Why Voice Search Is the Future

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Voice search is taking over my home. And soon, it will take over your business.

In the morning, my kids use the Echo as an alarm clock. They talk to Echo to plan their days, to check the weather, and to get the news. I can hear my son talking to Echo in his room and my daughter in hers before they say hello to Mom and Dad.

Throughout the day, my wife and I use Siri at home and at work to do the same things, whether I’m getting directions to a client meeting or my wife is navigating her life.

And we are not the only ones. Consider these developments:

  • eMarketer estimates that in 2017, 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month – an increase of nearly 129 percent over 2016.

The uptake is not surprising. Voice is a natural form of communication, but it’s taken some time for voice-activated technologies to get smart enough to communicate with us. Now voice is so effective that talking with objects is as easy as talking with humans. I remember when my son first laid eyes on the Amazon Echo. No one needed to tell him how to use it. He just started asking it questions, first to retrieve information – who won the last 10 Super Bowls, what music is popular, and so on. And then our family began using the Echo for more complex commands. The tipping point occurred when we used the Echo to order another Echo.

The major technology catalysts are accelerating the uptake of voice, too. Consider the dramatic developments that occurred in May and June of this year:

  • Both Amazon and Google made voice-activated commands far more sophisticated, proactive, and integrated lifestyle experiences. In early May, Amazon released both Echo Look, which integrate voice and visual content. At its annual I/O event, Google updated its Google Home voice-activated speaker to do the same. Conceivably with both products, users could use their voices to call up a menu from a restaurant, view the menu onscreen, and then make a dinner reservation. Or they could call up Google Maps to view onscreen driving directions. In addition, Google Home is now a proactive assistant: after you make your dining reservation, Google Home will remind you with essential details such as the time and place of your reservation or the weather conditions that evening. It’s easy to see where these experiences are headed: as augmented reality advances, we’ll be able to use voice commands to call up visual content such as Google Maps directions or restaurant in our cars or on everyday objects such as our kitchen tables. We’ll become untethered from our home devices.
  • Meanwhile, Apple jumped into the market for voice-activated speaker by releasing its own HomePod at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, a significant move that will make Apple an immediate contender in voice once HomePod hits the market later this year. It was interesting to see how Apple has positioned HomePod – not just as a utility to manage our lives, but also as an entertainment center for listening to music, especially to call up songs on Apple Music. Apple views voice as an all-inclusive experience for fun and utility. And Apple is on to something. A recently released report by agency Huge shows that consumers use their Echo and Google Home devices primarily to play music:

As the Huge report shows, people are using their voices to manage a number of everyday activities. By 2022, the speech and recognition market will be worth $12 billion according to Markets and Markets.

Voice presents tremendous opportunities for location marketers to build their businesses, too. Companies such as Domino’s Pizza and Starbucks are tapping into voice already to drive commerce, but your mileage may vary. The best way to capitalize on voice is to let consumers define your approach. Consumers use voice, images, and video to get what they want in the home, on the go, and at your store. Your challenge is to create content and manage location data that moves them along the journey. For example, brands are now challenged to optimize their content for more complicated forms of search that people can undertake with their voices. It’s a lot easier for people to use their voices (instead of text) to ask, “Where can I get deep dish pizza on the north side of Chicago and get free parking, too?” Is your content optimized accordingly?

How do you use voice in your own life – and your business?

As CEO and founder of SIM Partners, Jon Schepke collaborates with his team to pioneer the future of digital marketing for national brands at a local level. The company’s Velocity technology is a SaaS-based local marketing automation platform that helps enterprise brands with multiple locations drive customer acquisition everywhere.