Search marketing has proved to be very effective for brands, which spend more than $100bn a year here, but they need to rethink how they deploy search spend and how they can use it across the path to purchase, a WARC report suggests.

The search landscape is facing its biggest changes in 25 years as marketers start to appreciate that its role is not limited to direct response but can also play a valuable role in delivering brand experience and inspiration.

Additionally, technological developments mean that voice and visual search are growing in importance, aided by the prevailing smartphone culture. (For more, read the WARC Marketer’s Toolkit chapter: The diversification of search.)

And with half of all product searches in the US starting on Amazon, it would be wrong to assume that the future of search is whatever Google, Bing, Baidu et al decide it will be.

Amazon is now a lifestyle platform beyond pure e-commerce, the report notes, engraining itself in people’s lives through Amazon Prime subscriptions, interactions with its Kindle e-reader and, more recently, its range of Echo voice-activated speakers.

Search has been a key application of voice to date. Less than half of marketers are currently prepared for applications of voice, according to in the Marketer’s Toolkit survey, but brands are preparing for an environment in which voice will play an increasing role in shaping how consumers discover products and services.

“While voice-enabled content and advertising are considered lower priorities for now, marketers are ensuring that their digital platforms are optimised to the needs of voice assistants,” the report says.

At the same time, visual search sits well within an increasingly visual culture: in the UK, just over half of 18-34 year olds have carried out a visual search, and in the US three quarters of internet users “regularly or always” search for visual content before making a purchase, according to eMarketer.

Brands not only need to look beyond Google’s supremacy of search marketing and consider a broader mix of search partners, they also need to ensure that digital assets are optimised for voice and visual search.

And with the growth in the use of “natural” language by AI, new search opportunities are opening up for brands that can adopt the right linguistic tone to rise of the top of voice search rankings.

Sourced from WARC