Voice Search's Impact on Mobile App Development

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Using voice search and digital personal assistants is becoming second nature now since they come integrated into devices that we use every day.

It's all about the conversation. During the last two decades, we have managed to smoothen the transition from text search to voice search. It tends to be more intimate, immediate, and convenient.

The artificial intelligence algorithm that backs voice search is designed to tune in to the user's habits and behaviors with every interaction to understand their intent and the context of the search. With the data from previous queries and other sensitive information, it can predict and even recommend search options.

Voice search queries tend to be longer than text search queries. For example, when we search on text, we might type "best vegan lunch." However, with voice search, we tend to say the full sentence, mostly in the form of a question. We might say something like "Which is the best vegan restaurant in London?"

Voice search tends to be characterized by words like what, when, how, who, and where and it comes with the expectation that the search assistant will provide an answer.

Voice is on the cusp becoming the first choice for mobile search.

As per a survey done by Perficient Digital on 1,700 U.S. adults, voice is now the number two choice for mobile search, after the mobile browser.

Another survey by Adobe in 2019 points out that 48 percent of consumers use voice assistants for general web search despite concerns about accuracy and privacy.

Google Express is Google's voice-activated shopping platform; it can be accessed on a Google device or smartphone. Google has collaborated with Target to enable voice-activated shopping, and now users can purchase Target products via Google Express. Google plans to increase the use of its voice assistant with Target as well as with Walmart.

Data from a Voicebot survey of U.S. adults showed that 52 percent of smartphone owners have used voice assistants on their mobile devices.

Due to the increasing penetration of smart homes worldwide, the global voice-based smart speaker market could be worth $30 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights.

While the statistics speak for themselves, let us dive deeper into the impact of voice on mobile app development.

App Store Optimization Strategy

Because a voice search is so much easier than a text-based search, app developers strive to incorporate it into their apps.

Developers will need to look out for micro-moments for their apps. Micro-moments are short periods of time when a user picks up a device, usually a smartphone, to look for something or purchase something. These moments are extremely important. If the user doesn't find what he's ooking for immediately in your app, he will definitely bounce.

So even though an app might have a high ranking on the App Store, if it fails to deliver quick and prompt service, especially with regard to a customer's micro-moments, developers will lose their chance to make a positive impact.

When using a voice search, a query is usually answered immediately without the person bothering to scroll through the various options available on the screen.

With text, we tend to scroll through the rest of the listings on a search results page. With voice, user behavior is to go with the first thing that pops up as this usually answers questions satisfactorily. So it will no longer be enough to be on the first page of a search result or even be one of the first five listings. The top spot will be the most coveted. With voice search, it is one or none. The winner takes it all.

Voice search tends to be in well-framed conversational sentences. In a text-based search, the length of a search query is likely to be two to four words. But with voice search, it could go up to as many as 10 words. The queries also tend to be more question-based and to show clear intent since they are so well-framed.

It is imperative to understand what users are searching for with voice and how they are doing it. To optimize content, marketers must understand that it is largely different from text search, and, thus, the content needs to be altered as well.

To keep up with voice search, the content will need fuller sentences and more natural language patterns. Adding phrases in headers is a good idea too.

Voice search is changing local search by being more conversational. For instance, someone looking for a real estate agent might ask a voice search assistant "Who is the best real estate agent in Brooklyn?" This is very useful for local businesses.

At this year's Google I/O conference, Google CEO Sundar Pichai unveiled a brand new voice assistant, Google Duplex. The assistant carries out real-world tasks over the phone, like booking a hair salon appointment or making reservations at a restaurant.

A study by Bright Local in 2018 showed that a large majority of customers used voice search daily to look for information on local businesses. The top device used was a smart speaker, followed by a smartphone.

In the same study, 54 percent of users said they would like to voice search to make restaurant reservations, 46 percent wanted to find local businesses or services, 35 percent wanted to salon appointments, etc.

Speech Recognition

Many apps can also turn voice into text. This makes interaction faster and much easier. Mobile apps now use voice technology to play music in the app, show traffic or weather info, and to set alarms and reminders.

Ben Gomes, head of search at Google says, "Speech recognition and the understanding of language is core to the future of search and information, but there are lots of hard problems, such as understanding how a reference works, understanding what 'he,' 'she,' or 'it' refers to in a sentence. It's not at all a trivial problem to solve in language, and that's just one of the millions of problems to solve in language."

Gartner predicts that 60 percent of web browsing will be screenless. The average voice search loads in 4.6 seconds, or 52 percent faster than the average web page.

So it's clear that voice search is here. And it's real.

The top three categories in which consumers use voice-activated searches to make purchases are groceries (20 percent), entertainment (19 percent) and electronics (17 percent).

In fact, voice shopping is set to jump to $40 billion by 2022, rising from $2 billion today (OC&C Strategy Consultants, 2018).

As voice search becomes more prominent, it is important to keep yourself informed and current with the latest new tech updates so that you can implement the same for your app.

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