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The Voice Search Imperative for Alexa and Google Assistant. If You Ain’t First, You’re Last, Says Former Amazon Executive Now at Nestlé.

“When it comes to voice search, you go first position or you go home because beyond the first or second place there is no future.”

This quote is attributed to Sebastien Szczepaniak, a former Amazon executive who now heads e-commerce for Nestlé SA. He has particular insights into the challenges given his background with the world’s largest online marketplace that also is the global market share leader in the voice assistant segment. The two-minute video below from The Wall Street Journal elaborates on the challenge that Alexa and Google Assistant pose for consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies.

The Importance of The Top One or Two Alexa Results

alexa-voice-commerce-search-resultsThe Wall Street Journal’s Saabira Chaudhuri summarizes the problem facing CPG companies succinctly when it comes to voice search and the rise of shopping through voice assistants.

“Take toilet paper [as an example]. At my grocery store there are seven brands on offer. On Amazon’s website, I get over 30,000 results. But Alexa, she only offers me two brands. It’s the same with light bulbs. At my local store there are several brands; over 200,000 results online. Only two [are] offered by Alexa.

“But that’s not all. Your past behavior influences what you will be presented by Alexa going forward. If you are a brand that is not top-of-mind for customers, you could be facing a big problem. Amazon’s algorithm tends to favor brands you’ve previously purchased, entrenching your existing preferences. That’s a worry for consumer goods companies who count on the price promotions, marketing and packaging you see online or instore to attract new customers.”

It’s Not Just About Amazon, Google Too

Google is not sitting idly by allowing Amazon to amass a product search and voice shopping monopoly. In 2017, Google Express linked up with Walmart, Target and other leading retailers to provide voice shopping to users of its Google Home smart speaker and Google Assistant for smartphones and appliances. Last week Google announced Shopping Actions. TechCrunch’s Sara Perez summed up the new program this way:

“The search giant will allow retailers to list their products across Google Search, in its Google Express shopping service, and in the Google Assistant app for smartphones and on smart speakers, like the Google Home. The program offers online shoppers a universal cart whether they’re shopping on mobile, desktop or via a voice-powered device. That latter item is especially important to retailers, given that Amazon has tied voice shopping to its Echo devices, and has claimed the majority of market share in smart speakers for the time being. And you aren’t able to shop Walmart from an Echo, of course.

“…the new program being introduced today, also allows retailers to increase shopper loyalty by supporting things like 1-click re-ordering, personalized recommendations, and basket-building, says Google. For example, if a customer integrates their Ultamate Rewards account (Ulta’s loyalty program) with Google, it will know what other products to recommend based on past order history when the shopper is searching for a particular item.”

And, beyond this program, Google Assistant has an amazing capability called “implicit invocation” that brands can use to drive search discovery of their Google Assistant apps through “deep link discovery.” XAPP is managing implicit invocations for leading national brands to ensure they rank highly for common consumer queries that don’t mention the company name or app name. Instead, their voice apps receive traffic from Google Assistant recommendations to the user because of the topical search ranking.

Implicit invocation is available today for Google Assistant apps to rank highly for generic voice searches and start that process of understanding consumer preferences for the machine learning algorithms. Voice is changing SEO on all digital entry points including desktop, mobile and assistants, and first movers have two distinct advantages:

  1. Their apps are getting discovered by consumers who didn’t even know they existed
  2. They’re getting valuable discovery data from Google to learn what consumers are asking for and whether their apps are being selected when recommended by Google

Rapid Consumer Adoption Drives the Voice Search Imperative

The imperative around voice SEO for voice assistants has become even more urgent given how quickly consumers have adopted smart speakers and the services have become available on smartphones. A recent study found that nearly 50 million U.S. adults have access to an Amazon Echo, Google Home or similar device. The same study found that the total reach of these devices alone will likely increase in 2018 by about 50%. It also revealed that one in four smart speaker owners have engaged in voice shopping and over 10% purchase products using voice on a monthly basis. Consumer habits are being formed.

Beyond smart speakers, we now have 400 million smartphones and appliances that provide access to Google Assistant. Voice assistant access is becoming pervasive and comScore estimates that voice search will account for 50% of all search queries by 2020. That is right around the corner.

How to Get Started

The first step to ranking for voice search through voice assistants is to build a Google Assistant app and an Alexa skill. These will become your beachheads in the battles for voice search pre-eminence. Remember, the goal is to rank first or second. Any position beyond one or two risks total obscurity. The good news is that only the savviest of brands understand the imminent ramifications of Voice SEO and there is a still an opportunity to seize a first-mover advantage for search rank in your market segment. The bad news is that the window for that advantage will close quickly.

XAPP has already launched over 750 voice apps for leading brands and media companies on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. That experience has led to valuable insights into where voice SEO is today and where it is headed. The rise of voice poses a clear risk for brands — what you don’t know can hurt you. Act now to implement a deliberate strategy around voice in 2018 and you can turn this risk into opportunity.

If you would like to learn more about launching voice apps and how they can help you start to establish voice search ranking, click on the button below. We look forward to hearing from you.

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