Voice Search: How will international brands talk their way to success?

Voice search: how will international brands talk their way to success?

August 28, 2019 Digital channels

It’s been three years since Amazon Echo came to market. Since then, the number of ways in which consumers can talk to, question or play games with voice assistants has grown massively.

There have been numerous blogs and articles about what voice search means for marketers, but from our perspective, a key question is: what are the international implications of voice search technology?


The adoption of voice assistants is a global phenomenon

Research from Global Web Index shows a significant percentage of the world’s population is using voice assistants or smart speakers. In terms of sheers numbers, China (85.5 million users) and the US (74.2 million users) lead the way:

Currently, there are a few areas where brands are using voice technology for audience engagement:

  • Optimising existing content/websites to increase visibility in search for voice queries
  • Developing apps/skills which genuinely solve a problem or save costs for businesses
  • Creating brand value and novelty by surfing the wave of interest from early adopters


To develop voice search, brands need to grapple with a number of challenges

Audience fit

Is voice right for your brand and your audience? At this stage, data about usage patterns is not available. This is a clear difference from other online activities where it’s easy to assess search volumes and opportunities. You’ll need to get creative (and potentially take risks) by triangulating different data sources that are available – competitor activity, audience insights and search trends.


Idea generation

As the technology evolves, we are still developing our sense of how best to use voice technology and in what context. Developing ideas which enhance audience experiences of your brand will probably involve trial and error before you get it right.


Voice UX

Conversations are personal, and the meanings and inferences people attribute to spoken communication differs from written. Brands will need to exercise caution when developing voice-related content to limit frustration consumers may experience when interacting with their content. The principles of user experience are rapidly being extended to this technology, which is different to web design UX. The combination of linguistics and user experience makes this an interesting area to explore.


To answer the question we posed at the beginning: what does voice search mean for international marketers?

  • It’s not a quick win, it’s an investment for the future as the technology develops further
  • Scaling voice across languages presents similar challenges to any multilingual marketing activity
  • Whilst AI and machine learning may help in the medium or long term, in the short term there are no short-cuts
  • As ever, the need for an authentic understanding of your local audiences and linguistic correctness – with the help of Local In-Market Experts (LIMEs) – is key to international marketing success

Kezia BibbyKezia Bibby | Head of Client Services, Oban International

Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.   

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