Humans have been working to automate tasks since the days of Henry Ford. Sometimes, this means coming up with faster, more cost-effective ways to develop automobiles and other products or streamlining operations and reducing the need for manual labor in various manufacturing settings. Other times, it’s spurred by the rampant development of increasingly complex technology to create and distribute content. Regardless, the quest for new ways of getting work done without human intervention is ongoing.
The use of technology for content creation and dissemination is just one more example. It’s an area that is seeing increasing interest from developers and users alike.
Potential vs. Progress
Today’s virtual assistant (VA) technology—think Alexa or Siri—has the power to do some pretty amazing things. What may be even more amazing is how few people are actually using VAs to do amazing things that can help them expedite work processes, save time, and produce more.
In fact, according to research from Clutch, more people are primarily using VAs to play music or to set alarms and reminders than are using these tools to perform specific tasks. You may be one of them. Clutch’s research also unearthed some interesting implications for voice search. According to the company, “This shift in search behavior puts the onus on businesses to adjust their content marketing and SEO strategies.” Specifically, per Clutch’s research, this means optimizing for user intent—content needs to “respond to the conversational context people have when they ask their virtual assistant a question.”
The Demographics of VAs
Another report, this one from inRiver, took a look at generational differences in consumer shopping habits, through a survey of 4,000 U.S. consumers. It found that 53% of shoppers are most likely to search Amazon first when looking for a product. However, there’s generational variation, as the most likely age group to search Amazon first is 65-plus. The youngest generation surveyed—those 16–24—are the least likely to use Amazon first. Here’s another interesting finding: The likelihood of using a VA to purchase a product increases exponentially as shopper age decreases; 57% of those 26–24 say they are likely to buy via voice, compared to 37% across all age groups.
In addition to age, independence may also spur the exploration of VA technology. Those who are part of the gig economy are eagerly exploring the possibilities.
Nooria Khan, a content and social media marketing executive at GigWorker, a media outlet focused on the gig economy, is an early adopter of VAs to aid in her content work. She points to three primary ways she uses this technology:
- Outsourcing email marketing tasks to a “virtual guru” that helps her prioritize important emails, reach out to potential clients, and boost her productivity
- Helping to regularly post on social media and find good third-party content to share; this, she says, has resulted in greater website traffic and a good online reputation
- Monitoring the market to keep an eye on trends, forums, technology, and new sites through multiple alerts that she has set up
Khan says that tech-enabled VAs are part of her daily routine and have helped her to boost her overall productivity. She points to online VA companies such as Belay, zirtual, and timeetc as examples of tools that can help content marketers administer and organize their tasks.
Amelia Roberts is a marketing and visibility expert with Solutions by Amelia. “As a content marketer, I have used VAs to transcribe podcasts and turn them into blog and social media posts,” she says. Roberts has used bots to set up and distribute content through action phrases and email sequences and has updated email collection forms for GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliance, as well as to transfer a website from WordPress to Squarespace.
In addition to the potential use of VA technology for content creation and various content marketing-related tasks, there are broader marketing-related uses being pursued. As an article on CustomerThink points out, data scientists are exploring ways to automate:
- Improving customer understanding of products and services
- Improving customer experiences
- Acquiring customers
- Market research
- Selling products and services
- Improving direct marketing programs
The potential for more widespread adoption is there. But the technology isn’t quite up to par, at least not yet. While gadgets such as Alexa and Siri are prompting a growing awareness of the potential for voice-activated bots to perform a variety of tasks, as with the pursuit of technology to make the dream of driverless cars a reality, some glitches remain.
Implications for Voice Search
The use of VAs relies on voice-activated technology. Brands that can master natural language processing, according to inRiver’s report, will be the ones that are most likely to dominate the market. According to an article in Speech Technology, “As the velocity of the consumer expectation for frictionless purchasing continues to pick up, conversational AI approaches will naturally expand to the new model of voice-activated intelligence.” That, of course, will require that the technology can understand the nuances and context in users’ language.
“Speech during a conversation does not translate exactly to an easy-to-read post,” says Roberts. Humans are still needed in the process, she says, to “make a natural-sounding blog post.” Also, she notes, adding H1 and H2 headlines requires the human touch. Roberts continues, “A human eye can recognize thought patterns that should be broken up and highlighted along with relevant search phrases for SEO.”
Roberts sees potential for AI that can write email copy that doesn’t need to be edited and would trigger a nurture sequence. Compliance is another area of potential opportunity, she says. “I have not seen AI that will automatically recognize and correct website compliance issues.”
Still, there’s a lot of interest in this space and a wide range of companies pursuing its potential. Khan points to research from Value Walk, which indicates that growth in voice technology is expected to reach $15.79 billion by 2021. Both users and tech developers are seeing the massive potential that exists in this area.