Digital Assistants: On The Rise

Virtual assistants are indeed, all the rage. There are stand alone products like Amazon’s Echo or the Echo Dot which taps into Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant; as well as embed assistants such as Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. This fairly new technology is advancing and it’s advancing fast.

From a digital marketing standpoint, why should we care about the rise of digital assistants? Well, aside from the sheer entertainment value of asking Siri to tell us a joke or asking Alexa what she wants to be when she grows up or even asking Cortana to sing you a song; digital assistants are changing the way people search on the internet.

Three things:

  1. Digital assistants are everywhere, and we love using them.
    According to Internet Retailer, sales of Amazon’s Echo stand alone digital assistants were up 9x during the 2016 holiday season compared to last year. A Forbes article reports that activations of Google’s Home quadrupled during the 2016 holiday season, yet the sales of stand alone digital assistants is really just the tip of the iceberg. Digital assistants are on every smart-phone, tablet and desktop computer sold today. Search Engine Journal reports that 25% of all searches on Bing are voice searches. Predictions are that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice activated.
  2. We search differently with our voice.
    When we conduct a traditional text search, we usually use a set of keywords. These search strings are typically one, two or three words long. These stochastic search terms have powered SEO for years. We create whole pages of content around one word. But, when we interact with our digital assistants, we ask whole questions. “Siri, I’m hungry for Thai food.” “Cortana, where is the best place to stay in Redmond?” And when you ask a question, you expect an answer, not results. Which begs the question, is your website providing answers? You might want to take a look.
  3. Your digital assistant knows where you are.
    This means, unless you ask your digital assistant to find you an answer for a specific location, your assistant will provide answers that are “near you”. When I let Siri know I was hungry for Thai food, she provided me with listings for Thai restaurants that were within about 10 miles of my location. So, if a digital assistant can’t determine where your business is or where your service area might be, you may not be “near me” and lose the business to those that are.As an interesting aside, according to Search Engine Watch “near me” searches have increased 15x since 2013.

The rise of digital assistants will continue to change the digital marketing landscape. As the technology gets smarter, learns more about the user and we in turn rely on them for answers; understanding how our digital assistants work and compete to provide answers will affect the digital marketing strategy of every business.

If you aren’t already discussing this emerging landscape with your digital marketing team, you should start today. Don’t have a digital marketing team? No problem, give Whim Social a call and they’ll walk you through a strategy that will be sure to move your business in the right direction!

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