How conversational searches change your search strategy

As technology becomes more intuitive, people are changing the way they interact with it. In search, we are seeing that people are beginning to use more conversational search queries, which allow them to ask more pointed, specific, and personally relevant questions about the products and services they’re interested in. This not only enables people to cut through the clutter, getting them answers quickly and efficiently, but it also gives them the confidence that they’re getting exactly what they need.

We’ve written before about a rise in searches for needs specific to an individual, or “for me” searches. What we’re describing here is searching with natural language in a manner reminiscent of asking for advice. Much like when they talk to a person, people are starting to use “I” in their searches.

In the past two years:

  1. Mobile searches for “do I need” have grown over 65%. For example, “how much do I need to retire,” “what size generator do I need,” and “how much paint do I need.”1 
  2. Mobile searches for “should I” have grown over 65%. For example, “what laptop should I buy,” “should I buy a house,” “what SPF should I use,” and “what should I have for dinner.”2 
  3. Mobile searches starting with “can I” have grown over 85%. For example, “can I use paypal on amazon,” “can I buy stamps at walmart,” and “can I buy a seat for my dog on an airplane.”3
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It’s not just a matter of “can I” or “should I.” Two years ago, people were more inclined to use simple, utilitarian search queries to find what they were looking for, typically typing in the service or product and little else. Today, in addition to those utilitarian searches, we are seeing search questions that are becoming more specific and conversational. And this is happening across a variety of categories.

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  1. Finance: From “bank account” and “open bank account online” to “what do I need to open a bank account?”
  2. Personal Care: From “best shampoo” and “[shampoo brand]” to “what shampoo should I use?”
  3. Auto: From “car brands” to “which car should I buy?”
  4. Real Estate: From “mortgage calculator” and “mortgage rates” to “can I get approved for a mortgage?”

What does it mean for marketers? Whether a person’s intent is obvious or masked behind something that seems more like seeking advice, create responses that meet nuanced customer needs.

  • Because consumers are growing more and more at ease with technology, consider using more natural language and creating intuitive experiences across all of your digital touchpoints. 
  • In search, after locking down the key words and phrases typically associated with your business, think beyond those to consider more conversational phrases that customers might be using to find you.
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