Next gen search: listening to the voice of the customer (literally).

By Mike Grehan, CMO & Managing Director | Acronym

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We’re happy to be nominated for a voice driven submission at the OMMA awards. Here’s why.

Yes, the headline features that old chestnut regarding marketers learning more about consumer behavior by actually taking time to listen to the voice of the customer. And yet, never could that age-old little seed of wisdom be more timely for search marketers (and, for sure, search and discovery engines) than it is right now.

As search engines such as Google and Bing, and Baidu and Yandex know very well, almost all roles of the way they manage, index, and retrieve text, can be accomplished in just the same way with voice activated, natural language queries (VAQ). But hold the bus right there. Retrieval accuracy of relevant and useful-in-the-moment content for VAQs and user-system interaction still has a way to go compared to the text-based information retrieval that the major search engines use so successfully today.

The internet and the world wide web (yes, two different things) are seeing a huge shift away from the static, text based processing of information of the early era, into a rapidly emerging new era of multi-modal, multi-media technological advances.

Genetic algorithms (like those used in machine learning and AI), just as in real life, are about the survival of the fittest. And, as we move into this new era of search and search marketing, a new era of search agencies must emerge. The “next generation search agency™” (NGSA™) is a master of the craft of conventional paid search and SEO already, and now must become a veritable athlete in the way it leads the charge towards the new interface paradigm for truly interactive information retrieval based on the ultimate “spoken conversational search system.”

Having just been nominated for a prestigious MediaPost OMMA award for a submission that was all about a beta-test we did for a major retail brand, we (as Farmers Insurance might say) already “know a thing or two” about the ultimate human-machine interface of the very near future. But, being aware of the technological changes and the variations in methodology that need to occur, one thing in our industry never changes. The awards that I just referred to (OMMA – Online Marketing Media and Advertising) have been around since 2004. Look again. They’re about marketing, media and advertising. Not so much about technology. Because the end user (such a horrible metaphor that we use to describe someone interacting with us through a digital medium) is a real human being – online and off.

The very fragmented path to purchase may well be difficult to track because it’s cross-platform, cross device, but It’s still a regular consumer trying to buy stuff. And that’s why the NGSA™ needs to be the partner that can track every pinpoint to the endpoint. And that customer journey (as it’s also often known) most frequently starts with search, and frequently ends with search.

Much of the discipline’s received wisdom is undergoing reconsideration as the nature of marketing is changing. And as the nature of marketing changes, then the structures and systems of organization that were designed before the world wide web and digital marketing generally, must change too.

To be a “next generation search agency™” is to shift the focus of solving latter day barriers to Google indexing for SEO purposes and maintaining static keyword lists for latter day paid search campaigns, to understanding the consumers’ total impact on marketing strategy.

The role of a “next generation search agency™” is being defined by consumer behavior, not by the technology that executes on the delivery of advertising messages. What is commonly known as search marketing on the world wide web, will expand beyond the browser into the app economy where a new type of “suggested discovery” will occur based on digital assistant usage and behavior. As the “digital assistant” becomes the “information provider”, the industry will adapt to include content experience analysis across multiple channels and devices.

The whole field of search as part of our everyday life is so much broader. In the same way that a conventional ad agency is responsible for “creating, planning and handling advertising” then a next gen search agency™ is responsible for “creating, planning and handling search” and, ultimately, the consumer journey as such.

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