As the digital ecosystem continues to evolve, marketers must find new channels to increase revenue, drive business growth and streamline the path-to-purchase. Commercial director at Criteo, ANZ, Colin Barnard shares his thoughts on how artificial intelligence has brought voice and visual search optimisation to the forefront of the industry.
Remember when full-text search was groundbreaking? With the help of artificial intelligence (AI), visual and voice search technologies like Google Home, Siri and Alexa are now commonplace. Visual and voice search are impacting the day to day lives of consumers, so it is vital that marketers adapt to these trends to stay ahead of the curve.
According to Gartner, companies who redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will see a 30 per cent increase in ecommerce revenues by 2021. But firstly, what exactly are visual and voice search? How does AI come into play? And why are these new channels so impactful?
Creating engaging experiences
AI provides a granular understanding of each user and can predict what the user wants next. AI not only impacts the path-to-purchase but has a major impact on business applications like digital advertising. The power of AI is central to advertising platforms like Criteo. Ads can now decipher multiple information points to build increasingly personalised experiences that can be leveraged in-real time so brands can get the right products in front of the right consumers at the moments they’re most likely to buy.
AI has helped digital marketers catch up to what physical stores have offered since the beginning of time. In many ways, visual and voice search are akin to how we shop offline. When we walk into a store, we tend to look around, take everything in and if we have any questions, we ask a shop assistant. According to Microsoft, AI has improved the power of voice and speech technologies so much that it’s reportedly on par with humans, adding a whole other layer of interaction to online shopping.
However, voice and visual search are more than just the online equivalent of an eye-catching display or a helpful shop assistant. They’re entirely new ways to connect with customers and further define your brand while making the path-to-purchase simple and straightforward.
Standing out with visual search
While visual search is relatively in its infancy, there have been many new developments over the last few years. Take Pinterest, for example. In 2017, the company unveiled Pinterest Lens, a visual search tool allowing users to snap an image of something in the real world and view results in Pinterest that are related to that image. This ranges from taking a picture of a shirt and getting inspiration on how to style it or snapping a picture of an ingredient and finding recipe ideas. Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp claims that Lens “lets your eyes do the searching” which is exactly what consumers do when shopping offline.
These types of machine learning models are creating new avenues to connect with audiences in useful and meaningful ways. Visual search helps consumers in the discovery phase of their shopping journey, allowing them to find similar products based on something they’ve liked in the past. FMCG and fashion brands are likely to gain the most value out of this new medium, however they’ll need to ensure that they have a strong visual identity in place to see results. We’re only scratching the surface of what is possible in visual search, and the brands that are likely to thrive will be those that differentiate themselves in this image-saturated market.
Speaking to customers with voice search
Voice search and digital assistants are creating shopping experiences that are seamless but there’s still a way to go. In 2018, Australia had a higher adoption rate of these technologies than the US, with 29% of Australians owning a smart speaker assistant. What makes this technology so unique is that it not only allows users to search for products and services by voice but ask more abstract questions about the weather or location.
So, what is the bottom line? AI is making it much easier for brands to stay ahead of ever-evolving consumer behaviour. In order to engage with more customers in today’s digital ecosystem, it is critical that brands start considering not only how they look but also how they sound.