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Voice search 'mainstream' in five years

News, 04 October 2016

NEW YORK: Brands need to move beyond written keywords when considering how best to promote their online presence, as voice search may become mainstream within the next five years, a leading industry figure has said.

Speaking during Advertising Week in New York, Christi Olson, Bing evangelist at Microsoft, reported that voice queries already make up a quarter of Bing mobile searches and 5% of total searches in any given month.

"When you look at paid search and organic search, businesses tend to lag behind with these new technologies," she said in remarks reported by Adweek.

Her colleague Geoffrey Colon, product marketing manager for Bing Ads, emphasised the nature of the inevitable change taking place by reference to his own family.

"I never was comfortable speaking into my phone," he said. "But my girls? That's all they know how to do, because they don't know how to type yet—they're 4 and 6—but they can talk.

"So I think, [like] many of these things, the adoption will actually take off because of the next generation."

At some point voice search will become monetized, and while the pair were less clear on the likely timeline for that, Colon thought it would almost certainly take place more quickly than had happened with existing online search.

"I think when you look at how experiences work, we always try to figure out how to get technology to work in a way that's relevant," he said.

"So I think right now we're in an area of: Let's see how voice search actually works, and get it to work at a good sort of rate before we move into how do we monetize it."

Asia may lead the way in this area – Google Southeast Asia has reported a "significant increase" in voice searches in Vietnam, for example – since it's often more difficult to type on a mobile screen using character-based languages such as Mandarin or languages with a lot of diacritical markers like Vietnamese.

Researchers are also keen to explore the use of voice in mobile surveys, which could not only speed up the process but open up greater access to respondents such as children, illiterate users and the vision-impaired.

Data sourced from Adweek; additional content by Warc staff