BBC Good Food, the Immediate Media publishing brand, has moved from seeing voice as a risk to be mitigated to an opportunity to be exploited.

Voice search is on the increase and four in ten smart speaker owners keep the device in the kitchen: “It is not a direction of travel we could choose to ignore,” Hannah Williams, BBC Good Food’s Head of Digital Content, told the recent Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin.

As the UK’s leading food media brand, with 25 million monthly unique visitors and nearly two million followers on social media, it seemed reasonable to suppose that those online users – as well as readers of its print title and visitors to its live events – would be interested in cooking a BBC Good Food recipe with the help of an audio assistant.

“Who hasn’t wanted to cook hands-free when they have been elbow-deep in cake mix?” asked Williams.

“The potential pain points were endless, [and] rationalising them down pretty much impossible,” said Williams. “So we quickly decided to give people something to play with, for our cooks in the kitchen to feed back on.”

A small team was assembled to create a “quick and dirty” two-stage Alexa skill to enable consumers to search its archive of 12,000 recipes, filtering by ingredient and preferences including how long it takes to cook the meal.

User feedback revealed key areas for improvement, the first of which was to let the questions work hard. (For more, read WARC’s report: BBC Good Food’s ‘quick and dirty’ approach to voice technology delivered results.)

Users can become annoyed and frustrated if faced with a “barrage” of questions from the voice assistant, so BBC Good Food had to enable complex conversational commands with filtering criteria baked in.

Other necessary steps included structuring the content and limiting the opportunity for error.

While the publisher is not selling any ads through its Alexa skill, its commercial team does offer “value-add” packages which include voice activity alongside print, web, app and social inventory.

Food and drinks brands are able to speak to consumers “in a completely new way”, and at a moment of high engagement, said Williams.

Further commercial integration opportunities being explored include shoppable recipes and exclusive brand content for subscribers – ideas which have emerged as a result of its experimentation with the platform.

Sourced from WARC