Voice search is quickly becoming one of the hottest topics in digital marketing. Savvy brands and marketers alike are investigating how voice technology might be relevant for their audiences. So, what does this mean for your brand?

Here are some trends you should consider around how your customers are engaging with voice search technology.

VOICE TECHNOLOGY IS GAINING POPULARITY

A growing range of smart devices feature AI voice assistants (such as Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, etc.) that respond to voice commands by pulling information from the internet to turn on music, make phone calls or anything else that’s device enabled.

Because the accuracy of voice search is continuously improving (with error rates dropping from 8.5% to 4.9% between July 2016 and May 2017 alone), people are slowly gaining confidence in the technology. And now almost a quarter of the US population (75.5 million people) is expected to be regularly using voice assistants by 2019 (source: eMarketer).

VOICE SEARCH BY GENERATION

Millennials make up 43.5% of the total user demographic for voice search, with this percentage expected to grow in the next few years (source: eMarketer). But they’re by no means the only ones. Older generations are also getting into this technology.

Interestingly, age is also a factor in how people use voice search. Younger users tend to shop, turn on music or make calls, whereas older users see voice technology more as a helpful source of information.

VOICE SEARCH TRENDS

In recent years, voice-enabled speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo have become synonymous with voice search. Worldwide, the number of speakers installed in homes is expected to grow from 6 million in 2016 to 59 million in 2020 (source: eMarketer). This in itself will act as a significant driver for voice search.

But speakers are not the only device to feature the technology. Watches, TVs, cars, smartphones and laptops all either come loaded or are compatible with a voice assistant. Smartphones, in particular, are used several times a week on average for voice searches, while computers have not been as successful in this area.

In all cases, voice search is used primarily for simple tasks like playing music or keeping up with news, while more complex features often go unused. However, product research and purchasing via voice search are becoming increasingly popular.

In fact, almost 50% of people now use voice search when researching products (source: Social Media Today), while a quarter of shoppers used voice assistants during the 2017 holiday season (source: CTA). And this trend is set to grow.

GOING GLOBAL

Despite being the home of Silicon Valley and a well-known hotbed of technological innovation, surprisingly, the US is not the world leader in voice search.

That title goes to China. In 2016, 63% of Chinese smartphone owners were reported to use a voice assistant (source: Kantar WorldPanel). That figure will only keep growing, thanks to the advanced range of Chinese voice-enabled speakers on the market – including Alibaba’s Tmall Genie and LingLong DingDong.

AI technology is still in its early stages, so voice search technology is currently quite language and culture specific. Since China, the US and the “big 5” European countries have seen the most development in voice technology, their uptake has understandably been higher than in other countries. However, regions like Scandinavia have seen comparatively less focus and as a result have had lower user interest in-market. In these locales, technology literally isn’t speaking the right language just yet.

That being said, efforts are underway to plug regional technical and linguistic gaps in the marketplace. Google Assistant can now understand select Hindi queries, with Russian expected to follow. As voice search technology becomes increasingly accessible, cross-border competition is expected to grow – and with it, global usage. So for future-proof success, global search strategy should take into account current and future voice search trends in international target markets.

FINAL THOUGHT

The explosive growth in voice search is certainly worthy of attention and is undoubtedly at the cutting edge of AI, technology and interconnectivity. Capitalizing on that will enable many companies to position themselves as forward thinking, increasing their competitiveness and relevance in-market.

The prevalence of voice-enabled speakers – and the opportunities they offer for a truly connected smart home – offer unprecedented access to consumer homes and habits. The two obstacles most likely to uptake in the short term are cost and security concerns. But as the cost drops and voice assistants become more embedded in consumer culture, these concerns will likely be overtaken by convenience and a desire not to be left behind.

Developing a voice search SEO content strategy will likely drive engagement not only right now among early adopters, but also among the late majority down the line who will undoubtedly take up the technology as it evolves both functionally and culturally in years to come.