How Voice Search & Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Mobile Advertising

The idea of talking to computers just hasn’t been the same since Kubrick’s iconic 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Thankfully our mobile devices have much less control over our literal life than HAL 9000 did, but their increasing presence in our day-to-day is having a pretty unique effect on mobile advertising, doubly so when you look at mobile search.

When marketers talk about capturing moments through mobile advertising, we just can’t have a complete discussion anymore without bringing up the impact of voice search. More than half of teens use voice search every day, according to a Google study. The research shows that overall voice search more than doubled last year. Even adults are getting used to the idea, with more than 40 percent using it daily.

Naturally, a lot of mobile voice searches revolve around getting directions or finding movie times, but more serious prospects present themselves when you consider that mobile shopping has grown 115 percent in the past year.

The real goldmine of opportunity is that shopping on mobile devices greatly differs in function from shopping on a desktop. Our intent is high and our patience is low, and more often than not we don’t want to weed through a dozen websites to find what we’re hunting for.

That’s why Google is piloting a new tool that allows users to buy directly from an ad, removing unnecessary steps in the purchase process and focusing on product, price and shipping rather than brand. “By placing less emphasis on the retailer Google can help expand a retailer’s customer base by allowing retailers to sell products to consumers that may not know the brand or otherwise seek out the brand’s store online,” says Dynamit’s Dave Reif, an industry leader in digital marketing.

Now if you want to get serious about voice search, you have to read up on John Gagnon. His title is Bing Ads Evangelist, but I like to think of him as Bing’s version of Larry Kim with better hair and a well-fitted suit. In his recent write-up about the rise of voice search he goes into great detail about how speech input affects customer search patterns. I was lucky enough to see him speak at the Portland HeroConf and he touched on topics of search intent, keyword length, brand inclusion and more. (He also mentioned that Windows 10 will have voice search built right in to the desktop start menu, but let’s stick to mobile.)

To add another layer of complexity, things really get interesting when we consider not just voice search, but complete vocal interaction with mobile devices. Think of HAL with a bit more teenage sass and you’ve got Viv. The team working on Viv is creating an artificial intelligence system that will recreate the search process around a more fundamental version of intent, a program that writes its own code and finds its own solutions.

The advertising possibilities become as limited as the questions we ask.

Ask your phone if there’s lunchmeat at home in your fridge or if you need to stop at the store on the way home. Viv will mention that you’re out of lunchmeat, but you already have all the ingredients to make a great beef goulash from a recipe it found at Food.com. Viv would also mention your weather app sees a storm is coming in tonight, making it a perfect night for hot stew. Plug for Food.com. Less hassle shopping for you.

The idea of integrating search programs like Viv into refrigerators, cars, alarm clocks and loads more may make for a day where mobile devices aren’t even needed, we just walk around talking to all the inanimate objects in our life. Mobile advertising will just be called advertising, because we’ll never not be mobile.

Voice search introduces us to a shift in ideology. It opens up the conversation of where mobile advertising is really going when we lead consumers instead of just following them. It’s Search Engine Land’s mobile marketing v2.0, a move from simple execution to a larger take on the medium itself.

With so much change on the horizon for mobile advertising, it’s as good a time as any to step back and ask ourselves, “Just what do we think we’re doing?”

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