Voice Activation

Voice Search Today and Tomorrow

Every time the industry gets excited by new technology, we tend to let that excitement cloud our judgement on the true impact on consumer behaviour and its corresponding relationship to drive better business performance through marketing.  

In the last 18 months, if you only listened to the buzz, any brand that didn’t invest millions of pounds in to Augmented Reality, Blockchain, and now Voice Search, would be dead in the water.  

But in the last 18 months, have these new technologies truly had a transformative effect on business performance? Have brands that have done nothing to address these new phenomena truly been left behind?

We believe the answer to this question to be no, today… for now. 

No one sums it up better than Roy Amara and his increasingly popular law: 

“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” 

This is true of almost every single new piece of technology that has been introduced in the last 10 years: 

  • We all overestimated the short term effect, and underestimated the long term effect, of digital 

  • We all overestimated the short term effect, and underestimated the long term effect, of social 

  • … and we all overestimated the short term effect, and still underestimate the long term effect of mobile 

So what does this mean for Voice Search? Does Amara’s law apply here? 

We believe the answer to this question to be yes, undeniably yes. 

On 28th June 2017, we surveyed 1,181 adults in the UK on their current search behaviours, and found that 15% use voice to interact with a device - be that a smartphone, games console, laptop, or digital assistant.  

15% is a big number - that’s over 7.5m adults in the UK - but it’s not a transformational number yet, and those 15% are not using voice search exclusively. 

However, the trends we saw within the 7.5M adults are significant:

  • Although the predominant voice behaviour is broad information seeking, 25% of voice search has purchase intent behind it (find a store location, purchase or order something, research something you want to buy)

  • 35-54 year olds are as likely to use voice search as 18-24 year olds 

  • Over 10% of 65+ use voice to search in the UK

  • Men are twice as likely as women to purchase using voice

These suggest that Voice Search is no fad and it will become more and more important for people, and therefore brands, tomorrow.  According to Comscore, 50% of search will be via voice by 2020*, and we believe this to be accurate.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t immediate opportunities today in voice search for the 15% of the UK adult population. Every brand can capitalise from this trend from:

  • Embracing the long tail conversation

  • Personalising for the best voice experience

  • Making your brand discoverable for voice

We delved deeper into each of these three points, our research, and points of view during a Breakfast Briefing we held in September, designed to explore what brands need to be doing with voice search today and how they can prepare for the increasing behaviour of voice search tomorrow. 

Find out what some of our speakers thought were the key takeaways from the event in the video below:


The Pace of Progress | dentsu 2024 Media Trends

Get ahead of your year end and forecasting conversations. In the swiftly evolving world of media, maintaining a competitive edge is paramount, and dentsu's 2024 media trends report equips you for what lies ahead. For 14 years, dentsu's annual media trends report has been the industry's most sought-after trend forecast. Download the report now to prepare yourself for the future.

Download your copy today