There has been plenty of talk in the last few months about the implications of voice search and the impact of what this might have on the world of marketing and beyond.  This week alone The Times was reporting studies that stated an expected rise in voice activated devices such as Amazon Echo from 10% to 50% in the next 24 months and the value of shopping they represent rise from £200m to £3.5 billion.  It’s becoming a big deal and is only going to grow.

So, we at Mostly Media have decided to share our thoughts…

Let’s start by looking at some of the cold, hard stats…

20% of mobile queries are now via voice search.
60% of all searches are now performed on a mobile device.
Voice query breakdown shows that this is still primarily used for local & general information as well as entertainment.
An industry report produced by VoiceLabs suggests that over 24.5 million voice-first devices were shipped in 2017. Up from 6.5 million in 2016.

The developments in voice search technology could potentially impact on all things media, traditional and digital, although lots needs to happen before we can start talking about true strategies and implementation.

Our view is that the biggest opportunity lies in markets that have low-involvement decisions with low risk and one industry that fits the bill perfectly is FMCG.

There is much noise around automated purchase decisions via voice-first devices – Tesco & Ocado are already boasting about how consumers can shop through Google Home & Amazon’s Alexa…

“Alexa, add toilet paper to my shopping list” comes a shout from the downstairs toilet.

The most drastic transformation will likely be the supermarkets reliance on the technology companies for their sales.  Currently the consumer choses one of several supermarkets to do the weekly shop (in store or online).  We all have our favourite supermarkets be it the discounters like Aldi and Lidl or the Premiums like Waitrose and M&S.

If the consumer orders through Alexa then the choice of supermarket becomes a non-factor.  Alexa will source the correct product at the best price.   Alexa (or more accurately Amazon) will become the supermarket.  This will surely create an even deeper price race as Alexa has the ability to select the cheapest price for specific products from all the major supermarkets.

With Alexa ordering the shopping for the consumer (powered by Amazon let’s remember) it will be the relationship between the technology companies and the supermarkets that will become the priority; as the big supermarkets have so often squeezed the jugulars of suppliers, it’s likely that this will come full circle as Google & Amazon come calling for special rates for ‘their’ customers.

Run this forward yet further then the manufacturers of the products may well cut out the middle man.  Why for instance do P&G need to deal with ASDA to sell their product through Amazon enabled voice search?  Surely, they will just deal direct with Amazon.  RIP the traditional supermarket model.

Google however is a Search Engine and the business is based around companies using its services to sell their products.  Google doesn’t sell products.  So, will the traditional supermarkets find a comfortable bedfellow in this tech giant.  Oh to be a fly on the wall of those meetings.

The land grab is going to be extremely exciting and the disruption to our shopping habits may just well shift again as it has done over the last 10 years with the advent of online shopping.

A debate for another day will be how then do you differentiate one pint of milk or box of eggs from another via voice search.

We have taken a quick look at some other industries to try and fathom how voice search may well affect them.

There’s a good chance Voice Search and Purchase could work well for travel.  ‘Alexa, find me the cheapest rail fare between London and Manchester arriving at 2pm on Tuesday 4th March’.   Its low involvement, little brand loyalty and very few options available.

The purchase decision involved within the automobile industry has much larger implications.  Take car servicing, repairs & tyre wholesalers; even if you used voice search to find a garage or stockist, you would still have to physically drive your car to the garage.  Unless you are prepared to pay a premium for them to come to your house, which most people aren’t.

Purchasing Cinema tickets could work but it’s not going to be able to give you a comparison unless you live in a big city or are prepared to drive 30 miles.  The ease of use will likely be a big plus point, I mean who has time to open an App these days!!

The takeaway food industry has possibilities, but the question that keeps coming back to us is how do you know what’s on the menu?   When Alexa can start to memorise the habitual behaviour of the user then maybe this can become a truly scalable opportunity…

The list of industry opportunities, each with their own hurdles to overcome, is endless.

One thing we do know is the fragility of consumer trust presents an even bigger issue; it will only take one instance of breaking this ‘trust’ for the whole thing to fold like a cheap deck chair.  Like bricks and mortar and even ‘traditional’ online shopping (oh the irony) customer experience and service will be key pillars of success.

Voice Search looks to have a big future but until the big technology giants show their respective hands, we wait with eager anticipation.

All we can say is watch this space very closely in 2018 and be ready for some substantial changes in consumer behaviour, especially if you work in the world of FMCG.

Contact the Mostly Media team today on 01225 302270 if you’d like to discuss anything from the above post or would like some free advice about digital marketing.