Why voice search is the next frontier

It's not a time to exaggerate the current capabilities of voice search, but the signs suggest its rise is inevitable.
9 November 2018

Voice search is steadily shedding its awkwardness. Source: Shutterstock

Despite passing a Mavis Beacon teaches typing course back in 1989, these skills are forgotten in a digital world. But, it’s not the mention of this old software that will enable millennials to guess my age, it’s committing the crime of one finger or thumb messaging on a smartphone in a public place.

Anyone who is the parent of a teenager is likely to have heard the words “Why can’t you use your two thumbs?” with a strong hint of disgust. Life experience teaches you that their preferred method of communicating and creating content will be confined to the history books soon enough. So, I patiently wait for my moment which is closer than they think.

According to a recent report, two million children are now using smart speakers in the UK alone. Over in the US, 47.3 million adults have access to a smart speaker. With a digital assistant waiting on every smartphone, the number of people using voice search is possibly much more significant than many of us can comprehend.

Predictably, children are much more likely to use their voice to request on demand jokes or play games. By contrast, adults use smart speakers and digital assistants to get the latest news headlines or local weather. But the big takeaway from the report is that over half of the children were turning to their smart speakers to help with their homework, improve their vocabulary and spelling.

A combination of fun, help, and valuable interaction with voice is helping us get more comfortable talking to our devices. It appears we are slowly losing the awkwardness and uncomfortable feeling that we used to have. As this confidence increases, voice search will continue to rise in popularity.

Considering that we can speak 4x faster than we can type with two thumbs on a smartphone keyboard, could a game-changing moment appear sooner than many are expecting? With Siri, Alexa, Google Home and Cortana waiting to answer any question on almost any device, the road ahead for search look predictable.

Voice search could also transform the marketing industry too. Business will need to step up as the SEO of their website evolves beyond links and keywords. How do you get your brand heard in a digital age dominated by voice search? What is the use of being on the front page of Google if you are invisible to voice searches?

It should be of no surprise that analysts have predicted that by 2020, 50% of searches will be made via voice rather than our fingers or in some cases thumbs. When voice search becomes engrained into our daily routines, engagement will begin shifting to voice too.

As we digitally evolve, could using our voice finally prevent people from staring down at a screen? In a world of instant gratification, it’s only a matter of time before digital natives begin to question the efficiency of tapping away on a keyboard of any kind.

It’s important to remember that there are more than a few challenges that we need to overcome before voice search takes over the digital landscape. Regional accents are something that technology has struggled to get to grips with. But advances in AI and machine learning could solve this problem once and for all.

As humans, we are incredibly complex with how we communicate too. For example, everyone reading this article will ask for a pizza in a variety of ways. With a wealth of bespoke options, life is seldom as simple as saying “I want a pizza”.

Once again, if we take a long-term view, our voice could become the user interface to artificial intelligence. We have a long way to go before brands can secure a competitive edge with an effective voice strategy. Before rushing in, businesses also need to question the risks of handing over their brand voice to Alexa, Siri, and Google.

It’s not a time to exaggerate the current capabilities of voice search, but all the signs suggest that businesses need to begin preparing for the inevitable.  How will you know when the game changer moment arrives? The message will be delivered directly to you by a teenager who asks you, “Why are you typing with two thumbs when you can use your voice?” with mild disgust.