Saturday, June 03, 2017

From Ask Jeeves to Siri and now Echo – The Ever-Shifting Landscape of Search

Yes, I went there! I had to go all the way back to 1998 to remind you about that weird, quirky site that introduced us all to the idea of “Search”. Way back in the less inquisitive 90’s when the insatiable thirst for instant information of encyclopedic proportions was in its infancy, Ask Jeeves was my first love.

Why, you ask? Well, as a teenager, waiting to start college, I had to keep busy, so I took up a job at a family-owned computer company and moonlighted as a computer teacher, showing my 50-something year-old uncle how to use his new super-desktop for something other than writing emails. We always ended up on Ask Jeeves when his questions stumped me or I couldn’t find the right description for a clip art or needed to find some interesting tit-bit to keep him entertained (his attention span was/is worse than mine). God bless all teachers!

But I digress…..where was I? Ah, Ask Jeeves! In 1998, Ask Jeeves was to me, what Google Search was in 2015……enter Siri, with my first iPhone (yes, I am a late, late, late adopter who did not feel the need to get out of bed at 1 am to camp out in the streets for 24hrs to buy a phone – my trusty, Blackberry worked just fine, thank you – still miss you, buddy). Since Siri, the world has now also been introduced to Echo (2016, I think) and only heaven knows what next! Well, maybe not heaven, more like Silicon Valley knows what next.

So, what has changed in the world of search? (I keep resisting the urge to write “googling” every time I use the word search). The most symbolic shift in search has been the shift to voice search driven primarily by the shift in focus to dynamic (read, mobile) search on smartphones, vs. the laptop, which itself has been as a result of the shift from laptops to smartphones, which has been a result of a shift in strategy from placing a laptop or iPad in every arm to an equally powerful smartphone in every palm (up next, the “smartthing” that fits around your middle finger – not to stop you from using it as a demonstration of frustration to the other driver, but maybe to use as a microphone when searching for your destination while navigating tourists in NYC)! Which in turn…..oh wait, never mind, I am out of which-in turns.

Ok, where was I again….yes, Siri, Echo, etc. In today’s world of digital marketing, the marketer (be it the in-house brain trust of corporations like P&G or Mars – congrats on your new jobs and job titles - or the Ad Agency smarty-pants at Ogilvy) have a new and interesting challenge. That challenge centers around how to effectively deploy the current digital marketing strategies used in computers, on voice-driven search with the same level of sophistication and measurability of effectiveness. In other words, how do you track, target, measure and interpret useful results from voice-based search advertising associated with Siri and Echo?

To get to that answer, I think there is still a lot of work to do. The voice-based search market still needs to refine the technology, for starters. Then the marketing folks and IT folks, need to get together on a retreat in the mountains somewhere to figure out how to ensure that the technology works with the natural human pattern of speech and search thought process (good luck folks, we are counting on you for this phase of the journey). Most importantly, however, is the need to understand how to embed ads, and ad metrics into the result, tracking/measurement and data analytics process. Without a mouse or mousepad to measure a click on a link, it becomes a bit fuzzier to measure click-through rates, costs-per-click or derive pay-per-click rates. How are we ever going to then determine a customer acquisition cost without knowing our marketing cost per customer (or is it cost-per-action/acquisition? I forget).

What Happens to Digital Marketing Trends in the Era of Voice Search?

While I am sure the geniuses in Silicon Valley have figured out how this is all going to play-out for the marketing and finance department at Google, Amazon (and in last place, Microsoft), my very smart professor of marketing at Columbia and his equally brilliant TA (yes, I am totally and shamelessly sucking up for grade favor here), have not imparted that secret wisdom onto me just yet. As an honorary millennial (when you have one in the family, that entitled thing eventually infects you too) I demand to be spoon-fed the answer to this conundrum about solving digital marketing trends in the era of voice search.
My sense is that the only way to track this will be through a tracking of the eventual action of the voice-behind-the-search. Did I end up ordering that pizza after I asked Siri or Echo for the nearest pizza place? If I did, then that becomes my conversion and maybe we can somehow claim a conversion rate off that process? Who knows. As I said earlier, this quasi-millennial would appreciate thoughts on this…..That’s all folks!

No comments: