Forget Wimbledon. The most ferocious battle of the summer was between the world’s fastest rapper and the world’s fastest texter at our Think with Google Event last month where they competed to see if voice or text search surfaces information more quickly.

It was a colourful illustration of how voice can help consumers in their search for inspiration and information; and voice won the contest. Voice search on mobile is now becoming a cultural norm with 75% of UK consumers saying they can search more than ever thanks to the technology, and 83% saying voice search will make it easier to search.

talking shop Martijn Bertisen

But the exercise is also a reminder of just what a powerful tool search is for consumers and brands. Note that 67% of people type mobile text searches several times a day and 93% say there will be a role for both voice and text search in our daily lives in the future. Retailers can use search to help with the big challenge of integrating the online and offline worlds.

River Island used targeting technology to reach shoppers researching on their mobiles near its stores and presented them with a ‘local storefront’ page showing promotions and availability in the nearest outlets, building a bridge between searching and shopping. It was able to track the impact of digital advertising on actual store traffic, and the mobile search campaign generated an increase in store visits of 17% compared with its standard digital marketing.

Anything that can make life easier for your customers will generate more loyalty. Tesco is helping customers with specific dietary requirements by filtering their online shopping searches thanks to a partnership with Spoon Guru. Very helpful if you are gluten or lactose-intolerant.

Search also generates huge amounts of extremely useful customer data. It tells you about the wants and needs of your customers and provides signals of intent in real time. Ever more powerful data analysis tools can surface insights from where demand might be strongest for avocados to what day is most popular for picking up curry ingredients.

Eventually, smart voice assistants and ‘conversational commerce’ will play a larger role in retail as the technology and customer experience improve - trials are already under way and an early example of pioneering is a Tesco Labs initiative that allows customers to request items by voice and add them to their online grocery order.

However, right now there are countless ways, both large and small, in which search can provide a win-win for you and your customers. Devoting some time to learning how consumers are now using search will help you develop a competitive edge.

Martijn Bertisen is UK sales director at Google