As we head toward one of the most prominent advertising events of the annual calendar year – the Super Bowl – you can likely expect to see a wealth of marketing and advertising focused on the growing multitude of digital assistants like Google Home, Facebook Portal, Amazon Alexa and others now available to consumers. With a variety of devices and smart speaker options on the market, eMarketer expects usage to increase by 15%, with nearly 75 million people owning and using the devices in the U.S. alone. This explosive growth has particular implications for franchise brands and business owners, so it’s important to determine how you can leverage voice search now as well as better understand what may lie ahead for this evolving marketing channel.
How Are Consumers Actually Using These Devices?
The aforementioned eMarketer study from December 2018 notes that the three voice-activated actions taken most often by users on smart speakers are listening to music (79.8%), searching for information (73%) and shopping online (37.1%). While companies like Apple are building their devices around the music experience, the latter two statistics have companies like Google and Amazon innovating and competing for consumer attention. For example, when conducting a voice search on a Google Home or while using the Google Digital Assistant on one of the company’s pixel phones, it should come as no surprise that the default search engine returning results is Google Chrome. If an Amazon Alexa user is looking for a specific product that can be purchased on Amazon it is likely that the user will receive an Amazon product result, but it’s important to note that Alexa actually uses Bing as its default search engine for general user questions and queries like “where can I find the best gym in Atlanta”.
How Can Local Businesses Connect With User Voice Searches?
Because many franchises have a brick-and-mortar presence, it’s critical that their location data and their local website presence are optimized to properly return key business information that is relevant to a user’s voice-activated search. The back end of your website or local business page should include the proper structured data (also known as “local schema”) related to your business name, address and phone number. This structured markup simply allows search engine crawlers to better understand your actual location and presents a more user-friendly display of results to the consumer. An extension of this strategy should also incorporate optimized business profiles on places like Google My Business (for Google Home searches) and Bing Places (for Amazon Alexa searches) with the same information and local content. If your goal as a franchise owner is to drive customers to your business location, taking each of these important steps can help a consumer find your business with their initial search and then get additional info like hours of operation, directions, or even call your business with their next voice command.
Ecommerce and Product Sales with Voice Search
If you’re a franchise business that sells products (in-store or online) and have the ability to ship to the consumer, tapping into Google Express and setting up key “Shopping Actions” can be a great way to increase sales with voice search – and is often a better fit in general for franchises than Amazon. Google Express can actually shorten the purchase process from search to checkout when implemented properly, and if users link their Google accounts properly then the devices themselves can recognize purchasing patterns and increase repeat purchases of products. In order to execute this tactic, your business will be required to enable product feeds within the Google Merchant Center and provide additional information like shipping details and sales tax figures when setting up your Storefront. While Google Express may only be a fit for specific franchise businesses, it certainly increases the opportunity to sell products easily and efficiently via voice search, when applicable.
Voice search, while exploding in user adoption, is still very much evolving as a marketing channel. Future opportunities will likely include integration of traditional paid search and paid social marketing opportunities, as industry giants like Google and Facebook improve their advertising interfaces to provide better, more specific advertising results for voice-activated user searches. Ensuring your business information can be easily recognized by digital assistants with the proper technical updates, and enabling relevant product feeds where available, can give your franchise a boost in customer volume in the short term and keep your business one step ahead of the competition when it comes to capitalizing on the long term growth that is expected of voice search in the future.
As Senior Director of Marketing, Josh Allen is responsible for planning, developing and managing Location3 and LOCALACT brand strategies, with a focus on establishing new business partnerships among franchise systems and multi-location brands. He also works with Location3 client partners to establish key initiatives for increased franchise engagement and growth. He is an active member of the International Franchise Association and has previously been featured by the American Marketing Association, Franchise Update Media, MediaPost and more discussing franchise digital marketing strategy.