Marketers Are Unprepared for Voice Search

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Voice search currently accounts for 20 percent of all mobile searches, and by 2020, more than half of all consumers expect to use voice-activated and artificial intelligence (AI) technology daily.

Still, 62 percent of marketers haven’t given voice search much thought, according to recent research by marketing firm BrightEdge. Only 28 percent said they are “somewhat likely” and 7 percent “very likely” to adopt the technology. Just 3 percent are currently rolling it out.

At the same time, 31 percent of marketers see voice search as the “next big thing.” Similarly, 32 percent believe it’s AI, but 57 percent are unlikely to implement any AI element this year.

So while marketers can see that the voice and AI revolutions are here, few plan to adapt their strategies, putting their companies at risk of failing to meet customer expectations, BrightEdge found after surveying 252 digital marketers.

Other research has found that voice search is having effects in other areas. The rapid rise in popularity of voice-activated virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Nuance Communications’ Nina, and Google Assistant is significantly impacting shopping behavior, online search activity, and traditional media consumption, according to a study by Toluna, a provider of digital consumer insights.

The Toluna Voice-Activated Virtual Assistant Survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers also found that owning a voice-activated assistant affects men’s shopping, search, and media consumption behaviors more than women’s.

More than half (53 percent) of voice-activated virtual assistant owners (and 60 percent of Millennials who own them) say they buy in-store less after acquiring a voice-activated assistant, according to the research. Only 12 percent of owners (22 percent of females and 6 percent of males) say the technology has had no impact on their shopping behavior.

Additionally, 51 percent say they do less research online using web browsers because of their voice-activated assistants. Ten percent say their virtual assistants have had no effect on their online search behavior, though this number rises slightly among women (14 percent) versus men (7 percent). Six in 10 users read and watch traditional media channels less frequently. Twenty-two percent of women say their media consumption is unchanged, compared to only 6 percent of men.

But even as the technology adoption skyrockets, consumers are still very concerned about privacy issues related to voice-activated virtual assistants. Two thirds of respondents (63 percent) are concerned or very concerned that their personal information is being recorded via their voice-activated virtual assistants. Concern regarding privacy is slightly higher among men (65 percent) than women (61 percent).

Those security concerns, along with cost issues and negative views of the technology’s usefulness, are the biggest barriers to purchase for consumers who do not own voice-activated virtual assistants. Fifty-two percent of all consumers who do not own them (and 60 percent of Millennials) cite cost as a barrier to purchase; 32 percent cite security concerns, and 31 percent say they don’t need them or wouldn’t use them. Female non-owners say more often they don’t need more technology (20 percent versus 11 percent of men) and men more frequently cite security (37 percent versus 29 percent of women).

Despite these barriers, though, voice-activated virtual assistant ownership is poised to grow. Nearly 40 percent of those who do not currently own virtual assistants said they plan to purchase one in the future. And nine in 10 current users say they would recommend them to friends.

“As voice-activated virtual assistants become fixtures in homes around the world, it is critical for marketers to understand how the rising popularity of AI technology is shaping consumer behavior,” said Frédéric-Charles Petit, CEO and founder of Toluna, in a statement. “While our research shows that these devices have altered the traditional ways consumers research information, consume media, and purchase products, they also create new opportunities for savvy brands to engage customers. Brands must carefully evaluate how their target consumers are leveraging emerging technology and shape their strategies around those insights.”

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