A Growing Voice

A Growing Voice

Written by: Stephanie Bariatti, Consultant


Alexa. Siri. Cortana.  One or more of these names may be part of your daily vocabulary, depending on whether or not you are part of the ever-growing group of people utilizing voice search.  Smart speakers and voice assistants have been hyped as one of the biggest trends to watch in 2019, and it’s not hard to see why.  While the technology for voice search has been around for several years, it is now becoming more mainstream, with usage becoming more popular and accurate than ever.


According to research released by eMarketer in November 2018, it is predicted that in 2019, the US will have the highest penetration rate of smart speaker users in the world – 74.2 million people, which is 26% of internet users in this country.  China will surpass the number of actual users, with 85.5 million, although that is only 10% of country’s population of internet users.  The UK, Germany, France and Canada follow, with a smaller, but still growing portion of users.


Amazon and Google dominate the market right now, as far as standalone units, with a combined total of 94% smart speakers in use.   Other units include Harmon Kardon’s Invoke, which uses Microsoft Cortana and Apple’s HomePod, which uses Siri.  However, Google Assistant can also be used with a Google Home speaker or on an Android phone.  Siri is built into Apple iPhones.  And Alexa is Amazon’s equivalent when using an Amazon Echo smart speaker or a Fire TV remote control.  The list of devices that have these operating systems natively installed goes on and on. 


Yet, many experts consider the voice phenomenon to still be in its infancy and there are many people who are still leery about devices “listening” to them.  Yet, it is still predicted that voice is going to expand through the home, vehicles and wearables.  In an article for AdExchanger, Abhishek Suthan, co-founder and CEO of Pulse Labs, which does voice user experience design and analytics, says “Voice is going to permeate across all devices, with screens, without screens, from your microwave to your TV.”  Another innovation that is getting some buzz is “hearables.”  Think wireless headphones, like AirPods, that can work as standalone devices without being connected to another device.


If you operate a business, you cannot afford to ignore this developing technology and what it means for your marketing plans.  Voice search is having huge effects on ecommerce.  According to an OC&C Strategy Consultants study done last year, voice shopping is expected to be a $40 billion channel by 2022.  That’s an enormous increase from the current approximation of $2 billion.  And research by Narvar found that up to 43% of voice-enabled device owners use their device to shop.  This was a 41% increase from 2017.


The stats are certainly staggering, but what steps can a business actually take to optimize their website for voice search?  In an article for Forbes, entrepreneur Gabriel Shaoolian offers some good tips for helping to stay ahead of the competition:

  • Ensure your website loads quickly – Google voice search favors the most efficient websites
  • Write the way you speak – Users tend to use more conversational phrases, often in the form of questions, when searching.
  • Include featured blocks of content – Creating a featured snippet allows content from your website to be featured before the regular search listings.  They provide quick answers and show that Google chose your website as the most useful, possibly resulting in more traffic to your site.
  • Concentrate on local searches – 22% of voice queries involves location-based information.  Try using phrases like “near me.”

 What else can we expect as voice technology continues to grow and evolve through 2019 and beyond?  For one thing, we will probably start to see screens disappear.  The need for screens diminishes as voice search continues to grow.  We may also see a decline in dedicated smart speakers, like the Echo, since voice tech will be built into more TVs.  Furthermore, we will likely witness voice usage growth across all age demographics.  Although new technology often takes off among Millennials, voice seems to be becoming more commonplace with older generations, including Baby Boomers.


In conclusion, always continue to look out for new trends and developments and find a way to adapt.  You want to ensure you stay ahead of the game! 

Stephanie Bariatti works as a Consultant and Project Manager for SMB Media Consulting.  She has had extensive experience with many facets of advertising and media, having worked for and with creative agencies, production companies and research departments.  She lives in New York with her wonderful husband, two lovable little boys and two snuggly Golden Retrievers.