“Voice search will be the future of search!” “50% of all searches will be done with voice search by 2020!” “Game of Thrones will carry on for a 9th season!”
Okay, that last one’s just wishful thinking…
But there have certainly been some prevailing predictions about voice search that you may have heard over the last few years.
Unless you’ve got a flux capacitor to hand, obviously nobody can really know what the future holds. However, that doesn’t mean certain sweeping predictions can’t be made, especially with exciting, newish tech like voice. No matter the predictions there’s no doubt that voice search is here to stay! So let’s take at look at this latest trend in tech, to see what the future holds…
Who’s using it?
Global sales of smart speakers have continued to rise, with the market exploding last year. According to TechCrunch, nearly 41% of consumers now own a voice-activated speaker in the U.S. alone. It certainly looks like their popularity has grown in the UK too, with a YouGov poll showing ownership of smart speakers doubling in 6 months, from 2017 to 2018!
Whether it be for checking the news or dimming the lights, it seems more people are relying on popular voice devices, like Amazon’s Alexa, then ever before. The majority of voice device owners are thought to be under 35, but as technology evolves and we all age, more people will grow accustomed to using it for search. Turning voice into the new text search of the future.
Don’t people still prefer text?
Speaking of text; despite the rise in popularity of new search trends, currently, most users still prefer to search by text, whether on a mobile or other device. So, even though voice search is growing, traditional search applications still remain strong. But these search methods could soon start to slide, as voice search gets more of a footing.
It certainly seems as though we are still in a transitional adjustment phase as far as voice search is concerned. But just like how users eventually got used to text messages, as opposed to email, and mobiles as opposed to home phones etc; it’s likely voice search will follow suit.
With predictions such as 30% of searches being done screen-less by 2020, we could soon see this method become the new “norm.”
How is voice search currently being used?
Currently, most smart speakers are unsurprisingly used within the home, and any voice search on mobile devices is mainly used in the car. There are smart speaker products set to release for cars, specifically Amazon’s Echo Auto, which can connect Alexa to your car speakers via your phone.
Mobile voice search in the car is of course mainly used for aiding navigation and to initiate a call with someone verbally, which helps to improve on safety when driving. Smart speaker searches in the home are generally related to inquiring about the news or weather, playing music, or asking cooking and home improvement questions.
Even appliances within the home can now be connected to smart devices, allowing them to be operated using only voice commands. Imagine talking to your own fridge – and then it starts talking back!
What about prevalent UX problems?
We all tend to hold the same expectations with voice search devices, in that we expect a more natural flow of conversation, like we’re talking to another person. We want them to respond seamlessly and intuitively, with a more human response. Unfortunately, these expectations aren’t exactly being met at the moment.
It largely comes down to voice recognition, but even when you are understood, it still doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the response you want or need. This is because many voice commands depend on specific phrasing to activate, leaving you lost if you don’t know exactly what to say for the right result. As you consistently get the “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question” response, you can be forgiven for being turned off.
If you end up making a typo when doing a text search, then you can quickly delete and retype your query before you submit it. However, if you happen to misspeak you can’t take back the word you just got slightly wrong. Instead, you then have to frustratingly wait for the response before you can start again. This can become even more of an issue if you happen to have a speech impediment, use a lot of slang, or have a strong accent.
#alexafail is regularly trending on Twitter for a reason!
Speaking your query or command aloud is supposed to be so much faster than typing it, but currently this clearly isn’t the case. The technology is still very much in its infancy though, and these issues will likely be rectified as the technology advances, creating a better user experience.
Where’s it going?
Unlike a typical web search, which presents your results in pages, a voice search will deliver one, single definitive result, audibly. You could potentially follow up your query with subsequent searches, or carry out an action like ordering food or an Uber; but otherwise, your user journey stops there.
This could indicate that voice search will only ever be used for simple, general knowledge queries or for retrieving specific pieces of information. This could effect how brands operate, creating an almost ‘brandless’ online landscape, where people search by product instead of the label. Brands could be encouraged to shift their focus to encourage users to search specifically for their product.
If voice search is given enough time to develop properly and create a more functional system, it could evolve to understand us better. Amazon even patented technology for its Echo device that can actually analyse your voice, to determine you’re emotional state. This kind of data could allow companies to better personalise experiences in voice search, and sell advertisements based on them.
It’s clear that traditional search behaviours are steadily changing as smart personal assistants are becoming part of everyday life. Many digital marketing companies are now taking the time to adapt their business to the growing voice trend, as it becomes something beyond the perceived subplot of some science fiction film.
Any online business that’s not making considerations with voice search, could be at risk of falling behind. Before you know it, voice search and SEO might not be the next big thing of the future; it could be today’s.