Understanding the opportunity that voice search presents for your brand

voice search

Here’s a stat from Google that’ll make you sit up in your chair: 27% of internet users are using voice search on mobile.

Voice search is on the up. And If you’ve read our previous post predicting what may happen in the future of voice technology, you’ll know that we’re pretty excited about the possibilities.

But there are plenty of situations where voice search can create challenges for users, as well as your business. That’s why it’s important to evaluate the risk/benefit relationship voice search presents for your organization and then truly define your product before you dive in. 

In this article, we’re going to go through the cases where voice search can help (and where it can’t yet) so that you can make the right decision. 

What goal will voice search help you achieve?

This is the first question we’d encourage any voice-curious clients to ask themselves: why voice? 

The way we see it, there are two distinct goals that investing in voice can help you achieve — both are worthy ventures, so it’s less a case of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and more what’s right for you.

Voice technology can give you an edge over your competitors

First is a goal that most companies can identify with: you want to get ahead of your competitors, and you believe that voice search can help you do that. 

Voice search can indeed give you a competitive advantage. Not only is it more convenient and modern for your users, but it can also make your business a more viable option in certain situations. 

For users who rely on accessibility features or are frequently in situations where they can’t reach for the phone (driving, cooking, etc.), you can position yourself above other businesses in your sector — using innovation to serve customers better

Voice technology could open up new revenue channels

Perhaps you’re not only looking to improve your UX, but voice-assisted search represents new sources of revenue for your business?

Voice search can unlock further revenue by opening up new ways for customers to interact with your business. In the same way that having an online shop helps you reach a wider audience, voice search can bring new audiences to your store. 

Your voice search goal will inspire the development process

If you’re trying to achieve one of the two goals listed above, then you’re ready to start shaping what a voice feature might look like for your business. And to do that, we’re going to take your “why” into consideration again.

Why? Because the goal that drives your voice search development is also going to shape the path that process takes. 

If innovation is your key driver…

For organizations that are investing in voice search to drive their innovation, then you’re going to be looking at a development cycle that embraces a little risk. You don’t want to replicate something that others in the market are already using: you want to push the boundaries and take brave steps forward. 

Businesses that go this route are likely to create a voice search product that is unique against anything that your customers/users may have encountered before. Creative problem-solving is key here — as is making sure you’re not innovating just for innovation’s sake (more on this later). 

If voice search represents a commercial opportunity…

For businesses where voice search is less of a nice-to-have and more of a strategic sales tool, we need to seek a balance. You want to be innovative enough to stand out, but not so innovative that you scare your users off! 

What are your competitors currently doing that you aren’t? And what are they not doing that you certainly could? This will help you create a voice search product that feels familiar and yet unique — all at once. 

Moving towards ‘Definition’

By this point, you should have an idea of your overarching goals and the roadmap you want to follow. Now, it’s time to define your voice solution more clearly.

It sounds counter-intuitive, sure, but try to forget for a moment that you are building a voice assistant at all — and think about a pain point your users have that you can fix. 

Below, we’ll outline what the Product Definition phase will typically look like for a voice search build. But the crux of it is this: explore the problem your users have (that voice search could help solve), look at it from varying angles, and consider the different strategies and concepts you can implement to make it right.

By the end of your Product Definition process, you should have a vision of the problem you want to solve with voice search that is so clear it can be used to influence your decisions, design, and end result. 

This exercise is every inch as essential for voice assistants being built with innovation in mind — it avoids that “voice search just for voice search’s sake” problem we flagged earlier.

Building a voice assistant: the Product Definition process step-by-step

1. Understand the business context

The first task in the Product Definition process is to explore the business components of your voice search project. This goes a step beyond the ‘why’ of your voice mission (although that’s important too) considering the key metrics of success and who in your business acts as a key stakeholder.

If innovation is the motivating force for voice search, then your R&D, branding, product, and tech teams will be very involved at this stage — alongside your software development partners, of course. What experience do we want to provide to voice users? What will that mean for the tech we plug in later? 

Here, user journey maps can highlight unexpected or not-yet-explored opportunities for voice tech to create a point of difference.

2. Research the market and look for gaps

Where innovation-led teams will really double down in phase one, it’s the revenue-seeking clients who should spend the most time in phase two. Why? Because it’s here that we really start to investigate the market.

Working with your software development partner you’ll outline personas, assess competitor propositions, and then define the user experience. Working closely with your marketing team is crucial for this stage. You want to empathize with your market so that the product adapts to them rather than the other way around.

Any future revenue potential relies on getting the product-market fit correct.

>> Stop and think

There’s a third step to the Product Definition process, and we’ll move on to that in just a moment. But first, we need to stop and think.
What opportunities has your Definition journey uncovered so far? 
Is there a business rationale behind investing in voice? Are your stakeholders aligned and excited?
Can you see the potential for voice to alleviate customer pain points and/or make it easier and more enjoyable to interact with your brand?
If yes, great stuff. You’re ready to proceed.
If not, let’s talk it through. It might be that voice isn’t the best fit for where you are today — that’s what we set out to discover, wasn’t it? But the good news is that the Product Definition phase always highlights new opportunities, even if they aren’t exactly what you had in mind when you started. 
So, if you find yourself in this situation don’t think of the Definition exercise as time and money wasted. In the context of the four-phase development process, Definition is only around 10%. Finding out now that there’s no voice opportunity for you is better than pushing ahead anyway — it’s 10% spent, to save a further 90%. That’s risk mitigation in action!

3. Validate the tech

After the Product Definition phase comes Product Design. So in order to brief your designers fully, we need to pin down some details related to what we’ve found. Which features will be required for a voice search solution to solve the user pain points we’ve explored? Is this something that your team can build — and for how much time and money?

Does the investment required make sense for your business and is the tech viable? Then we may be on to a winner: innovation-led, revenue-producing, or both.

Defining and seizing your voice search opportunity

Ever heard the saying “Fools rush in”? That couldn’t be more true when it comes to innovation. Yes, you might want to claim first-mover advantage. Yes, you may be sitting on millions of dollars in revenue potential. But if you don’t take the time to explore and assess the opportunity from all angles, you risk rushing in and messing up.

The smartest way to seize the opportunity is step-by-step with an experienced voice search development team by your side. So let’s take that journey together, starting today.

About the author.

Guilherme Hayashi
Guilherme Hayashi

Guilherme Hayashi has more than a decade of experience in building digital products always putting people in the center of the product and the process.