Visual Search Vs. Voice Search — What Brands Need To Know

Over the past few years, the consumer tech industry has been laying the groundwork for voice and visual search. The ongoing proliferation of voice-activated smart speakers and the rising usage of voice assistants on mobile are already introducing the masses to the hands-free convenience of voice search, whereas the gradual rollout of several visual search tools such as Pinterest Lens and Google Lens will soon make visual search a common reality.

Together, these two emerging forms of search will soon revolutionize the way that people look for information, conduct pre-purchase researches, and discover new products and services. To help brand marketers prepare for the impending changes, here is an in-depth breakdown of the disparate characteristics, advantages, and use cases of the two, along with some actionable takeaways for brands.

News Analysis

Facebook Announces New Standalone “Oculus Go” VR Headset & “Venues” Social VR Feature [link]

This new Oculus headset comes at a $199, making it a rather affordable alternative to all the other VR head-mounted displays (HMDs) in market at the moment. Being a standalone device means that it doesn’t require setting it up with a PC or smartphone, and there is no need for external motion sensors too since all the head-tracking sensors are already built in. All these factors may contribute to a promising push among a wider range of consumers who have been holding out on purchasing a VR headset due to cost or convenience.

In addition, Facebook also introduced a new social VR app called “Venues” that it plans to launch next year, which will let users watch concerts, movies, or sports events live together with thousands of other Facebook VR users. While there is currently unclear how much interactions there will be among the users, this app will presumably present an additional media opportunity for brands that are either sponsoring those live events or buying display ads at event. Brands may even be able to leverage it to host their own virtual live event.

As VR headsets become cheaper and more user-friendly, coupled with the continuing diversification of VR content outside gaming, VR adoption may soon be picking up the pace. For brands, now is the perfect time to figure out a VR strategy to get ahead of the curve and start creating 3D virtual assets that are ready for VR deployment.

Related: Facebook debuts $900 Oculus for Business bundle for commercial VR usage [link]; Facebook drops Oculus Rift’s price with bundled Touch controllers to $399 [link];

Sony is updating the design of the PlayStation VR headset, with integrated headphones and HDR passthrough support [link]; Microsoft announced the acquisition of social VR startup AltspaceVR [link]

Target Rolls Out Voice Shopping Nationwide With Google Assistant [link]

Following Walmart’s move to roll out voice shopping on Google Express and allowing users to make orders via voice command, Target is joining forces with Google to jump into this emerging shopping channel. At the moment, Amazon benefits from its ecommerce and logistical prowess to supercharge voice shopping on Alexa while Google focuses on source variety by teaming up with multiple retailers. Beyond Walmart and Target, Google also lists Costco, Kohl’s, and Ulta as retail partners for the Google Express shopping platform on its website. And as more and more retailers rally around Google in order to compete against Amazon and its Alexa-powered voice shopping feature, we anticipate this holiday season to be an interesting one to watch for voice shopping. And retailers enter voice shopping, brands that typically rely on those retailers as main distribution channels will need to figure out how to ensure the discovery of their products in voice shopping.

Related: Panera Bread starts accepting voice ordering via Google Assistant [link]; Walmart to launch Mobile Express Returns in November for expedited returns [link]; Shake Shack tests self-serve kiosk for ordering, plans to transition human cashiers into “hospitality champs” [link]

Snapchat Debuts Context Cards, Which Add Contextual Information To Geotagged Snaps [link]

As we pointed out in our appraisal of visual culture 2.0, interactivity is becoming increasingly important to our heavily visual-based personal media consumption. While this is usually achieved through mobile AR, this new Snapchat feature is also doubling down on this trend by allowing users to further engage with the Snaps they see without leaving the app. Moreover, it is a promising addition to Snapchat’s arsenal of location marketing tools, enabling businesses to serve up easily accessible information to Snapchat users via user-generated content. At the moment it only works with the generic geotagging frame, but it is not hard to see how Snapchat could add this feature to the existing sponsored Geofilters as a customizable space for advertisers to deliver additional information and content to drive conversion. If you want to reach an audience outside the Snapchat demographic, then mobile AR is still your best bet to sprinkle some interactivity to branded content.

Related: Burberry taps ARKit to engage iPhone users [link]; Kate Spade partners with a tour guide app to create a “Joy Walks” AR experience that leads users throughout Paris and ends up at its new flagship store [link]; Tim Cook talks about AR’s important role in fashion and shopping with Vogue [link]; WeChat is quietly developing its own AR platform [link]

Mattel Scraps Plans For Launching Aristotle, A Smart Speaker For Kids, Citing Privacy Concerns [link]

This announcement presents an intriguing case for examining the delicate balance of consumer trust and privacy with the rise of connected home devices. With more and more early-adopting brands rushing into the voice-activated space to explore new conversational interfaces and establish a new digital touchpoint, they are also setting up a new data-collection channel that will help them learn more about their customers. The pushback that Mattel has received since the project was announced, however, reveals a deep concern and mistrust among consumers towards some of these data-collecting practices, which was especially amplified in Mattel’s case given the kid-oriented nature of the device.

Of course, Mattel could have gone the extra miles to ensure the security of the data it collects and assure consumers of their data privacy, or perhaps even drop some of the overtly commercial features such as reordering baby products based on past purchases to ease people’s mind. But ultimately, it wouldn’t have mattered because for this device to work and work well, Mattel simply needs to collect user data in order to learn user preferences and improve the performance of its custom voice assistant, or else the device would fail to deliver a good user experience.

While most people have no qualms about sharing their personal data with tech companies like Google and Amazon that have, for the most part, earned consumer trust, they simply have more reservations on giving up their data when it comes to a traditional CPG company like Mattel, who has yet to prove their technical know-hows or earn enough capital in consumer trust to make something like Aristotle work. This is why we recommend most brands stick to developing third-party voice experience and leverage those leading voice platforms to engage with customers at scale.

Related: Google Home Mimi permanently remove top touch functionality that led to constant recording [link]; Alexa can now recognize different voices to offer personalized responses for household use [link]; The Washington Capitals have become the first professional sports team to launch an Alexa skill to engage fans [link]

Stats To Know:

Over 60 million people in the U.S. (about 20% of the population) will use voice-enabled assistants on a monthly basis this year, according to a new eMarketer report. However, brands will need to work harder to craft engaging voice experiences to serve customers via voice assistants, as the report also found that most of the skills and apps for smart speakers downloaded by consumers are not used again after two weeks.

Lyft reports it has delivered 500 million rides, a milestone that speaks to the company’s quickened growth this year. While it pales in comparison against the over 5 billion rides that Uber has delivered globally, it is still significant given that Lyft currently operates only in the U.S.

Date: October 13, 2017