What Voice Search Means to the Future of Retail

Emerson Sklar Emerson Sklar
minute read
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SEO still reigns supreme, but voice adds a complex new wrinkle to the search landscape.

Did you know that there are more than 3.5 billion searches made online every day? Because of this, organizations have long placed a premium on search engine optimization (SEO). If you don’t show up for the terms your target audiences are searching for, you are missing out on a lot of potential business opportunities. As if SEO wasn’t difficult enough, voice has introduced a whole new set of challenges.

According to ComScore, 50% of all search will be conducted by voice by the year 2020. Whether we actually get to that point in the next six months is up for debate, but this underscores a massive shift in consumer behavior. While the goal of voice and text search remains the same, there is a fundamental difference in how customers approach them, and thus, in how you should approach voice search in your organization.

Even if we don’t reach the 50% number, there is no denying the massive growth in and propensity for voice search. In fact, 70% of device owners already shop by voice or expect to in the future, according to a Narvar study. If you haven’t begun to look strategically at voice search optimization yet, you’d be wise to get started. You will likely have some questions along the way, so we’ve answered three common ones that should help you along the way.

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What are people looking for when they use voice search?

While voice users aren’t making frequent purchases via their voice assistants just yet, they are using voice to help aid the shopping experience. According to BrightLocal, 58% of consumers have used voice search to find local business information in the past 12 months. Basic information like phone numbers, addresses, directions, and hours of operation are among the most common voice search topics.

In addition, a survey by Narvar found that 51% of device owners use voice to research products before buying. Online research of products was already a near universal part of the customer journey – 88 percent of US consumers research products online before buying in-store – so it is no surprise that this behavior carries over to voice. This makes it even more important for you to ensure your organization’s online information is 100% accurate for maximum visibility.

What do these voice search trends mean for retailers?

Voice search is transforming the way retailers need to think about search. If you thought competition for traditional web search was fierce, wait till you check out voice search. A typical online search yields thousands (if not millions) of relevant results, with 10 displayed per page, not counting any paid search results. This gives users a chance to evaluate options and dive deeper into the selection of their choice.

On the other hand, a typical voice search on a mobile phone will yield users three top results. A search on a voice-only device will only yield a single result. If you aren’t ranking at the very top for a query, your voice will be drowned out by the rest of the noise.

Asian Woman Makes Voice Search
A woman sitting behind her computer makes a voice search on her smart speaker.

What can I do to improve my voice search capabilities?

Building out a successful VEO (voice engine optimization) strategy is not going to be easy, but the better you understand your users, the better you can address their search needs. Voice queries are all about intent, so how well you can answer the where, when, and how questions will go a long way toward determining your search ranking. Therefore, asking and answering questions within your own content is a great opportunity to align to these voice queries.

By the same token, it is critical to be short and succinct when answering these questions in your content. No one wants to listen to a long drawn out answer or one that is too complex and sophisticated. Per Backlinko, the average voice search result is only 29 words in length and reads at a 9th grade English level.

One other important piece to note is that 40.7% of all voice search answers came from a Featured Snippet (from Google search). These snippets are currently the most direct and valuable answer to a query. While this isn’t an excuse to abandon the voice and flow of your content, it can be an effective strategic measure toward your voice search optimization.


Voice is going to be central to the omnichannel retail experience for a long time, so now is the time to ensure you have a fully baked voice solution prepared. Voice search optimization is a great place to start and can immediately begin paying dividends for you. In fact, 27% of people end up visiting the website of a local business after conducting a voice search, according to BrightLocal.

There’s no way around it, voice search isn’t just the future of retail, it’s the present. Those organizations that embrace it and find ways to optimize their content for voice search will get a leg up on the competition. What are you waiting for?

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