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The new age of search: Beyond keywords, search trends you need to know about

Yext’s latest food for thought evening was all about questions – not just asking them, but analysing how the way we ask them, and the platforms we ask them on, is changing the way we live, the world we live in and even who we think we are.

The Food for Thought event, organised by Yext, at Tramshed in Shoreditch explored how search has moved from blue links to to answers, from keywords to questions; and whether brands are ready for this new consumer journey.

However, the first question on everyone’s lips upon entering Mark Hix’s wonderfully eccentric Cow and Chicken restaurant was “why is there a giant cow and chicken in formaldehyde hanging above us”?

As Jon Buss, managing director of Yext joked, he hoped it wouldn’t remain the cow and chicken in the room. But he didn’t need to worry, once the speakers hit the stage and the event got to the meat of the evening, the insights being delivered were far from poultry.

Voice search will make search more competitive

Search is a fundamental element to any marketing plan, and every marketer wants to know its future. Buss began by saying that the changing consumer behaviours when it comes to search, and the way they are asking the questions means that search is so much more than just keywords. The opportunity is clear: as a brand, you need to understand the questions that your customers will ask.

Buss’ talk focussed on the shift in customer journey when it comes to search.

Some of the top takeaways from his talk are as follows:

We are witnessing an unprecedented change in consumer behaviour, not just with the rise of mobile, but also with voice-based technologies. Consumers are discovering businesses and making purchasing decisions on the go, so it’s critical that businesses manage their online information everywhere consumers are searching.

Yext research shows that over the past six years, the ratio of links to answers has shifted in favor of answers across the three major intelligent services: search, voice, and chat. Now up to 80% of voice assistants’ responses come in the form of answers.

If a brand is not discoverable to people using voice search then they miss out on a huge opportunity. Equally, if the brand is discovered but the information shared in the voice result is incorrect then a bad customer experience is provided.

In the face of the challenge, comes the opportunity for businesses to take control of their facts online by delivering brand verified answers straight from the source – wherever consumers are searching. Yext, the Search Experience Cloud company, exists to help brands regain and maintain a direct relationship with their customers. “If you as a business can’t provide the answers, then someone else will. But you have to structure your business and your platforms to deliver this information in the right way,” he concluded.  

Big Data and the search for consumer identity

The next big question, which was around big data, was posited by Timandra Harkness – comedian, journalist, author, presenter and all-round brilliant thinker – and moved the evening into a more philosophical landscape.

The author of the book titled ‘Big Data: Does size matter?’ says the answer to this question is :“yes it does, but as always, it’s also what you do with it.” Mega data has led to scientific and social achievements that would have been impossible just a few years ago, but “are we being bamboozled by mega data's size, its speed, and its shiny technology?” she asks.

And it’s the use of big data that is changing the concept of who we think we are. “In general terms, we are moving into the “personalised century” and ‘out of the mass’ century.” She went to explain that as consumers we are continuing to search for our own private news and entertainment channels, and do not want to be part of a faceless mass.

But the real question to ask perhaps is: Are you a data point or a human being? 

Harkness went on to conclude that we are only just starting to realise how putting together quite innocuous databases can give us a much bigger picture. The fact that you can put together disparate information and get really useful results is one of big data's great strengths. 

Download the latest whitepaper published by Yext: 'The Customer Journey Starts With a Question.' 

Visit yext.co.uk to find out more about how companies like Tesco, Marriott, Jaguar-Land Rover and thousands of businesses around the world use Yext to take back control of the customer journey, starting on their own website.

Listen to our Drumcast in partnership with Yext and Diageo: 'Search: the new customer journey'.

Featured by The Drum

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