The increased adoption of voice technology, combined with growing sales of smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home, is impacting consumer behavior across the US and Europe. Now dubbed the ‘fourth sales channel,’ voice searches are projected to make up between 30 and 50% of all searches within the next two years,
The implications of AI, voice technology and digital assistants for brands are far-reaching – from search through path to purchase. If you want to gain consumer preference in this evolving channel, your brand strategies needs to include new consumer insights.
Voice awareness and usage in Europe and US
In the summer of 2018 we conducted research in the US, UK, and Germany on voice technology and digital assistant usage, awareness, and the impact on the path to purchase.
Across all three countries, more than half of consumers have used voice technology. Most of them used voice on their smartphone (44-52%) compared to the smart speaker counterpart (19-25%) with Google, Apple, and Amazon being the preferred platforms.
Some of the top uses of voice technology appear to still be in exploratory stage where most consumers use it to find information, directions, the weather, or just for fun. However, we already see contextual habits forming where home usage of smart speakers differs from usage of digital assistants in the car, for example. When we see how young people and families are embracing the technology, there’s no doubt it will become mainstream
Voice in the path to purchase
Although it appears that voice technology is not yet used so much for purchasing products, around 40% of voice users across the US, UK, and Germany have purchased using voice in the past 6 months.
The majority of consumers who have purchased products through voice do so out of curiosity as to whether the process would work, or for the entertainment factor it would be fun to try.
Brand implications of voice technology
Our research found that 36% of voice technology users plan to purchase again via voice in the next 12 months. People can generally speak around 165 words per minute, but can only type about 45 in that time. The consumer’s ability to easily ask a question or speak a phrase, rather than typing words or navigating buttons, leads to more “conversational” types of searches.
including how to optimize sales on the smart speakers via search and loyalty initiatives, along with capturing early pattern information for predictive analytics and creating unique voice experiences.
For example, consider how voice technology offers an opportunity to form or strengthen the emotional connection with consumers. Does your brand have an “audio logo” (e.g. Intel’s five-tone sound which plays at the end of ads) or other mnemonics to differentiate itself when there is nothing visual to do so? Brands will also need to collaborate with retailers to stay on top of the list and actively promote consumer to request their brand; e.g. “Ask Alexa for…” Just as the introduction of eCommerce required fundamental changes to the way we think about marketing and the shopper journey, voice technology poses the same exciting challenges and opportunities.
Question brands should ask in the fourth sales channel
As you consider short-term marketing tactics focused on winning consumer preference with voice technology today, we understand you don’t want to lose sight of your long-term brand vision. Substantial qualitative and quantitative measures will be needed to fully understand the impact of voice technology on both consumer behavior and the company’s overall business growth. It’s clear that new market research and insights will be required for CPG, technology and telecommunications brands, but where do you begin? Read our with highlights of our recommendations.