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The Meteoric Rise of Voice Search & Why Brands Should Care.

“Siri, turn my phone on airplane mode.”
“Alexa, set up a meeting for me at 10 a.m. and invite Tim.”
“Google Home, where’s the nearest grocery store with the best deal on avocados?”

These are all commands that people are giving their smart devices via voice search. It’s predicted that by 2020, up to 50% of search queries will be made by voice instead of typing them into phones or computers.

Earlier this month, I attended a KCDMA luncheon where Heather Physioc, Director of Organic Search at VML, presented the current state and predicted future of voice search. She noted that there are 50 billion (that’s with a “B”) voice search queries each month. This number is rising because voice search capabilities are in our devices by default, but also people are becoming more comfortable talking to these devices. Below are some important points from Physioc’s presentation for marketers and grocers to keep in mind as voice search progresses.

For the Google loyalists out there, it’s important not to ignore Bing – that other search engine that no one uses, right? Wrong. Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana and Apple’s Siri are all powered by Bing, not Google. Marketers will need to split their attention between both search engines.

So why does voice search matter to grocers specifically?

Slide: 41% of adults talk to their phones daily. 50% of teens talk to their phones daily.

As you can see from Physioc’s slide, it’s now second nature to talk to our technology. When Siri first made her way in our phones, we felt a little awkward talking to her. Now that we have Siri, Alexa, and others in our home and in our pockets at all times, it’s not weird. People are talking to their phones in a variety of situations.

People are using voice search most commonly when:

  1. Driving
  2. Their hands are full (this could be while shopping at the grocery store or putting groceries away in their kitchens)
  3. When their hands are dirty (cooking and cleaning)
  4. Simply laziness


That means, grocery consumers are performing voice searches and could be doing so in stores to research products and competitors. Physioc noted that 50% of people already use voice search to research products.

Using voice search is more natural than typing on a keyboard. It’s more conversational. Therefore, the answers should be more conversational as well. People don’t want search results – they want answers. So how do grocery marketers need to change their strategy for voice search?

Slide: 5 ways Voice search is different: natural language, interrogative words, search intent, local-based searches, fast and short answers.

When thinking of website copy or online advertising, marketers need to think of five things:

  1. Accuracy
  2. Quality
  3. Brevity
  4. Readability
  5. Value

By addressing these characteristics, grocers and marketers can provide the single best answer, which will rank higher in search results and be “read” through iPhone, Google Home or other device. In addition, keep in mind that some search results are more complex than a voice search can answer. Think beyond what Siri will say and what she will then push to the mobile phone screen. This is where marketers can add value through complimentary coupons, apps, and additional information.

So where’s the future of voice search going?

Using the voice search example above: “Google Home, where’s the nearest grocery store with the best deal on avocados?”

Possible answer from Siri, Alexa, etc.: “Looks like HyVee is closest with avocados priced at $1.33. The next closest store is Sun Fresh with avocados for the same price. Sun Fresh has a digital coupon for $.30 off avocados right now bringing the price down. I can put that coupon on your loyalty card now if you want to go there. In addition, I found a great recipe for guacamole. Do you want me to add the other ingredients for guacamole to your shopping list?”

Customer: “Yes, go ahead and clip that coupon for Sun Fresh. Add those other guacamole ingredients to my list and send me that recipe. Let’s go ahead and add chips to my list also.”

This example could happen in the not-so-distant future, so it’s important for marketers and grocers to pay attention to voice search and how it evolves.

The slides above are from Physioc’s presentation. To see her entire slide show, click here.

Why do I work at AWG? “I work with an amazing team that values creativity and innovation. I enjoy tackling new opportunities and challenges each day that, of course, always involve food!” -Cara