Q&A: Kevin Bobowski on AI and Voice Search in Marketing

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When BrightEdge issued its “2018 Future of Marketing and AI Survey” AI and voice search emerged as topics weighing on the minds of marketers. Yes, as voice-activated devices—whether it’s your smartphone or one of the growing number of Amazon Echo devices—grow in popularity, marketers are thinking more about how to reach their audiences through these channels. Speech Technology had the chance to ask Kevin Bobowski, SVP of Marketing with BrightEdge, about the report’s findings, and what they mean.

Q: Your research says 31% of digital marketers see voice search as “the next big thing” in marketing. I'm a little surprised by how low that number is considering the popularity of smart speakers. Are 69% of marketers not taking voice search seriously?

A: Our survey sample included marketers from a variety of industries in both B2C and B2B. While the rapid pace of smart speaker adoption is undeniable, voice technology is still in its infancy. And voice search will impact different industries at different times. For a globally distributed ecommerce or retail business with brick-and-mortar outlets across various geographical region, the impact of voice search will be felt sooner and that is why retailers are targeting optimization for “[product] near me”-style voice queries.

Q: Why is voice search still a relatively low priority (at least in comparison to the 60% of digital marketers who are likely to incorporate AI into their marketing strategies)?

A: Voice search is still in its infancy. Most marketers recognize the power and potential of voice search and many see AI as a way to be discoverable for voice search moments. We believe that marketers have the sequence correct – adopting AI to understand their customers relevant moments and using AI to help their brands be discoverable when consumers use voice search to seek information. Also, AI has broad applications beyond just voice search. Digital, SEO, and content all increase in scope and level of competition with scale. Also, the core elements of search marketing, such as the search engine results page and the various search engines’ ranking algorithms, now change and evolve on a virtually real-time basis. It is rapidly becoming unfeasible for digital marketers to keep abreast of these changes and adapt to them without that process being mediated through an AI or machine-learning layer.

Q: Do these marketers see AI and voice as working together?

A: Yes. Data and relevant insights allow marketers to win the voice search moments. And AI is critical to identify those relevant insights and relent moments

Q: What are those 30% of marketers doing to prepare for voice search?

A: First, marketers are identifying the “relevant voice search moments” that they need to own as a brand. Secondly, those marketers are building specific content for those very specific relevant moments so that their brands are discoverable by consumers.

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