Preparing Retail Brands for the Rise of Visual & Voice Search – A PPC Perspective

December 4, 2019

Visual & voice search are becoming more prevalent in the digital industry overall – but where do these emerging technologies sit when focusing on the retail industry? When we think of retail, we know its very image-centric, so logically visual search should be the key focus for future strategy. Image recognition technology is set to be worth $78 billion by 2025. This is extremely relevant for the visually focused retail industry & something we should be preparing brands for.

With the rise of voice assistants, voice search is being hailed everywhere as the “next big thing”, and it’s very easy for marketeers to get caught up in this hype. However, more recent statistics are showing that voice search isn’t quite hitting the ground running as earlier predictions suggested – we’re not about to be hitting the popularised statistic of “50% of all searches will be carried out using voice by 2020” for example. Having said this, voice search, while more limited for the retail sector, is still on the rise along with visual search & it’s time for PPC (and digital) experts to take notice.

We’ll start with visual search. Visual search offers a convenient alternative to text-based search, whereby the audience search with an image to get results.  Using AI-powered technology, images are analysed and objects within the image are contextualised, identified and a visual result of related items is produced.

While visual search hasn’t hit the paid search scene just yet, it’s still important that brands are aware of this emerging technology & for PPC experts to keep on top of what advertising search platforms are doing as well.

Pinterest are at the Forefront of Visual Search, how is Google Keeping Up?

With more than 600 million monthly searches reported using their Lens technology, Pinterest are at the forefront of visual search technology.  70% of people on Pinterest are looking to find new products, presenting an exciting opportunity for retailers – particularly the home décor and fashion sector.

It looks like Google has taken notice of this, and in a bid to improve the consumer shopping experience, they’ve updated their own visual imagery product – Google Lens. Google Lens is currently an option for the Google Image search results & can already identify products & discover similar products. It’s now able to pull similar style ideas from across the internet (currently only available in the US). This is set to rival Pinterest in the race to become the biggest visual search platform.

Get Your Brand Ready for Visual Search

As consumer demand to make fast, simple purchases is on the rise and other platforms such as Bing, Amazon and Snapchat are also making rapid growth in visual recognition, it is important for brands to prepare for what’s ahead:

  • Drive consumer engagement with high quality creative and multiple angles of each product.
  • Ensure the site is easily crawlable by improving SEO for images, aligning to best practices.
  • Improve image search inventory – currently only 8% of brands offer image search capabilities.
  • Diversify the strategy: Advertise on Pinterest and have products appear on the largest and most advanced visual search platform.

We’ll move on to voice search. Voice search is essentially what it says on the tin: people using speech for queries rather than typing them out.

It’s important to understand that while voice is growing, effectiveness for retail is still lacking. However, there’s some things that can be done to make sure we’re prepared. We should recognise where differences between text & voice search have an impact on paid search performance & then establish a strategy to capture any potential gains from voice search.

Key differences between voice & text:

  • Voice search, being conversational, is longer tail.
    • 2 words are used on average with voice search compared with 3.2 on text-based search.
  • Voice searches are increasingly more local.
    • “Near Me” searches that contain variants of “Can I buy/to buy” have risen 500% in the last two years.

Based off the above key differences, we’d look to update strategy in the following areas:

  • Add new segmentations to SQR based on intent: Voice search is conversational, there’ll be higher-intent searches such as “near me”/”want X now”, but there’ll be more research-phase searches such as “why is”/”what is”, so it may be a good idea to prioritise more valuable searches based on KPIs.
  • Use negative keywords to take back control: Off the back of number 1, if some searches are irrelevant to your strategy, it may be worth negating searches.
  • Leverage DSAs to capture long tail queries – It’s best practice to set up DSA for long-tail searches for text search & it’s no different for voice search! The addition of DSA activity will not only help capture missed searches relevant to your website, it will be massively helpful on a campaign management perspective as well, meaning you can optimize and scale with ease.
  • Capture the local intent: 40% of mobile searches on Google are for local information, so adding both call and location extensions provides highly relevant information for users on the go. Measure store visits & investigate the store-strategy products google have on offer, such as local campaigns. It might be worth setting up a strategy simply for store visits if there are enough queries to warrant this.

To summarize, it’s now time to look at the search space beyond traditional methods. As technology advances & consumers continue to look for the most efficient purchasing solutions, it’s important to prepare as much as possible and update strategy to keep up. For the retail industry, we would recommend prioritizing planning for the rise in visual search over voice search as there’s far more opportunity to capitalize here. There’s no better time to do this than when these search methods are in their infancy, as it’s a clear window of opportunity to get ahead of other advertisers. 






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