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May 13, 2016

Are Personal Assistants the Future of Mobile Marketing?

Artificially intelligent personal assistants like Siri and Cortana are increasingly revolutionizing the relationship between humans and machines. It is a new way of communicating that is highly personalized, or rather, hyper-personalized, and will offer great opportunities to mobile marketing in the near future. It is no coincidence Web giants are investing a lot in it. The increasing use of virtual assistants goes hand-in-hand with mobile: 75 percent of people always have their Smartphones at hand while 90 percent of those who have a personal assistant on their device uses it with satisfaction because it is an easy, quick and immediate way to get information.

Personal assistants in mobile marketing trends

According to experts, personal assistants are one of the trends related to mobile that marketers must keep an eye on this year. In view of their increasing use and the continuous improvement of their artificial intelligence, it is time to take action and make sure that all information related to the brand is accessible and can be recognized by these tools. They must also be optimized with respect to the questions that users may ask.

How do you do it and include these activities in mobile marketing strategies? Before finding out, here’s a brief profile of the leading virtual assistants on the market today, with their strengths and weaknesses.

Siri: Apple’s assistant that is conquering iPhone

This may not be the main reason why people decide to buy an iPhone, but it is certainly an added value: Siri is, in fact, an advanced virtual assistant designed to support structured conversations and make searches after interpreting the user’s request. Twenty-one percent of Siri-equipped iPhone owners are using it regularly, but a significant part of the audience is still to be conquered, considering that 27 percent never use this application.

Cortana: Microsoft’s artificial intelligence 

Microsoft solution’s for virtual assistance is Cortana, named after the AI from Halo, one of the most popular games on Xbox.  It was created in 2014 and works in the same way as Siri. Among its many features, Cortana can help you remember your appointments and it can respond to a variety of questions, taking into account the context and the history of questions.


Google Now: An answer before any question

As soon as the use of personal assistants started growing, Mountain View’s team didn’t just sit on its hands but, instead, launched Google Now. As the default voice assistant in Android devices, it uses the data on the user’s Smartphone such as those detected by GPS and Web searches. The aim is to provide answers even before the user asks a question. It responds to everything with a simple voice command: weather forecasts, open an app, send e-mails, or search for an address.

Facebook M: Human and machine to answer all questions

The list of the founders of virtual assistants would not be complete without the fourth pillar of the Web so, Facebook created M. Among its various features, M can book a restaurant or find a gift for a friend, suggest a movie or book or even a weekend getaway. Its key feature is combining artificial intelligence with feedback from real people. In this way, a response to any type of question – even the most unlikely or indirect ones – is guaranteed.


Why mobile marketing must consider personal assistants?

Reason # 1: Questions are localized 

Let’s start with a curious fact: do you know what people ask their virtual assistant? Anything that a human mind can think of. Twenty percent of mobile users questioned Siri and Cortana on the meaning of life while five percent asked for dating tips. Apart from these particular questions that go beyond the expected functionality of these tools, 40 percent of the questions, i.e. the majority, are about road directions.


This type of vocal search is related to the user’s location: when Siri and other personal assistants are asked questions such as “Where is the nearest pizza parlor?” or “Is there a good dentist in my area?” they look for information on search engines. Here’s the first tip that marketers must follow: make sure that you are easily found in local searches by correctly entering your address in all pages of the website (for example in the footer), on social networks and on maps, and have a good positioning strategy. Send the details of your business to Google Places, Yelp and Bing Business Places. Lastly, incentivize reviews: Siri gives priority to local businesses that are positively evaluated by users.

Reason 2: Mobile-optimized sites are 

When people ask their virtual assistant to look for something related to what your company is offering, the ideal would be the first one to come up and therefore suggested to the user. To boost your search engine ranking, you must have a website that is designed for mobile. It’s no secret that Google is awarding mobile-optimized sites, as openly declared with Mobilegeddon last April. Slow loading webpages that are difficult to navigate will be more and more penalized in search results raking, and therefore invisible to virtual assistants. However, rethinking your site in a mobile version can be time consuming and may require a lot of resources: a fast and economic solution is that of using platforms to create sites and apps. In just a few minutes, you will have a mobile website that is ready to be found.

Reason 3: SEO is no longer the same

According to a study, 12 percent of mobile searches on Google are vocal and are made through Siri, Cortana, Google Now and other virtual assistants. In terms of search, however, what you type is different from what you ask in person. For example: if you are in New York and you are looking for an ethnic restaurant nearby, you will probably type “ethnic restaurant in Manhattan” on Google. If you are using your personal assistant, you are likely to say: “Search for an ethnic restaurant near me.” Or, adapting a more conversational style, you will ask, “Do you know where I can find a good ethnic restaurant nearby?” In the latter case, the request is not just on a single keyword and it requires interpretation. Personal assistants are able to provide valid replies in both cases. Do you want to be among their answers? Rethink your keywords: add longer and more specific words (the so-called “long tail keywords”) to the short ones. Think about what your customers might ask Siri or Cortana when they are looking for something related to your business, and use these terms in your titles, descriptions and content.

Reason 4: Get ready for sponsored search

Up-to-date, sponsored search to be recommended by personal assistants is still not possible. Yet we are getting closer to this possibility. Less structured searches like “What gift can I get for my girlfriend?” which Facebook M proposes as an example of what it can answer, highlights two facts. Firstly, people will ask personal assistants questions that are more and more humanized, just like asking a relative or a friend, and expecting not just an answer but also a solution to a problem. Secondly, it opens up a great opportunity for businesses: if the user is asking for gift ideas, personal assistants could suggest a dress of a particular brand, thanks to paid sponsorship. This does not mean making results unnatural, on the contrary: by taking into account the users’ data, you can recommend a product that is closer to their tastes, their budget and is available in a store nearby. The result: users will be satisfied with their personal assistant and your brand will have more customers.

Keep your eyes open: soon this hyper-personalized opportunity will become a reality for mobile marketing.


In conclusion: give voice to your business

Mobile devices are always gathering information about their users: where they are, when and how they use their Smartphone, what they look for online, which applications they use more and so on. Personal assistants have access to these types of information and they use them to improve user experience. If you want to reach your next customer through this advanced technology, we advise you to do your best to ensure that Siri, Cortana and Co are able to find you: they will introduce you to the right people.


Silvio Porcellana is the CEO and founder of, the online tool more than 1,000 agencies and professionals use to build mobile websites and native apps for customers worldwide. From his retreat in the Monferrato Hills in North West Italy, he bootstraps companies, writes about Eeb and mobile marketing, and helps customers succeed online. Read more from Silvio at blog.