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How Retailers Can Thrive on Voice-to-Screen Smart Displays

Voice search is on the rise, but it’s still very much in its infancy from a commercial standpoint. According to a January 2019 report by NPR and Edison Research, U.S. adults now own 118 million smart speakers, growing 78% year-over-year. However, paid advertising opportunities have yet to appear for retailers looking to attract customers on these devices. This coincides with our 2018 Search Without Screens research report, which found that while consumers enjoyed the hands-free convenience of voice search devices, they were less sure about encountering ads or branded content on their Amazon Echo or Google Home.

Screens Strike Back

While some may envision a screenless future, visual displays continue to play a key role in search and retail marketing. Voice-to-screen devices are increasingly available in the form of smart displays like Amazon Echo Show, Google Home Hub, and Facebook Portal. These products provide all the convenience of a voice assistant with the tactile security of a touchscreen.

For instance, you can ask Google Home Hub about today’s weather and traffic on your commute, and the requested information will appear on-screen. (See below.) From a retail perspective, this offers consumers the ability to interact with the products they’re searching for both visually and by voice. We predict voice-activated assistants will see further integration with traditional screens, presenting exciting new ways for retailers to take advantage of the technology.

Smart displays like Google Home Hub offer voice and touchscreen capabilities. (Source: Google)

With this functionality, users can search for products by voice, then complete their purchase on the accompanying screen. They can view images of items, compare prices, input payment information, and order right from their smart device. In our 2018 voice search study, we discovered that 71.5% of respondents had never used a smart device in relation to making a purchase. We suggested that consumers were wary about placing an online order through a purely voice-activated transaction. Smart displays offer the best of both worlds, simplifying the shopping process while returning visual results and allowing users to make purchases as they would on their desktop, mobile phone, or tablet.

Make Your Content Flexible

Will shoppers be interacting with your content visually or through speech? With the emergence of voice-to-screen devices, retailers need to assume they’ll be doing both. This means they must optimize their site content for presentation on a touchscreen and by a voice assistant.

Imagine a user is in the kitchen, ready to make a delicious apple pie. Their smart display is sitting on the counter and they ask it to find a recipe that can be made in under 90 minutes. They don’t want to be bombarded with a wall of 12-point text to comb through, especially when time is of the essence. Brands must accommodate by designing their content to display well regardless of the device and/or search method consumers are using. Concise, easily digestible steps – likely incorporating bullet points or similar formatting – are a far more welcome sight in these situations.

Smart Display, Smarter Optimization

Many retailers have already been optimizing their sites for voice search, but voice-to-screen devices add another wrinkle to the process. Think about how consumers are searching for products on these devices. They’re asking about options, features, prices, and more with the expectation that they can hear and/or read the answers while viewing associated images on the adjacent screen. Cater to their needs by optimizing your relevant pages to address these queries in a clear, effective manner, whether visually or by voice.

The voice search best practices you’re already following still apply here. Adjust your content to aim for that coveted “position zero” on the SERP. Google Home devices typically read directly from featured snippets when answering queries, crediting the source and even providing a link through the Google Home app. Make your site more crawler-friendly with structured data and schema markup. The more readable your site is to search engines, the more easily they can locate important information in your content and use it in both voice and visual search results.

Drive Success from Voice to Screen

There’s still uncertainty surrounding the trajectory of voice search, but covering all your bases regarding developments like smart displays will prepare you for every twist and turn along the way.

What else does today’s retailer need to know about tomorrow’s search marketing trends? Catch up on our previous blog posts detailing contextual search, automation, machine-readable entity IDs (MREIDs), the “ideal customer” myth, and responsible marketing.