Voice search is undeniably changing the very way in which we use our devices. Despite being less than a decade old, we’ve already adopted voice recognition and its search capabilities as an essential technology. According to Google, at least 20% of all mobile search is now done using voice commands. The rise of voice search will have implications beyond convenience, both for consumers and marketers alike. In this multi-part series, I will explore why voice is the way forward for search, the impact that voice search will have on everyone’s lives and just how those changes will affect companies and people alike.
The state of play
There is always new technology being touted as the next big thing. However, I have never been more excited than I am with the developments of voice recognition technology and its impact. I believe that not only how we interact with search engines will fundamentally change but also how voice assistants will make everyone’s lives more convenient, whether they want it or not. I predict we will see much higher adoption rates in the voice assistant market in 2018 and by 2020, voice assistants will be the primary way we retrieve answers from the internet, control our home, monitor our health and shop online.
With Google Assistant, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Amazon Alexa; there is an abundance of competitors. As each brand wants to lead (read: dominate) the market, most seem to be playing nice by developing inter-platform compatibility. For example, I can use Cortana on my iPhone and Alexa on an Android device. I would be lying if I said I had rigorously tested all voice assistants, but my experiences with Google Assistant and Siri to date have been positive. Despite the current limitations, I can see myself investing in a Smart Speaker for my home and Smart Headphones for when I’m out and about; however, using these two connected devices will limit the amount of time I visually interact with traditional SERPs. It will be interesting to see just how search engines (Google and Bing) monetise this change in behaviour.
What’s in it for me?
As a user, I can see many benefits of using voice search over traditional SERPs. It’s obvious – voice search is simply more convenient; I can comfortably control my music in the gym or check when the next bus arrives without having to dig into my pocket and hunch over my device, wasting precious seconds and risking multiple typos. In five years’ time, I envisage my daughter sitting next to a Smart Speaker and being given answers to her math’s homework. Take solace, it won’t just be one question and one answer, it will be a fully-fledged conversation guiding her through a whole lesson, explaining the actual concepts and steps.
However, I don’t believe the technology is quite there yet. The experience I’ve had with our office Google Home is okay (just okay) as it’s comfortable giving us a synopsis on the new Thor film or telling us tomorrow’s weather, however when queried with something more complex, our assistant generally struggles. This could be down to the set-up, but hopefully, towards the end of 2018, we will be seeing much more accuracy and the seamless recognition of multiple voices. By 2020 – we will start thinking of our voice assistant as a reliable extension of the family.
What will the search engines do?
We’re all keen to understand exactly how Bing and Google will respond to Amazon’s head start with the Alexa voice assistant and Echo devices proving popular in the United States and Europe, as Amazon begin to cement their presence in Australia.
Having already established a vision for how it sees its customers utilising their ecosystem from grocery shopping to everyday household items, Amazon has carved an area in the market for low effort purchases that we can’t live without. The challenge for Google and Bing is how exactly they are going to monetise voice search as users shift away from their screens and begin using voice assistants to buy a pair of jeans with their weekly grocery order. Perhaps their approach will involve driving more customers into brick and mortar stores?
In Part II of my voice search series, I will revisit what this means for Google and Bing. However, I’m certain voice search is here to stay and will only become more integral in our everyday lives.
Author: Daniel Tobin, National Experience Director