Voice search – who is using it, for what, and who are the big players?

by Colm Hebblethwaite

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First thing in the morning, last thing at night and even during heated office debates – it seems like everybody’s at it… voice search, that is.
Nowadays, many of our homes contain voice-search enabled smartphones or virtual assistants ready and waiting for our questions. It has already revolutionised the way that we look for information, despite being less than a decade old and looks set to become a leading way of searching over the coming years.
In the first post in this series, we looked at why the rise of voice searches could force us to rethink how we approach content marketing content. But let’s take a step back from the world of marketing for a second and jump back into the real world, where everyday people are using voice search for the most everyday reasons.
Who is actually using voice search and what for? And who are the big players pushing the technology forward and bringing it into our homes?

The draw of voice search

Firstly it’s important to understand why people are so drawn to voice search. Two main factors play into this.

  1. It’s convenient. If you’re driving, cooking, playing music (or just can’t be bothered to move), you can find the information you need without needing to stop what you’re doing. All you need to do is voice your question to the nearest voice-search enabled device. And from a content marketing perspective, if it’s easy, even the laziest of searchers might stumble across our content if we make it voice-search friendly.
  2. It’s accessible. For visually or physically impaired users, curious young children, and the computer illiterate, voice search opens up the endless possibilities of the internet. It’s also better for use in sterile environments, like laboratories or medical area, where the whole process of a manual search would be a nightmare.

People use voice search for everything, from directions home after taking a wrong turn to finding out the weather for the day ahead while they’re still wet from the shower.

Who is using voice search?

As the technology is new, the research surrounding its users is limited. However, Forbes discovered that around 53% of those who own a smart speaker in the US are between 18 and 36, showing that the technology is most popular amongst younger generations.
According to new research, more than 25% of voice assistant users have purchased everyday household items through their devices. Because, let’s face it, yelling ‘ALEXA BUY MORE TOILET PAPER’ in post-pee ire is more convenient than lugging 18 bulky loo rolls home. 11% of voice searchers have even bought a holiday using just their voice.
It’s also telling that just 25 keywords, including how, what and best, account for more than 20% of voice searches. This indicates that voice searchers tend to use conversational questions when searching, rather than just shoving key words together.

Voice Search’s pioneers

Apple, Google and Amazon have emerged as the front runners in the voice-interface world, with their respective Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa voice search features.
By focusing time and money on voice search before it was familiar, these companies are now reaping the benefits of its growing popularity. They’re the gatekeepers of information and if we want content to be found, we need to understand how users are using their search features. So, back to content marketing-land we go.

Impact on brands

Like the tech companies that got in on voice search early, brands that optimise their content and websites for voice search are predicted to reap the benefits soon. Gartner has suggested that early adopter brands which re-engineer their website and digital touchpoints to support visual and voice will see digital commerce revenues rise 30% by 2021. Whatever sector you are in, word of mouth goes far when it comes to winning new clients. With voice-based search, our words will soon become the dominant digital touchpoint for consumer engagement.
It’s time to understand where this happens, how it works, and what you need to do to be ahead of the curve. Next time we explore the specific processes behind voice search, and what it means for your organisation.

About this series

This is the second article in our series on voice search. The full list of posts are below:

  1. What is voice search – it’s rise and importance to communications?
  2. The dimensions of voice search – where and who?
  3. How voice search works – the tech?
  4. Writing for voice search – how and what process?
  5. Voice search strategy – where it fits, now and next?

Image credit: Photo by Martin Andrle on Unsplash

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