In 1968, the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey presented a vision of the future in which advanced technology viewed us mere mortals as a problem. And for many decades, shouting commands to a computer remained the stuff of science fiction.
Today, however, you probably find yourself comfortably addressing Alexa, Cortana, Google, and Siri. For businesses, intelligent services that leverage voice present a complex set of challenges — and voice search presents one of the greatest challenges yet.
Put into the simplest terms, voice search is the ability to talk to a device and get answers back. Ask Alexa what the weather is, and she'll tell you the current temperature and forecast for your location. Ask Google for the news, and it will read off the latest headlines to you. This is powerful stuff.
In fact, Andrew Ng, formerly of Baidu, estimates that 50% of all searches will be completed via either speech or image search by 2020. And eMarketer shows that the use of voice-enabled speakers will grow by 130% in the next year.
Generally, humans can speak four times faster than we can type. So on one level, voice search feeds our need to move fast. On another level, it's about ease. It's just so much easier to ask for something out loud than it is to type.
On top of this, voice search is:
In the palm of your hand (e.g. Siri, Cortana)
In your car, either through an embedded system, or through systems like Apple Carplay and Android Auto
Sitting on your shelf, in the form of Amazon Echo and Google Home
Voice search matters on several levels
For the search engine: Faster interaction leads to greater consumer retention and engagement — especially when the results are accurate.
For the consumer: In some cases, it's simply faster. In other cases, it's about our inherent desire to do less and receive more.
For a business: Consumer behavior and search engine investments often go hand-in-hand. Those rich experiences we have on mobile devices, and the faith we put in a single spoken answer, come from the trust a search engine has established with us — that it has THE best answer for our needs. Search engines earn that trust by establishing shared systems of structured data (Schema.org). By complying with those best practices, businesses become a part of that circle of trust around the content showcased to consumers.
For the big players: For the main providers of hardware and services in this space, the fight is on for consumer loyalty. Amazon wants you to stay engaged with them and shop through them. Google sees this as a natural extension of their ability to answer all questions anywhere, anytime. All of this engagement equates to billions of dollars in revenue for the leaders in the space, which is a pretty big incentive to have a play in this area.
And rest assured, this is only the beginning.
In our latest eBook, How Voice Search Changes Everything, Yext VP of Industry Insights, Duane Forrester, breaks down the world of voice search. Download it today for even more insight into how it impacts your business, the customer journey, and much more.