from major companies so that you can place orders through them without even touching a button or finding your wallet. Imagine being sat at home, half an hour before the football starts, and you get a text message from friends asking to come over and watch it with you… how are you going to feed and entertain them all?
Simple, just ask your smart speaker to order five of your favourite 12-inch pizzas from the corresponding company down the road and they’ll sort the order out for you. Just sit back, wait for the confirmation text and be sure to send someone to the door to collect them!
Alternatively, you can do it all yourself by asking your Amazon Echo to provide a list of takeaways near you and – when Alexa lists one that you like the sound of – ask her to call them and you can place the whole order through the speaker without touching your phone. Now that is smart.
To find out more about the range of virtual assistants and smart speakers on the market today, visit BT Shop where you’ll be able to browse, research and buy smart devices including smartphones, tablets and smart speakers from all the leading brands.