In an article published in 2018, Gartner suggested that by 2020 voice search will be utilized to do most of the web browsing, as opposed to devices with a screen. They contemplated that the rise of audio-centric devices and technologies will increase our vocal interactions and eliminate the need to use our hands and eyes for browsing.
Well, the year is 2021, and that is very far from the truth. Yes, the rise of audio-centric technologies such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s HomePod, and others, has increased but they are far from dominating web browsing. So, what went wrong with the predictions?
Only that the timing was a little too soon. It appears that we are still in the adjustment phase, only now becoming increasingly familiar with voice search. In our ever-changing world, we will inevitably progress from web browsing as we know it today. After all, we’ve swapped home telephones for mobile phones and smartphones and emails for text messages, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we would swap ‘traditional’ web browsing for voice search one day.
How is voice search being used today?
Numerous studies indicate that voice search is predominantly utilized by Zoomers and Millennials. According to Adobe’s blog, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant currently dominate the voice assistants market, accounting for 36% of the market share. Not too far behind them is Amazon’s Alexa with a 25% market share, and then Microsoft’s Cortana at 19%.
This data shows us that voice search is still mainly used on smartphones and only gaining traction in households. Most of the voice searches on smartphones are related to checking the weather, making phone calls, and ordering or reordering products. In other words, we rarely use voice search for intricate tasks such as online searches and bill payments.
How will voice search be used in the future?
By eliminating the need to use your hands and eyes for browsing, voice search enables brands to interact with customers during activities such as driving, cooking, exercising, and many more. Not to mention that our current web platforms are already oversaturated with content, so it would be refreshing to catch a break from the constant pop-up ads.
Not that that would be the end of ads – far from it. They’d just be more interactive and fun with catchy melodies. Brands see massive potential in voice tech as it can help push their tone even further and take customer engagement to a whole new level. Especially now that the past year has shown us the importance of sound to user experience (UX).
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly accelerated the digital transformation, pushing us further towards sensory branding. For instance, Visa has spent a lot of time and effort developing its signature sound that would play at the POS (point-of-sale) transactions. Now, that sonic sound is forever etched in our memory as something that relates to Visa.
It may sound weird at first, but many brands have been doing that if you think about it. For example, as a consumer, you would know the sound of a Netflix original when it started playing without even blinking.
All this information suggests that voice-activated technologies and audio-centric devices will undoubtedly become a part of the future norm. After all, it is a far faster method of getting information when compared to typing in a search box. The issues arise when we consider all the different languages, accents, slang, and speech impediments. We want our voice search experience to be seamless, and we want to be understood on the first try. Optimizing voice search devices to understand all those issues will take time. Even the existing devices like Alexa have trouble understanding sometimes, as can be seen with the popular hashtag #alexafail.
The bottom line
“The need for vision, innovation, and transformation has never been more pronounced,” said Jennifer Polk, VP Analyst at Gartner. Over the next couple of years, we will certainly see a rise in sonic branding and voice search technologies, and eventually, they will be perfected. While it’s hard to imagine a world where 100% of the population uses voice search, it is very likely to be a healthy combination of both.