Article

Sarah Sennett MSc
Sarah Sennett MSc 8 August 2019

What's next for Voice Search and Voice Assistants?

Many of us have a Siri, Cortana or Alexa in our lives, but what’s next for voice assistants and voice search? Are they going to rock our worlds and magically make daily life so much easier? The short answer: no, probably not right away. But voice search is definitely going to play an increasing part in how customers interact with businesses, so it’s time to get on board.

Local voice search on the rise

Comscore originally estimated that by 2020 50% of all searches will be voice (everyone’s heard that statistic by now). But Gartner estimates that around 30% of browsing sessions will be done without a screen by then. A bit of a discrepancy but as with the adoption of new behaviours and devices, the growth will be exponential once the benefits outweigh the cost or effort in this case. So far we’ve largely found the experience of voice searches to be pretty woeful. How many times have you asked Siri a question and the answer comes back “I found this on the web for you…”? That response instantly cuts off any further conversation and pretty much negates the whole concept of voice search.

Local search queries, however, seem to be faring rather better. According to one study, 58% of US consumers surveyed had used voice search to find a local business in the last 12 months. Another survey showed that 88% of users who are looking for a local business will then get driving directions to their chosen destination. It would seem that’s quite a high success rate, so what’s going wrong in search?

Voice search vs voice assistance 

When we think of a voice assistant we think of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or maybe Microsoft’s Cortana. The majority of UK adults have access to at least one of these, either through a smart speaker or their smartphone. As ownership of these devices grows, more requests are made by voice.

But let’s just be clear. There’s a really big difference between voice search and voice assistance. Voice search can be defined as searches that are conducted on the web initiated by the spoken word. Voice assistants can conduct searches but are also used to perform tasks such as setting timers, alarms, playing music or controlling smart devices in the home such as lighting. In some cases, voice assistance is the bulk of the work undertaken by a device.

It wasn’t so long ago that Amazon’s Alexa had the market conquered. In 2017 they occupied about 80% of the smart speaker market, but as of Q1 2018 sales of Google’s Home Assistant had grown by almost 500% and they are now the world leader in the provision of smart speakers (source: Forbes).

Infographic: How smart speakers are used in the UK | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

The issue of trust and accuracy

We think one of the reasons behind the relatively poor uptake of voice searches is down to our natural human assumption that a device in conversation will behave as if speaking to another human. When we get a response that the device can’t understand the question or doesn’t have an answer, it’s a stop sign and the conversation dies.

It’s all very well asking Alexa to play your favourite radio station or to set a timer while you boil an egg, but what about Amazon’s most likely end game – to make the buying journey easier and therefore more frequent? Recent research shows that while the sales of Amazon Echo devices are skyrocketing, their performance in terms of driving sales is not living up to expectations. Customers have reservations about the security of their data, providing payment information and not being able to see the product.

Infographic: Alexa, I Don't Trust You To Be My Shopping Assistant | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

It would seem that voice assistants and voice search still have a way to go to meet our expectations. You can read more about how well search responses meet the needs of the user, check out this document from Google.

Original post located here

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