In a voice-led world: Okay, Google, how are you changing the travel industry?

The multi-dimensional travel buying journey is gaining yet another route to market as we increasingly turn to voice search when planning, purchasing, preparing and enjoying travel.

Considering that 60% of travel searches are carried out on mobiles, it was only a matter of time before users started ditching text in favour of talk.

comScore predicts that by 2020 the majority of searches will be voice activated, which isn’t too far-fetched – considering the fact that 60% of users have only used voice for the first time in the past year, accounting for about 10% of the online population.

This is a trend fuelled by screen-free speakers such as Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Google Home.

Both are expected to reach over 30 million customers in 2017, prompting players like Kayak and Skyscanner to develop their own voice-first interfaces for travel planning.

This shift in search behaviour from short “pigeon speak” searches to longer form “conversational” queries presents significant challenges for search engines and therefore tangible opportunities for the whole travel ecosystem.

Behind this new conversational tone is real commercial intent, as the most common voice searches are done to save time. Users are looking for where to go (tourist boards/travel agents); how to get there (transport); where to stay (accommodation) and what to do (restaurants/attractions).

This typifies the new voice search landscape, as travellers have a clear idea of what they want to achieve, turning to voice commands to save time and find the nearest or most convenient way to take action.

Fortuitously for the travel industry, Google already has a deep understanding of its products, meaning that using voice search to hunt for travel can deliver a comparable experience to text search.

For travel brands the world of voice search is segregated into two clear buckets, the quantitative things that Google understands (structured data) and the qualitative things it doesn’t (unstructured content).

1. Structured Data – don’t leave Google guessing

Over the past few years all search engines have adopted a structured (semantic) vocabulary which uses a new type of HTML code (schema markup) that explicitly tells search engines about various known entities, be that a destination, hotel, departure time, price or review.

As more travel brands explicitly tell search engines about specific product and business attributes, in a format they can easily process, they are increasing their chances of being featured in voice search recommendations.

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