The Biggest Challenge Brands Face With Voice Search And Micro Moments

"If brands don’t get a handle on voice search now, they’re going to have big problems in the future," UM Worldwide's Joshua Lowcock tells Think With Google's Bethany Poole.

With the search query suffix “near me” pretty much baked into results Google shows its users, brands have a greater chance of capturing immediate, location-based Micro-Moments.

Plus, given that over 20 percent of searches in the Google app are now made by voice major brands need to rethink the way their advertising reaches and reflects the need to balance mass marketing and real-time personalization.

That was the point driven home during a live Facebook conversation between Joshua Lowcock, EVP and chief digital officer at UM Worldwide, and Bethany Poole, director of Think with Google, on Wednesday.

You’re The Best

As users increasingly search in online maps and review sites, as well as through their Connected Intelligence virtual assistants, the expectation is that users no longer want to sift through infinite blue links of query results. They want the a specific, relevant, personal answer.

That expectation is reflected in the fact that mobile searches using the word “best” have grown 80 percent in the past two years, Poole noted. In addition, searches for “best” have shown higher growth for lower-consideration items like toothbrushes and shower curtains versus higher-consideration products like cars.

“How does that play out with clients?” Poole asked Lowcock.

Joshua Lowcock, EVP and chief digital officer at UM Worldwide, and Bethany Poole, director of Think with Google

“There’s a real demand for authenticity and opinions and views on products on the part of consumers,” Lowcock says. “They want to understand how they’re getting value. There’s a growing skepticism about brand advertising versus general messaging. People are asking how to get to the truth, how do I get the most value and the most right product for ‘me.’

“That personalization is about ‘me’ in the moment, rather than what a brand is trying to sell me as a mass consumer,” Lowcock added.

For example, UM Worldwide client CVS is aware that when someone enters a search for the brand, they want the one that’s closest to them, not general locations of CVS’s all across America.

Voice Activation Is Now

While the rise of voice activation through connected home devices like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple’s forthcoming HomePod seems to be in the “emerging stage” in many marketers’ views, Lowcock cautions that the importance of these technologies is impacting consumer behavior now; in other words, this is not something marketers can afford to wait around for.

“I encourage everyone to get active and passionate about voice search,” Lowcock says. “The biggest challenge when it comes to voice search and Micro-Moments is that there is really one answer, one result, that a consumer is getting. If you’re not immersed in voice search, you’re going to miss out. The expectation is that we’re in the age of authenticity, assistants, and augmented reality.

“With voice search, you really have to get the answer right answer at the right time – there’s no second chance,” he added. “If someone asks, ‘What is the best toothbrush,’ you’re not going to be able to give them 400 different answers. If brands don’t get a handle on voice search now, they’re going to have big problems in the future.”

The Omnichannel Challenge

Mobile has prepared marketers in some important ways for dealing with the advent of voice activation, Lowcock said.

It’s mobile’s dual role as a media channel and a data source that has given brands and agencies a chance to reset their omnichannel strategies.

“The digital industry is obsessed with the idea that too many parts of media are full of waste,” Lowcock said. “I would say I disagree to an extent. There is value in mass-reach of audiences. It’s possible to drive intimacy and personalization into mass media moments. TV, radio, out of home can drive great mass awareness and engagement.

“Micro-Moments are about being relevant in real-time and one-to-one. All media can interact and influence each other,” Lowcock said. “It’s important to understand that. It’s not just trying to do micro moment for broadcast TV, but that you can take advantage of personalization when it comes to online video.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.