In 1952, the first voice recognition device was created by Bell Laboratories. They called it ‘Audrey’. The technology could recognize digits spoken by a single voice and was a huge step forward in digital technology

In 2011, Google’s voice search advanced the technology with Google’s English voice system able to understand 230 billion words from user queries. Since then, consumers have gravitated towards adopting the technology.

Digital assistants have become such a normalized part of today’s technology that without realizing it, most people are using it on a daily basis. “Set alarm for eight a.m.”, “Alexa, what song is playing?”, “Hey Siri, what’s the capital of Chad?” We have become so used to talking to the devices that we do it without a second thought.

And that is exactly what big-league players like Amazon (Alexa) and Microsoft (Cortana) want for their digital assistants. They have been advanced from answering basic questions based on search results to being able to source products based on a consumer’s request.

Voice-based shopping is expected to rise to US$40 billion in 2022. The interactive shopping technique is likely to continue to become more popular as people shop online more exclusively. In 2020, these are the trends that have emerged in voice shopping that is likely to continue in the coming years.

1. Convenience

Voice search is fast, easy, and convenient.

  • Searching with your voice is 3.7x faster than typing for most people.
  • Search can be conducted in natural language. 70{d1a1694403c5660430dc420b8f142668f13097a51a1c1fc172179b975fdf78b3} of searches on Google Assistant use “natural” language.
  • Voice assistant devices are often in the center of the home, making it easy to use from anywhere, hands-free.
  • It establishes a more human-like relationship with technology.
  • It’s convenient, with 70{d1a1694403c5660430dc420b8f142668f13097a51a1c1fc172179b975fdf78b3} of users preferring voice search because it is fast.

2. Smart speakers drive voice search adoption

Smart speakers are driving voice search adoption. Smart speaker devices and connected home automation systems have made it easy for users to find ways to use the technology to their advantage. From simple things like making a shopping list on a smart fridge to more complex things such as turning on the heating before a person arrives home, smart technology is changing how people live.

It is estimated that more than 8 billion devices in the UK will have voice assistants by 2023. More than 20{d1a1694403c5660430dc420b8f142668f13097a51a1c1fc172179b975fdf78b3} of UK households already have smart speakers, so it follows that more people will use them for shopping.

In the UK, 5.8 million homes and over 10 million users have smart speaker technology. Of those, 62{d1a1694403c5660430dc420b8f142668f13097a51a1c1fc172179b975fdf78b3} of voice-enabled speaker owners have bought items via voice commerce, according to statistics.

Voice shopping in the UK is expected to be worth £3.5 billion by 2022, representing about 3{d1a1694403c5660430dc420b8f142668f13097a51a1c1fc172179b975fdf78b3} of online spending overall. Voice search presents an opportunity for eCommerce merchants to leverage the technology.

3. AI is improving voice search using the BERT model

Processing search queries are complicated when an algorithm has to understand a conversational tone. Voice search started using NLP (Natural Language Processing) and Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) to improve the understanding capabilities of search engines.

The BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) model, which Google introduced in 2018, allowed individuals to train state-of-the-art- answering systems. On 25th September last year, Google introduced the BERT model into its search algorithm, Rank Brain. The model works by analyzing the words in a search query and its relationship to all the other words in the search query. This holistic approach means that the algorithm better understands the intent of the search and returns more accurate results. Google’s speech recognition technology has a 95{d1a1694403c5660430dc420b8f142668f13097a51a1c1fc172179b975fdf78b3} accuracy rate when the spoken language is English

4. Local businesses benefit

People aged between 18 and 64 use voice search (32{d1a1694403c5660430dc420b8f142668f13097a51a1c1fc172179b975fdf78b3}) and of those, 52{d1a1694403c5660430dc420b8f142668f13097a51a1c1fc172179b975fdf78b3} use voice search while driving a car.

The majority of people who use voice search on the go are looking for local businesses like grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, clinics, florists, and more. These searches are often presented in the form of a question, such as “where can I get a coffee near me?”

Question keywords are up 61{d1a1694403c5660430dc420b8f142668f13097a51a1c1fc172179b975fdf78b3} year-over-year, according to statistics. Most of the questions related to local business include phrases such as “where” and “near me,” “local,” and “nearby,” while the other most common voice commands include making reservations, appointments and, takeaway orders.

Brick-and-mortar businesses that focus on optimizing content for Google Rich Snippets, using a conversational tone in content and that include question phrases and long-tail keywords, will help to ensure that their content is optimized for voice search rankings.

About 75{d1a1694403c5660430dc420b8f142668f13097a51a1c1fc172179b975fdf78b3} of voice search results rank in the top 3 positions for a particular question on a desktop search.

The last word

Voice commerce will continue to grow. As algorithms continue to improve and people discover the ease with which they can use voice search and voice commerce, the technology will take on a higher market share of profit generation for businesses.

In terms of businesses, it is those that understand the importance of their content that will most benefit from the advance, and see their websites rank highly in voice searches.