Communication technology has changed tremendously in the past few decades, and so have consumer expectations. A 2018 Forbes article comically illustrates this point with the story of a 4-year-old’s disappointment when an old Timex watch ignored her verbal request that it “call grandma.”
As consumers today, the author says, we are all that 4-year-old. When it comes to how we prefer to communicate, our expectations have evolved.
By the year 2020, some experts have predicted, 50 percent of all of our internet searches will be made by voice.
In a world where smart homes, wearables, and voice-search-enabled digital assistants like Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa and Echo are becoming the norm, companies can’t afford to passively go the way of that old Timex watch. Instead, they need to listen to consumers — and to respond.
That’s why more and more savvy companies have begun to not only harness the power of voice search but to also engage in a two-way dialogue with clients through communication channels like live chat.
The majority of consumers today believe that smart home innovations will dramatically change their lives over the next few years. Some of these everyday quality of life improvements may seem simple. Today, for example, we can use smart home technology to get our favorite song to play without leaving the sofa, add an appointment to our calendars while cooking dinner, ask for directions as we search for our car keys, request our Xboxes to navigate between Netflix and our favorite TV channel, send family members a text message to let them know we’re running late, add an item to our Amazon Fresh shopping cart, or even turn up the central air on our way home.
. What exactly is ”smart home technology”? In the simplest terms, it’s “the use of one or more computers to control basic home functions and features automatically and sometimes remotely.”
While having Frank Sinatra sing to you as you walk through the door may be a charming novelty, home automation that really impacts consumers’ lives rises to another level, however, pairing innovative “internet of things” (IoT) devices with important services. Services that matter to homeowners in tangible ways allow them to take actions that save time and money and make life easier.
What this also means is that devices that connect to the internet are better when they “work and play well” with others. For example, through its “Works With Nest” program, one popular smart home device manufacturer has connected its products with multiple appliances and other smart technologies. One smart home sensor company, Notion, has partnered with HomeAdvisor to immediately connect homeowners to available and highly rated plumbers.
Here are some things to keep in mind in order to get the most out of the increasing popularity of smart home and wearable devices in your next marketing campaign:
1. Smart Technology Means You Can Take Advantage of Deeper Data Dives: One could say that IoT devices are the valedictorians of “smart” technology, in that they “learn” and retain information that savvy marketers can use to micro-target consumers.
For instance, if your company offers services such as oil changes, you have access to actionable information that is relevant to your product or service — in this case, how many miles per day your customers drive. As a result, it would be appropriate to partner with an app that’s equipped to remind customers when it’s time for service.
2.Smart Technology Calls for Smarter Partnerships: The previous examples — about the plumbing leak and the oil change — brings us to the next key point: In the coming years, the IoT space will provide lucrative opportunities to build meaningful and productive business partnerships.
When companies such as maintenance, repair, and home improvement services form meaningful partnerships with connected technology companies, consumers see real value in the products and services they’re offering. Such partnerships, which prompt users to solve problems and take action in real time, save consumers not only time but also a great deal of money and stress.
When searching for “internet of things” business opportunities, don’t forget that the increasing popularity of wearables means that you can connect with consumers even when they step outside their smart homes or voice-assistant-equipped vehicles.
If you’re a gym or fitness club, for instance, it makes sense to consider partnering with a wearable fitness device. Although the typical American consumer may own only one wearable device today, with such devices serving as combined ID, phone, and debit card for so many millenials, that same person, by the year 2020, will own eight wearables, according to Under Armour Connected Fitness vice president of advertising Warren Kay. In the next ten years, in fact, wearables will help marketers connect to customers — whether in finance, consumer packaged goods, healthcare, or elsewhere — and collect informative, useful data, including health-related indicators like heart rate, blood pressure, and the number of steps taken per day.
In today’s connected world, it pays to think outside the box. A knowledgeable digital marketing agency can help you brainstorm potential strategies and partnerships that will help your business get the most from smart technology.
3. Now You Can (and Should!) Optimize for Local Searches: The fact that today’s consumers use GPS-enabled smart devices to glean even simple information such as the weather forecast means that your business is well-positioned (literally!) to find new, nearby clients and make timely offers for your products and services. Regardless of whether consumers perform their audio searches on a desktop computer, through embedded apps, or in-home audio device, you’ll want to optimize your presence for voice search.
On the one hand, today’s technology is powered by data gathered across an astounding variety of platforms, each with their own unique features. On the other hand, as we’ve observed, one common denominator that our myriad devices increasingly share is that they gather so much of that data from the sound of our voices. Therefore, businesses that are in-the-know take the characteristics of voice search into account.
Here are a few voice search tips that successful companies consider when strategizing for an effective marketing campaign:
1.They use schema mark-up and structured data at the back ends of their websites. This important step helps search engines more efficiently understand and crawl data. Ultimately, such information is important because it powers search results and expands the available knowledge graphs.
2.They write their content in a natural, conversational voice, answering the questions that consumers are asking. Remember that for components of your content to be voice-search-ready, it needs to answer a question, rather than just revolving around keywords. The reason for this is that when performing voice (rather than text) searches, consumers change their behavior. While a typed search tends to use as few words as possible (‘best comfort food in Chicago’), when searching by voice, we tend to use more words — in the form of a question, starting with “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “how,” or “why” (“What is the best comfort food restaurant in Chicago?” or ‘Which comfort food restaurants are open for dinner now?’)
The type of ”question word” used is useful in providing more context about user intent, as well as exactly how far along in the purchase process consumers are (i.e., whether they are ready to purchase or just doing some initial research). For instance, users who ask ‘What are the differences between cross trainers and running shoes?’ are probably just researching. However, if they ask, ‘How much is a good pair of cross trainers?’ or ‘Where can I buy New Balance running shoes?’ they are much closer to actually hitting the pavement.
This isn’t to say that all queries starting with the same “question word” are created equally. ‘What size’ shows more intent than ‘What is’ and is further down the path leading toward a purchase. The point is to create and develop content that answers specific questions and to match the user’s level of intent.
3.They expand their paid search keyword lists to include longer tail keyword phrases. This attention to phrasing is designed to reach users at every stage of intent, based on the types of questions consumers are asking.
Remember that the conversational (more “wordy”) language models that artificial intelligence uses for voice searches can better understand the context of our queries. This means an increased capability to build on previous searches — and even contemplate multiple queries and steps — thus anticipating transactions, tasks, and other actions. In this way, the AI powering voice search gets “smarter” with every interaction, providing an immediacy and intimacy that text-only searches lack.
For instance, if I live in Indianapolis (but have recently arrived in New York) and ask my digital assistant for directions to a hotel and subway station, it should figure out, based on both my recent searches and my geo-location, that when I later request local steakhouse recommendations, the search results should be restaurants in New York, not Indianapolis.
As the Internet of Things and all of its devices provide data signals to the AI platforms that power voice search, technology can now better understand who we are, where we are, and what we’re doing. Since it is predictive in nature, voice search has the ability to understand consumer intent and anticipate what a potential customer’s upcoming needs might be. As a result, your company is better positioned to use the context of each question-based query to help search engines deliver the most relevant results possible.
For Customer Support, Consumers Prefer Live Chat
It has become clear that the internet has greatly changed how consumers prefer to communicate. Therefore, it comes as little surprise that that more and more customer service interactions today are handled online.
Research indicates that while 32% of customers still prefer talking on the phone, 41% prefer not just online interactions in general, but live chat in particular.
As a result, an increasing number of companies are integrating live chat into their business processes. In fact, the number of U.S. online-store shoppers who have used live chat has gone up from 38% to 58% since 2012, and today’s consumers are more likely to buy from a business that offers live chat support, with 79% of businesses reporting that providing live chat has positively affected their sales, revenue, and customer loyalty.
Even at a quick glance, many of the advantages of live chat are easy to see. First, live chat allows customer support agents to handle multiple requests simultaneously. It also gives businesses the opportunity to be proactive, engaging in conversation right at the point when the target customer expresses interest by visiting the site.
At the same time, another advantage is that consumers feel more relaxed when using live chat because they are able to multitask and respond at their own convenience. The lack of pressure leaves potential customers feeling more open to what the company is offering as they benefit from the “human touch” of having an agent individually help them choose the products and services that work best for them.
Finally, with live chat, consumers don’t need to wait for an email response; instead, they get their questions answered in a minimal amount of time.
At the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that potential customers using live chat are three times more likely to make the purchase.
1. Offer Consumers Knowledge Base Functionality: Live chats that offer knowledge base functionality can save both users and customer support agents time, since suggesting relevant articles may help answer the consumer’s question without the need for further interaction. The end result is greater customer satisfaction.
2. Meet Consumer Expectations: Make sure users know what the average wait time is, when your support team is available for live chat, and whether there are certain issues can only be resolved over the phone or by email. If you’re expecting increased traffic (because of a new product launch, for example), warn consumers that their queries may take longer. Better still, lessen the number of long waits and the associated frustration by temporarily disabling live chat during such times.
3. Set up a Variety of Chats for a Variety of Purposes: To operate more efficiently, it may make sense to direct prospective clients to a sales chat function on the home page, while general customer support goes elsewhere, and so on.
4. Train a Knowledgeable, Capable Support Team: Live chat should be used for real-time replies — not as a mere answering service that allows customer service agents to call back with responses at a later time — so make sure your team is properly trained to handle the questions consumers will have.
Even when you’re not using live chat or voice-activated technology, your business will have a better chance of succeeding when you remember that today’s consumers expect to be active participants in a two-way conversation in which their input is valued. As long as you’re transparent about when and how you’re gathering information from them, the vast majority of consumers say that they’ve never had a consumer experience that felt “too” personalized or invasive. In fact, they appreciate personalized two-way communications that gives them the opportunity to purchase and consume the exact products and services they want and need.
Through its Makeup Genius app, for example, L’Oréal now allows users to personalize their customer experience – whenever and wherever it’s convenient for them. Through the app, clients provide “digital sales associates” with information about their facial characteristics, for an individualized, one-to-one, virtual make-up test.
The point is that allowing customers to take the lead by engaging in a dialogue and providing information about what they need and want is a win-win situation. Whether the exchange happens through voice-activated searches, live chat, or some other technology, letting consumers tell you what they’re looking for is far more effective than merely guessing what they want.
If your business is looking for more and better ways to put potential customers where they want to be (in the driver’s seat), consider partnering with 212 Media Studios. Contact us today to get started!