Two-Thirds of U.S. Consumers Use Voice Search, Research Finds

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A full two-thirds of U.S. consumers have used some sort of voice-enabled device within the past six months to pose a question, according to research from Zion & Zion, a national marketing agency.

In looking at the prevalence of devices that use voice-search technology like Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple's Siri, Zion & Zion found that usage varies across demographics.

Among the findings, the study revealed the following:

  • 28.4 percent of consumers between the ages of 30 and 44 have embraced stand-alone voice assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home.
  • 67.5 percent of consumers have used voice-enabled devices within the past six months to pose a question.
  • 49 percent of consumers ages 18 to 29 have used Siri, but that drops to 30 percent for those 60 and over.

The research clearly demonstrates that Americans are increasingly connected to devices that offer voice search. In fact, 86 percent of adults own smartphones and 86 percent own desktop or laptop computers. In addition, 25 percent own Amazon Echo/Dot, Google Home, or other dedicated voice assistant speakers/devices.

While both men and women own these devices in equal measure, some differences emerge when analyzing the data by age and income. For example, people 60 and over own the most desktop/laptop computers (93 percent) and the fewest smartphones (75 percent).

Income is a reliable predictor of device ownership; the more money you make, the more likely you are to own smartphones, computers, and stand-alone voice assistants. Of note, those in the top annual income bracket ($200,000 or more) have the highest ownership of voice assistant speakers (39 percent). Those with an annual household income of $150,000 are more than twice as likely to use Siri than those who earn less than $20,000. And the lowest earners (less than $35,000) search by saying "OK Google" more often than any income group. The Siri effect is a reflection of the demographic differences between iPhone and Android users. Research by ComScore found that "the median iPhone app user earns $85,000 per year, which is 40 percent more than the median Android phone users, with an annual income of $61,000."

While the data supports the notion that high-income consumers are the greatest users of home smart speakers, Zion & Zion notes that these devices are making significant headway with middle-income Americans as well.

Except for a significant bump for those 45 to 59 years old asking for help from Alexa, there's a dramatic decline in use as people age. The research found that 49 percent of those 18 to 29 have used Siri, but that drops to 30 percent for those 60 and over (a 0.6 percent drop each year).

Zion & Zion also used the data to draw a few conclusions for marketers. Among them, the firm suggests that marketing executives dismissive of voice search are missing the boat. More than two-thirds of consumers are already using voice search, and tha's certain to rise.

Second, the oldest millennials, youngest Gen Xers, and the highest income consumers are currently the innovators in the adoption of this new way of looking for information.

Third, the differences between traditional typed search and natural language voice search in terms of how consumers behave are significant and will have far-reaching consequences. Zion & Zion expects Google and Microsoft to evolve their natural language processing to match the intent of consumers’ queries with appropriate web content, without marketers having to fully reformat their content.

Marketers, the firm concludes, must continue to explore other applications for voice search, especially where short-form answers and interactions, such as finding current stock prices, movie listings, ordering an Uber, checking on account balances, making grocery lists, and ordering pizza, make sense.

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