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Does voice search really translate for B2B?

Does voice search really translate for B2B?

Slack and Company | November 1, 2018

Sure, your new pal Siri has no trouble pointing you to the nearest deep-dish pizza joint. (Tip for Chicagoans: Just pick up the iPhone ... and throw.)

And, true, you're starting to fall for that know-it-all Alexa and her ability to find answers to your most vexing questions. For instance, the title of that dumb ABBA earwig you just couldn't shake out of your head while showering last morning.

All good, especially if you've forgotten how a QWERTY keyboard and Google work.

But when it comes to helping you in your workday, are these new intelligent assistants ready to become a go-to fixture in boardrooms and cubicles? Is voice search technology poised to become a big deal in B2B?

Our answer? Not soon.

It’s not perfect yet.

We see some pretty compelling reasons why voice search probably won’t be making waves in B2B anytime soon. There are some serious roadblocks to overcome.

For one, few think of using voice search for very specific queries, or at least they don’t do so seriously. Asking Siri to find the nearest Walmart is a little different than asking her to help you understand the pros and cons of different polymer formulations for your low-VOC industrial coating products, for example.

And also, voice search as it is now just isn’t advanced enough to be useful in a B2B context. Think about it—if you were to ask Google a specific question (something more contextual/complex than asking it to convert grams to ounces), it would run a search against the words of your question and come back with the #1 search result, as well as lots of other things to browse and explore. Compared to that, is voice search anything other than a very fancy way to hit the “I’m feeling lucky” button?

Venti dark roast, a butter croissant and a pallet of galvanized wing nuts, please.

Plus, voice search is not well-suited for use in a business environment, especially in today's open-office world. Heck, you can’t even use it while commuting to your business environment, unless you’re kind of a jerk.

However hot it obviously is right now, voice search is still in its infancy. Google claims its voice recognition accuracy is now at 92%, which sounds great but cracking accuracy is just the beginning. Search isn’t just about accuracy, it’s about helpfulness—and even after 21 years of Google's continual refinement, our search engines still have a long way to go.

That said, Siri is 7 years old, and is sure to grow leaps and bounds before she turns 21. So forward-thinking B2B marketers that ignore voice search—and the steady improvement in technologies that make it possible—may be putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

Voice is definitely coming

Personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa devices and Google’s suite of Home accessories continue to do well in the consumer market, which means that voice search will continue to grow in popularity as well. The number of voice queries increased 3,400% between 2008 and 2017. About 19% of people use Siri at least daily. So it’s not completely crazy to suggest that voice search will grow and refine itself as it becomes more and more popular. And as these devices continue to become more sophisticated and more widely used/adopted, the things we use voice search for will also grow.

Of course, while voice search might not matter too much for B2B right now, SEO definitely does. And the things that make you successful at SEO—smart keyword research and placement, semantic tagging—will also make you successful at voice search.

The future will may be automated

So while we don't think voice search is ready for prime time in B2B, we can imagine a future world where will be.

For example, adding a new dimension of interactivity to DM pieces. Send someone an Amazon Dot and tell them to ask Alexa a specific query; you could craft a page designed to rank highly against that specific search criteria with content that provides all the deep details and confirmation. End result: “The internet” brings you the full story instantly—one that the DM piece can only tease.

Whether ideas like these will eventually help make voice search an important part of future B2B marketing is anyone's guess. But our best hope is that the expanding capabilities of the technology will one day be able to match the vast imagination and resourcefulness of business marketers.


“How do you optimize for voice search? Our experts weigh in” (Hubspot): https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-optimize-for-voice-search

“Voice search strategy: What marketers need to know now” (Hubspot): https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/voice-search-guide

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