In today’s advanced digital world, voice recognition and search technology speaks volumes – literally. Voice-enabled virtual assistants like Siri, Google Home, and Amazon Echo have become trusted household devices that provide us with answers to all of life’s questions, from what is the most populated city in the world to who has the best deep dish pizza in town. When we’re not at home, our virtual expert is with us on our mobile devices, allowing us to speak our questions directly into the phone and receive both verbal and typed answers instantly.
Providing the ultimate in convenience, voice-enabled searches have continued to grow in popularity, especially with younger buyers. A 2018 study by PwC found that 65% of 25- to 49-year-olds speak to their voice-enabled devices at least once per day, followed by 59% of 18- to 24-year-olds, and 57% of people over the age of 50. In addition to providing a convenient way to gather information, voice search is now a faster, more accurate technology, which is helping drive its adoption. So much so that the media measurement company, ComScore, predicts that 50% of all Internet searches will be done using voice search by 2020.
What started as a cool gadget for the home has now become a common tech tool to help people do things faster and with less effort. With voice-enabled commands, users can accomplish almost anything – control electrical devices, order products online, track packages, and even pay bills. But as consumers continue to embrace this evolving technology, it begs the question, will B2B buyers follow suit and integrate voice search into their daily work life?
How voice search will impact the B2B marketplace
Some consider voice-enabled devices novelty items, but if you think about the benefits they provide users, it’s understandable why the technology is extending its reach into more applications and sectors.
Voice search advantages:
- It’s nearly four times faster than typing
- It uses more natural, conversational language
- It allows for more detailed searches, which provide more relevant results
- It’s more reliable: Google’s voice recognition technology now boasts 95 percent accuracy
These user advantages have definitely helped boost eCommerce sales in the US. According to OC&C Strategy Consultants, digital commerce sales from voice searches reached $2 billion in 2018, and they project that number will skyrocket to $40 billion by 2022.
Consumers are simplifying their lives by using voice commands, so it only makes sense that B2B buyers would want to do the same. Industry experts agree, and suggest voice-enabled technology will provide an opportunity for increased revenue and improved operational efficiencies for businesses by putting more control in the hands of their buyers. Although wholesale buyers typically make more complex product purchases and require alternate transaction methods than consumer shoppers, the B2B customer lifecycle still entails information gathering, customer service, and post-purchase assistance – which could be done more efficiently through voice-enabled technology.
Consider how a simple voice search could assist B2B buyers with these tasks:
- Perform initial product research and price comparisons
- Access account history and reorder products
- Manage current order status and track deliveries
- Obtain product information such as installation instructions and user guides
- Find business details like the closest store location, its phone number, and business hours
Chances are your customers are accustomed to using voice search in their personal lives, so the natural progression is for them to employ it on the job. As mobile technology continues to improve and become more user-friendly, you can bet buyers will rely more heavily on voice-enabled technology in every aspect of their lives.
Begin employing voice search-friendly tactics now
Compared to the retail industry, the wholesale distribution marketplace is a bit behind the technology curve. But B2C trends are usually good indicators of what’s to come in the B2B market, and all signs are pointing to a growing need to be voice search-friendly. If you want to be ready to accommodate your buyer needs, start making adjustments to your online offerings now. Here are five ways you can gear up for voice-enabled demands from B2B buyers:
- Optimize your site for mobile devices
As mobile devices increasingly become the primary tool for B2B professionals, make sure your eCommerce site is optimized for mobile use – starting with a responsive design. This type of site architecture ensures visitors to your website will have the same user experience on their mobile phone or tablet as they do on their computer. Responsive sites are more intuitive, flexible, and easy to use, and provide a great first impression for visitors. Above and beyond a responsive design, other ways you can improve your site for mobile use include making sure page load speeds are fast, removing pop-up ads, abandoning hard-to-use drop-down navigation menus, and formatting videos to display as full screen when held in a vertical position.
- Create web content to attract Google’s featured snippets
Google has introduced a more concise way to obtain answers to voice-enabled queries: featured snippets. They provide the “short answer” (an average of 29 words) to a voice search question by pulling information directly from a relevant website. On voice search devices, the featured snippet and its source are automatically read out loud for the user. The snippet is also displayed at the top of the search results page, eliminating the need to click through to a specific result. How does Google decide where to pull their featured snippets from? Essentially, they search for the exact question the person voiced into their device, and if that question is found in the same format on a website with a corresponding answer, Google will pull the text answer from the webpage and link it to their snippet.
Featured snippets can really boost brand recognition and attract site traffic for businesses because they are essentially calling out a website as an expert resource. In order to be considered for a featured snippet, you must first incorporate Google-preferred content such as long-tail keywords, conversational language, and answers to specific questions on your content pages to improve your visibility. Continue reading for content-related tactics that will increase your chances of being selected for a featured snippet.
- Update your SEO strategies to incorporate more long-tail keywords
Unlike typed searches, voice searches include detailed, natural language that garners better-suited results. To attract more mobile-friendly searches and provide more targeted search results, integrate long-tail keywords in your web content as part of your SEO campaign. Long-tail keywords are usually at least three words in length, and provide more specific descriptions of a product or need. According to Amazon, the makers of Alexa, long-tail keywords usually have better conversion rates than generic keywords because they give search engines more insight into the intent of the person performing the search, so they can steer them to better results more quickly.
Research which long-tail keywords your buyers are using to search for products and answers, and incorporate them into your pages, making sure to use their same language and phrasing to attract them to your site.
While Google dominates the search engine market, voice assistants like Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana rely on Bing for their search results. Therefore, make sure Bing is also a focus in your SEO strategy so you can build a stronger presence and higher rankings on both search engine platforms.
- Build a robust Frequently Asked Questions page
As we noted earlier, Google’s voice-enabled featured snippets scour the Internet to find answers to the exact questions voice searchers ask. What better way to get Google’s attention than by providing more questions (with answers) on your website. Build out a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions page on your site using question-focused headings instead of only keyword-focused headers. For instance, instead of “Resetting your password,” display it the header as “How can I reset my password?” Change “Minimum delivery orders” to “What is the minimum amount for delivery?” In place of a basic “Locations” header, try “Where are your branch locations?” The more your content pages can mimic actual voice searcher questions, the easier it will be to lead them to the appropriate answers.
- Include AI assistance with your online offerings
While the above tactics help support better voice searches for buyers, there’s also opportunity to integrate voice-enabled functionality on your eCommerce site using software apps and APIs. Artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots with voice recognition provide another interaction point for customers, and give them the ability to verbally place an order via the chat tool. With AI chatbots, customers can also log in to a website portal, register for events, and even fill out form fields by simply speaking into their device instead of typing into multiple fields.
For those who provide configure-price-quote (CPQ) services to their customers, there are newer CPQ software applications like Apttus CPQ from Salesforce that provide in-built, voice-activated workflows. Apttus CPQ features a conversational user interface and an “intelligent agent” named Max who listens to voice prompts and interacts with salespeople to help develop complex solution quotes for customers.
If you’d like to create more opportunities for your customers to engage with you, start incorporating content and tools that support voice-enabled technology. As mobile devices continue to improve and become increasingly user-friendly, voice control will inevitably take on a more prominent role in our daily lives. Your buyers have a voice, and they want you to listen.