There has been a vocal group of marketers and spectators alike claiming that the end of the “brand website” is upon us. As recently as this year, we’ve seen discussions of major brands likely to shut down their current website presence. The claims are rooted in many truths of today’s digital landscape: fractured experience across many channels, the rise of e-tailers such as Amazon, the lack of ecommerce conversion. But there’s one technology on the rise that has the potential to turn the tide for the oft-maligned brand website—and that’s voice.
A recent report surveyed consumers and found that nearly 20 percent of U.S. adults have access to smart speakers today, a number that’s up from less than 1 percent only two years ago. This rapid adoption has paved the way for an entirely new digital experience that is reshaping how consumers discover and interact with brands. Last year, Gartner predicted that “by 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30 percent.”
So you may be wondering how exactly voice will be helpful to brands, let alone make their websites relevant again. Here are three key ways that a brand’s website can transform consumer experiences as increasingly more consumers choose to speak rather than type.
Many brands have invested significant effort and budget to improve their SEO performance and ensure that their websites surface in search. Luckily, that will still be a big help in providing a credibility signal to voice assistants when looking for answers.
The main difference between the role of SEO in keyboard search versus voice search is how consumers construct queries. When a keyboard is present, users only need to provide enough context to get close to what they’re after. This could mean fragmented sentences, single word search or copy and paste work. With voice, users are posing questions and using conversational phrasing (e.g. “What is the weather going to be in New York City tomorrow?” rather than “NYC weather”).
Making your content conversational is a new battleground. This sort of content needs to account for the way users search when speaking aloud (i.e., less bullet points and section headers, more natural language-informed questions and keyword-optimized sentences). Brands that can get a head start in optimizing their websites for voice will begin building category authority and have an opportunity to pull ahead of competitors in the space.
Your brand’s new voice
Outside of abstract PowerPoint slides and internal tone of voice documents, a brand’s personality is rarely communicated directly to consumers. Typically, brands use their marketing communications to speak for them and represent who they are. One channel where they are able to directly express who they are is the brand website. This is a space where brands can bring their personality—beliefs, style, language, etc.—to the forefront.
The glaring problem with this? No one is spending their day reading through a brand’s website or caring about their personality. With voice, however, the communication construct is changing. As voice assistants return answers to consumers from brand sites, they’ll be read the answers aloud. In this context, the language and copy used on becomes increasingly important. With the Alexa team already known to be working on improving the emotion of the assistant, it’s not hard to imagine a future where websites can be coded to be read in a specific intonation or style by voice assistants.
In a world where brands will build affinity with consumers through voice, those old PowerPoint slides could prove to be a valuable differentiator after all.
The voice shopper
As the voice assistant adoption rate continues to accelerate, early adopters are finding themselves using their devices as daily companions. This means that users are regularly turning to the assistants for basic tasks such as weather and news, but also beginning to use them regularly for purchase. In fact, a recent study found that consumers are using voice throughout the entire purchase journey, turning to their devices for support in product research, package tracking, providing ratings and contacting support.
The brains behind voice assistants (AI) seek credible sources when helping users. For brands, their own sites are the perfect place to build conversational authority and offer answers to purchase journey questions. Typical features such as product information, store locators, consumer reviews and FAQs should be created in a format easily accessible to these new devices so that they can assist consumers on their purchase journey. This is a big opportunity for brands to preemptively prepare their sites for voice technology and put themselves in position to own purchase-related searches.
The shift from mobile to voice is well underway, and brands have a golden opportunity to embrace a new landscape. A brand’s website has the ability to help businesses differentiate and win consumer mindshare through voice. With a strategic focus on conversational SEO, personality development and consumer purchase tools, the almost-forgotten “brand website” can once again become a valuable asset.