Voice Search getting louder!


When Apple introduced Siri in 2011 they kick started a revolution in voice recognition, just as they kick started the revolution in mobile technology when they launched the iPhone in 2007. Since then Apple (iOS) and Google (Android) have come to dominate much of the mobile ecosystem; but Voice has opened up new entrants such as Amazon to drive new & exciting possibilities. In 2015 the world went from 0 to 10% of global search queries being voice driven — equivalent of 50 billion. Last year Google announced that 20% of all searches on Android devices are voice searches, and similarly 25% of queries on Bing are voice but will be 50% by 2020. Furthermore; Gartner predict that by 2018, 30% of our interactions with technology will be through conversations as voice adoption grows.

The usual suspects including Apple, Google, Microsoft as well as sector specific players such as SoundHound are all vying for a slice of the Voice market, which is likely to explode in the next few years with ad models likely to follow growing adoption. Key challenges will include optimising for voice search as well as exploiting the ad possibilities beyond search — therefore data will continue to be a key requirement as such a personal channel (one-to-one) will require individualised & contextualised engagement.


Following consumer adoption across the various different devices will drive the need for monetisation with 3 primary areas to be aware of — all of which will require some serious data:

  • Advertising: Advertising will be tricky — a balancing act between maintaining trust, utility & relevance without coming across as intrusive or disruptive. All whilst competition is high as advertisers are competing for 1 impression, which will make ads more expensive too. In terms of Ad models there’s likely to be a lot of testing but they could include Sponsored Search Ads (e.g. a user asking for local restaurants may get a response for an advertiser offering 10% discount), Intermittent Ads (e.g. 5–10 second ads played when the user is near), Sponsored Content (e.g. ad supported music listening), or even utility-linked ads (e.g. gift suggestions when Birthday is coming up). Recent developments have included AudioLabs’ native audio ads for Alexa, and Alexa’s launch of opt-in notifications.
  • Retail: Amazon’s prominent position in this market will make retail an obvious monetisation model for brands that pursue voice. Beyond the obvious capability to promote products that can then be bought via voice there’s potential for customer service to be delivered through the channel too.
  • Own-brand apps & “skills”: Alexa has over 10,000 skills now (their version of branded apps) and Google will likely follow suit. Monetising these apps will be a challenge and will likely follow the aforementioned models; the challenge will be attracting engagement to these and delivering relevant content.

Driven by the “Age of Artificial Intelligence” marketers are facing changing digital habits: Google searches are no longer the front door of the internet and websites are no longer the centrepiece of a digital strategy but often just part of it now. It’s going to be several years before Voice Search becomes mainstream but its existence on Smartphones will drive it on, driving other voice-device integration and adoption, further opening up marketing opportunities. As those marketing opportunities open up, customer data will become evermore important to personalise and optimise customer experiences — voice and otherwise.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that voice will be a key part of the future screenless (or less screen) future. Approximately 11% of the US will use a voice-activated device this year — a near 130% YoY jump; whilst in the UK it’s around 9%. Amazon’s Echo will dominate having already achieved 70% of the US market with Google Home trailing on 24%. The software battle is heating up too with the likes of Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Now being distributed across various hardware from smartphones & watches to smart home devices & cars. For instance; Amazon released an Alexa dev kit that may see more hardware devices with the tech on, and similarly Cortana released a skills kit.

In recent weeks Apple have also launched their own Siri-powered voice assistant — HomePod — whilst the upcoming iOS 11 update will feature a number of Siri updates. Listen to this space!

Check out our recent mini whitepaper on Voice below.