VOICE – THE NEXT EVOLUTION IN SEARCH by Oliver Corbishley, Digital Executive

A key aspect of the digital age is the constant technological evolution that changes the landscape. Search is no different, with the evolution from basic query search to adaptive, intelligent search that accompanies us everywhere.

We’re moving from the handheld mobile life to a new frontier with Voice search playing a growing role in our lives. With devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home seeing adoption rates similar  to early-era smartphones, voice search usage is expanding rapidly. 55% of teens and 40% of adults in the USA already use voice search daily (Google) and 50% of all searches are expected to come from voice by 2020 (ComScore).

Consumer satisfaction with Smart Speaker devices is high, with 65% of owners not wanting to go back to life without their devices and 42% considering them “essential” (Edison). People are also surprisingly willing to purchase products through their smart speakers, with 57% having made a purchase via their smart speaker and 35% having made a purchase of over $100.

Just Eat recently ran a voucher promotion via Alexa, encouraging users to download the Just Eat Alexa skill and order via their Echo speaker by offering a discount voucher. Though outside channels are currently required to spread awareness of this promotion it shows an early indication of how Brands can adapt to voice search technology.

Despite speculation, Amazon denies plans to add advertising to Alexa devices and we still don’t have indications from either Amazon or Google of how advertising will manifest on their Smart Speakers. One possible path would see advertisers pay for higher placement in search results, similar to how paid search works on Google. This path has issues for Amazon who want to see the Echo and Alexa driving product sales through their store. The fear is that replacing smart recommendations and past purchases with paid ads could annoy consumers and turn them off from their Smart Speaker

Businesses need to be thinking about how customers’ new relationship with voice search will impact on their digital strategies. While playing music and checking the weather are the most common regular uses for voice search, 52% use their Smart Speakers to ask general questions. With 75% of US households projected to have a Smart Speaker by 2020, Brands need to be prepared for a world were voice is the default medium for search.