Is your company prepared for Voice search? Currently about 25 percent of all mobile searches are voice-activated, and by 2020 that number is expected to climb to 50 percent. Marketers believe half of all consumers will use a combination of voice-activated and artificial intelligence (AI) technology daily within the next year or two.

Low Adoption Rate by Marketers

It would seem only fair to say that marketers need to prioritize designing strategy around these technologies in order to meet customers’ rising expectations. However, a 2017 study by BrightEdge found that just 35 percent of marketers are somewhat likely or likely to adopt voice search in the near future, and only 3 percent were rolling it out last year. Additionally, 32 percent of marketers believe artificial intelligence is the next big thing that will impact their marketing efforts, yet 57 percent had no plans to implement any aspect of this technology currently.

Companies need to be aware that the impact of AI and voice-activation doesn’t stop with marketing, sales will also be impacted by the rise in use of voice-activated virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Home that combine both of these technologies. Last year’s holiday season saw one in four people using voice assistants to help with their shopping, according to Consumer Technology Association’s 2018 Research Standards Report Study. With voice assistants becoming a staple in many homes, consumers are moving away from searching and purchasing through a visual experience and even a touchscreen and maneuvering strictly with a voice interface.

Popular with Millennials

And it’s changing their marketing and sales behavior due to the nature and ease of using such a natural interface. A better understanding of how customers are utilizing voice-activated assistants continues to become clear as adoption continues to grow rapidly. The Toluna Voice-Activated Virtual Assistant Survey found that over half of voice-activated virtual assistant owners, of which 60 percent are Millennials, report making fewer in-store purchases. Also, 51 percent acknowledge they now search online with traditional web browsers less often, and 60 percent read and watch traditional media channels less frequently.

Perhaps the most positive takeaway from the study for businesses is the fact that current users are happy with their voice-activated virtual assistants with 90 percent saying they would recommend them to friends. Google has even found that 52 percent of virtual assistant owners would like to receive information about deals, sales, and promotions from brands; and 39 percent would like to receive options to find business information.

Privacy Challenges

Companies do need to be aware of users’ concerns about voice-activated virtual assistants and develop a strategy that establishes privacy guidelines around the gathering and storage of personal data. The Toluna study highlights the main concerns of users, finding that 63 percent of participants are worried or very worried that their voice-activated system is recording their personal data. Men in particular at 65 percent are concerned about privacy and women were right behind at 61 percent.

It’s important for companies to validate the issues surrounding privacy, yet still hear how voice-activated technology is an opportunity for them to reach and interact with customers in a new way. It’s also important for businesses to understand if and how their prospects and customers utilize their virtual assistants, and engage them on the platform where they’re most likely to do business. Marketing without visuals requires a new approach, one that will take some time to learn and implement effectively. Marketers need to start now.