Voice search becomes commonplace

Tobias Zehnder

Co-Founder / Partner

More and more search queries are spoken rather than typed. Voice search is not only taking over our smartphones and computers, it’s also carving out a space in our everyday lives with assistants like Google Home, Amazon Echo or Apple TV. For marketers, this means gaining a competitive edge when smart assistants correctly interpret offers and their relevance to users’ questions.

Voice search becomes commonplace

Voice Search

“Hey, Siri, how do I get to the main station. Can you call an Uber car for me?” Of course she can! This seemingly banal task is of great interest to marketers and depends on highly developed artificial intelligence (AI) technology. AI celebrated a number of impressive successes in 2016. Google’s Deep Mind beat the world’s best Go player, an AI system from Sony wrote a Beatles-like song, IBM’s Watson produced a film trailer and Microsoft’s AI painted a ‘Rembrandt’ with a 3D printer.

These milestones are unlikely to have much of an impact on our daily lives for the time being, but the advances in AI voice comprehension have already made great leaps, as the example mentioned at the beginning shows. AI engines are not only able to synthesize spoken language or translate in real time, they can also understand spoken questions with a high level of precision and offer relevant answers.

This is a major development for search engines, operating systems and social networks. In spring 2016, Google CEO Sundar Pichai summed it up when he said how Google will be transitioning in the coming years from a world of mobile first to AI first.

Meet your Google Assistant, your own personal Google

What exactly does that mean? In just a few years, smart assistants (or voice-driven search engines) are expected to become the most important interface between man and machine. What at first glance seems like something out of a science fiction film along the lines of Her is, in fact, already materializing. Although the industry giants do not publish many figures, Mary Meeker presented a few impressive facts in her Internet Trends Report 2016. In June 2015, it was reported that Siri had processed more than a billion voice searches per week; in May 2016, 25% of searches were submitted from the Windows 10 task bar, and in May 2016 about 20% of Android searches in the Google App were also submitted by voice. Baidu’s top scientist, Andrew Ng, predicts that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be spoken or entered by image.

It’s not just the sheer numbers that are striking. Anyone who has ever played around with the personal assistants from Google, Amazon, Microsoft or Apple knows that they are already capable of understanding relatively complex search queries and offering relevant answers. Most recently, they have even demonstrated how they can handle transactions, such as ticket purchases or food orders. And voice search is not just taking over our smartphones and computers: Google Home, Amazon Echo – which are expected to sell 10 million devices in 2017 – and Apple TV embed themselves in our living rooms and connect us directly to the web and its service providers.

This is exactly where things get interesting for marketers. In future, they must not only reach their target groups through web ads, but also ensure that assistants correctly understand what they are offering and relate it to users’ questions. After all, only companies with correctly structured marketing data at their disposal and which are open to digital assistants will be able to do business with these users.

Our prediction

We expect that by the end of 2017, voice search in Switzerland will make up about 20% of all searches on all major platforms.

How can Swiss companies respond?

To answer spoken questions correctly, assistants (or search engines) depend on structured data. For example, only when weather data, store hours, product feeds, timetables and so on are structured in a standardized format can digital assistants provide the right answers to users’ questions. This is why it is essential that you work now to ensure relevant information about your company, such as contact data, hours or product feeds, is available in the proper format. Get ready to meet your new colleagues – digital assistants.

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