Marketing technology (aka martech) is now a massive industry – and London-based WARC has some numbers on the subject. The market intelligence firm surveyed more than 500 North American and UK brand marketers, finding that the martech marketplace currently sits at about $34.3 billion in annual expenditures for marketers. In other words, marketers are now spending an average of 16% of their marketing budgets on martech, according to WARC’s survey. The firm found that marketers are most likely to use martech tools for email marketing – indeed, about 85% of them are currently doing just that. A majority of respondents also said that they use martech tools for social media, and for managing CRM (customer relationship management) programs.
Both Google and Bing have stated that the majority of search queries they receive take place via voice on mobile. It stands to reason that, given the hands-free capabilities of handsets and mobile phones, voice would eventually take precedence over text-based search. With the vast improvement in the quality of digital voice assistants like Google Now, Siri, and Cortana, it was only a matter of time people discovered the immense convenience of voice search and rely on it for their queries.
But what does this mean for a small business, and how should you change your digital marketing strategy given this trend? Let’s look at some ways in which businesses can make their content voice search-friendly.
1. Focus on Phrases and Longtail Keywords
The search focus has shifted from terse, awkward keywords to long-tail phrases, or even entire sentences. That’s because voice searches make use of natural language. The way we talk is decidedly different than the way we type. The phrases and keywords that we use while speaking to digital assistants would therefore be different than those we use when entering text in Google search.
“What is the weather like in Miami today?” is an example of a conversational/natural language query more likely to be spoken to a digital assistant, as opposed to “weather miami,” which we would type into a search bar. Content optimized for voice SEO would therefore need to focus on this very important aspect of the nature of voice search.
2. Anticipate Specific Questions Asked in a Conversational Manner
Voice search might use entire sentences, but it’s also specific in nature. People do not ramble on when speaking to a digital assistant, possibly because a more specific question leads to a more accurate answer.
A query such as, “Find an Italian restaurant near me,” with the user’s location enabled can return precise results for users. Business owners would therefore want to optimize their websites and content for intuitive but specific queries. This can be accomplished via a detailed FAQ page or a blog containing authority content created around longtail keywords and conversational but specific questions. This would require you to research the kind of questions your target audience most frequently poses to digital assistants and produce content around those queries. It’s a good idea to take each of those questions and flesh out the answers in the form of quality blog posts.
As long as your content answers customer queries in the best and most useful manner possible, expect Google to take notice of it and rank the website/mobile site accordingly.
3. Optimize Your Website for Local SEO
Research has found that voice search is three times more likely to be local in nature. With this in mind, businesses should keep their profiles and contact information up to date, since this is what Google will pull for queries such as, “Where can I get the best coffee in Seattle?”
For a coffee shop owner, this would mean including accurate opening hours in their profile, including the precise location of the shop, and optimizing the content on the website to be found via keywords such as “best coffee” or something more specific, such as “best spiced chai latte.”
Find out the kind of questions your target audience is most likely to pose to a digital voice assistant, and create content that provides specific answers to these queries.
4. Make Sure Your Website Is Ready for Voice Search
According to Google, micro moments (moments during which users need immediate, relevant, and ready-to-use information) are key to capitalizing on any kind of search, especially voice search. Since our smartphones are our constant companions, it is natural that with internet at our fingertips, they are going to be our first source of information. Google has therefore been encouraging businesses to be cognizant of the increasing use of mobile in internet search and accordingly optimize their sites for mobile.
We now have mobile and voice search to pay attention to. Businesses that take advantage of these micro moments stand a good chance of racing ahead of the competition:
- Anticipate at which stage(s) a user is most likely to need the services your business provides.
- Anticipate the nature of information they need to make a decision.
- Provide users with the relevant information at that stage in order to help them make a decision, or leave them with clear further guidance.
For this to happen, businesses must ensure their websites are optimized for mobile, for local SEO, and for voice search. In order for a mobile site to be of use to someone during a micro moment, it needs to load quickly, be user-friendly, contain relevant information (local SEO), and produce the right answers in response to a voice search query. Taken together, this maximizes the chances of a user choosing your service.
Making the Leap
The nature of search and the evolution in search algorithms, based on changing technology and shifting consumer habits, require businesses to move in tandem with newer trends. That is the way for businesses to stay relevant and competitive.
One hope for display
Marketing is getting smarter.
2. Customer journeys are discovered, not created.
3. Content is your best tool for hitting trust touchpoints.
A year ago, Google location searches exploded – “closest,” “nearby,” and “near me” searches were performed 35 more times than they did in 2011.
People demand instant, accurate, and helpful information on Google. Because of this, it likely comes as no surprise that Google has had to make many complex updates to its algorithm to keep up. Gone are the days of “cookie-cutter” search results. Google now strives to deliver the most customized, local search results possible. A Brooklyn pet owner, for example, searching for “veterinarians nearby” will get totally different results than a pet owner in the Bronx searching the same keyword phrase – all thanks to Google’s local-search result algorithms.
Amazing Local Search Stats to Consider
Here are some specific local search trends that are good to be aware of if you are trying to put together a local marketing strategy for your client or business:
- “Near Me” keyword searches doubled last year, and continue to rise.
- People perform “near me” searches across all devices – they are looking for business hours, address (directions), and info about available products and services.
- People are increasingly searching on their phones – it is projected that by 2018, use of mobile devices will supersede use of all other devices… combined.
- 90% of consumers say they base their buying decisions on online reviews – this is important for “local search engine optimization,” as review ratings show up on Google map listings and even in organic results.
How to Rank for “Near Me” Searches on Google
It’s one thing to understand the latest local search trends, but It’s another thing to know what to do about them. Here are some specific tactics that veterinary practices (and other local businesses) can use to improve their rankings for high-volume, high-value “near me” keywords:
- Keep your Google Map listing up to date. Make sure your Google map listing is claimed, and has accurate information about your clinic, including address, hours, services offered, and website URL. After you’ve set up your map listing, you’ll need to maintain it and keep it updated ongoing.
- Get those reviews! These days, pets are considered family members. Location matters, but what matters even more is quality medical care, which is something that can be gleamed easily by reading online reviews. Small businesses that have many reviews, and a high star rating to go with, will benefit from higher rankings, and thus more exposure on Google.
- Include information on your website about the locations you serve. Instead of targeting broad locations, focus on less competitive areas and neighborhoods.
- Focus on your mobile site. If your website is not mobile-friendly, it needs to be! People are increasingly searching on their mobile devices, so your website must be (a) mobile-friendly and (b) deliver a great user experience. This will play a big role in your SEO efforts.
“Near me” searches are not slowing down, but the real takeaway is that we live in a mobile age, wherein we demand instant answers to all our questions.
A recent article on millennials at salesforce.com referred to them as the Convenience Generation. Perhaps it’s just me – and it wasn’t the apparent intent of the author — but that moniker seems to have a negative connotation, like millennials can’t be bothered to drive to a store, make a telephone call or get off the couch to change the channel.
Consumer-facing companies are at a loss. The middle class, long the bread and butter of consumer companies of all kinds, is shrinking as a percentage of the population in mature markets. And in emerging markets, where many consumer companies have been laying their bets for the future, growth has started to slow.
To thrive again, companies need nuanced ways of defining a segment of consumers to focus on. Our research indicates that five questions can help point the way:
- Do they have access to the internet?
- Do they have a significant amount of discretionary income?
- Are they willing to spend a lot of their discretionary income?
- Do they prefer premium goods and services when they can afford them?
- Do they seek to be on the cutting edge of consumer trends?
Consumers who answer yes to all five questions are what we call “connected spenders.” When we look more closely, we see that almost all of them are working-age, and over 30% are 25–34 years old. They are highly urban; nearly 80% of connected spenders live in a city. In emerging markets, that number is even higher, at 90%. While connected spenders are more affluent than the average, not all are high income. And, in turn, not all affluent consumers are connected spenders. Globally, connected spenders make up about one-third of low-income populations and two-thirds of high-income ones.
Today connected spenders count for about 19% of the global population, and that is projected to grow to 37% by 2025. Cumulatively, over this decade they will spend $260 trillion — 46% of the world’s consumer spending. In markets such as the U.S., where internet access is just shy of 90%, only 36% of the population are currently connected spenders, a number that will grow to over 50% by 2025.
Connected spenders are the heaviest purchasers in categories including electronics, travel, and dining out, and they’re likely to be early adopters of new ways to buy in any category. In financial services, for instance, these ways are the newest cashless payment methods or mobile banking products. In media, they will gravitate to multiple devices and to the newest services to stream video and audio. In CPG categories, connected spenders will be drawn to “hot” concepts such as health and wellness, and offerings that combine product and experience, such as subscription services. Shopping experiences such as in-store cooking demonstrations or shopping apps to help them find and select products in more convenient ways will also appeal to them.
How should companies approach the connected spender opportunity?
First, they should recognize that people can only be connected spenders if they are connected. Mature markets already boast close to universal levels of internet access, but we estimate that 2.3 billion more consumers will come online in the next decade, almost all in emerging markets. By 2025 just three mature economies — the United States, Japan, and Germany — will feature in the top 10 countries for connected spenders. That top 10 will include Indonesia, Pakistan, and Nigeria — markets that do not get much attention from Western companies.
Companies therefore need a two-track strategy: woo the connected spenders in mature internet markets now, where they are already deeply invested, and get ready for the new connected spenders as they come online in emerging economies over the next 10 years. This approach fits the financial realities of the world’s markets. Even in 2025 the average mature-market connected spender will spend nearly $40,000 per year, 10 times what the average in an emerging market will be.
In a mature market, consumer companies must get already-connected connected spenders excited about the products and shopping experiences they offer. Connected spenders seek novelty and exciting experiences across all their consumer activities. They prefer cutting-edge products and state-of-the-art technologies. Offerings that bring an imaginative, technology-driven twist to an existing product or that solve a consumer problem with a new digital offering will open connected spenders’ wallets.
Connected spenders are a digitally oriented advertising audience. Online marketing and advertising, particularly on smartphones, will be a good investment to engage these consumers, especially with newer formats, such as online sporting events or sites that combine curated content with online shopping. Connected spenders respond to traditional advertising as well, but they are much more likely to spend time on a manufacturer’s website or to remember an internet ad. Connected spenders will watch an ad if it is educational or highly relevant. The challenge, therefore, is to increase the information-richness of advertising and the personalization of its content and delivery.
What does “getting ready” for emerging markets’ connected spenders mean? Three things:
First, make it easy for consumers to move their consumption behaviors online as access allows, by including safe and convenient access to and education about new digital goods and services. Connected spenders enjoy learning about products. Most companies know they need to make e-commerce easy. They are far less aware of how critical education is in these markets, especially for products and services whose benefits are not immediately obvious, such as insurance or organic personal care products. It may seem that making it easy for consumers to buy the goods is enough, but it isn’t. In many cases, a great deal of explaining needs to go along with access.
Second, design products and shopping experiences to align with the dominant internet access methods of each market, as in the China example above. In many emerging economies it is well-known that consumers are leapfrogging to internet access by smartphone and may never use personal computers. But what is underappreciated is that a mobile-first or mobile-only strategy will not be the same in all markets. In China, smartphones are prevalent among urban consumers and social media sites are used for everything from shopping for groceries to paying credit card bills to buying an insurance policy. In other places, such as Nigeria, traditional trade is more prevalent and smartphone use is less so. Shoppers there will be looking for text-based tools to help them pay for items in local retail stores.
The final imperative is to be flexible in prioritizing markets, because a connected spender in spirit only becomes one in practice when internet access is accompanied by the other elements needed for e-commerce to boom — including market-wide online payment infrastructure and solutions to the logistics of the “last mile.” Companies must monitor the development of communications, transport, and financial services infrastructure.
Connected spenders are naturally engaged and eager; it’s what makes them so attractive. But they are also demanding, and their expectations will need to be satisfied. They are looking for new goods and services, with the latest technology, but with tangible benefits — and they will do the work online to find the best prices. The reward for investing to meet their demand will be significant, as the total annual spending of connected spenders will rise from $15 trillion in 2015, or 35% of global consumer spending, to over half of the annual total in 2025 — $32 trillion.
Whenever we hear the word “digitalization”, we must understand that it is the sound of inevitability and irreversibility. The digital economy isn′t on the horizon anymore, it′s here and it is here to stay. It’s no longer a secret that the digital economy is changing the world at an unprecedented rate. Companies that are looking to succeed in this fast emerging new economy must transform themselves by reinventing their business models, strategies, processes, and practices, and that impacts on the roles of all of its employees, as well as bringing departments to work together, once everyone is more and more dependent of technology to function.
It’s no surprise that marketing is rapidly becoming one of the most technology-dependent functions across all businesses. Gartner has predicted that by 2017, a company’s chief marketing officer (CMO) would be spending more on technology than its CIO, and that is becoming more credible every day, as many CMOs have adopted technology in their everyday activities, showing that technology became the core of marketing nowadays. Every year, CMOs are globally directing their budgets to the usage of technology or software in many different marketing areas. The chart below shows in which areas CMOs are planning to use technology in 2017:
In addition to those numbers, IDC Research has also released a few predictions on how marketing will strategically use technology to accelerate client acquisition, brand awareness, to gather and analyze market and customer information and even to optimize its operational efficiency in order to generate more revenue for companies and be more accurate when directing resources, mainly by enhancing customer experience. Below follows a list with the main predictions from 2017 to 2020 on this subject:
1. In 2017, CMOs will spend more on content marketing assets than on product marketing assets: For decades, the product launch has reigned as the kingpin content event. With a “bill of materials” stretching through multiple Excel pages, product marketing assets suck up a major portion of the marketing budget – and much of that content is wasted. The days of product content dominance are numbered. Product content will remain important, but it will take its place behind the content marketing assets matched to decision-journey stages.
2. By 2020, 50 percent of companies will use cognitive computing to automate marketing and sales interactions with customers: A few leads go right to sales. But the majority need further qualification and extended nurturing. Companies will increasingly turn to smart systems that automatically assess and respond to buyers at the point of need. IBM recently added Watson to its marketing cloud offerings. The question is not when cognitive marketing will become mainstream – but rather, will anyone notice?
3. In 2017, 20 percent of large enterprise CMOs will consolidate their marketing technology infrastructure: Marketing has been absorbing marketing technology a bite at a time for more than a decade. Many organizations now manage dozens (if not hundreds) of point solutions. Just as marketing environments are hitting the wall of this operational complexity, marketing tech vendors are building solid integrated platforms – tailorable through a partner eco-system. A fortuitous convergence of supply and demand.
4. By 2018, predictive analytics will be a standard tool for marketers, but only a third will get optimal benefit: Early adopters of predictive analytics for buyer behavior report amazing results. The benefits come from the ability to discover hidden segments that have a high propensity to buy. Marketers can also better serve these segments with behavioral targeting. However, the majority of marketers face big challenges to achieving the benefits. Chief inhibitors? Lack of statistical skills, stubborn organizational silos that won’t integrate data, and a culture that resists truth when it goes against tradition.
5. By 2018, 50 percent of CMOs will make significant structural changes to their “intelligence” operations and organizations: “Intelligence” as a capability is growing in importance in modern marketing organizations. Intelligence includes market intelligence (MI), business intelligence (BI), competitive intelligence (CI), and social intelligence (SI). In the past, these four functions were spread around the enterprise. Now, IDC sees more companies consolidating into a larger, single, intelligence group – often combining with intelligence functions from other areas like sales. The elimination of silos in this important area is a positive sign.
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