Voice hasn’t taken off in the way many people expected but if it’s merely languishing in Gartner’s oft-quoted “trough of disillusionment” – the lull after hype and before mainstream acceptance – then 2020 could see a rapid escalation, according to two experts.

One of the most surprising insights to emerge from WARC’s Marketer’s Toolkit 2020 report is the lack of focus among marketers on the issue of voice technology. Over two-thirds (69%) of advertisers told WARC they are “not prepared” for voice in any capacity; only 18% feel prepared for voice-optimised search.

But Wavemaker’s Kathryn Saxon, head of audience science, and Sarah Salter, head of innovation, believe that the rate of smart speaker adoption in the UK – four years after launch 20% of households own one; it took mobile phones 12 years to reach the equivalent penetration – points towards a significant shift in consumer behaviour.

Speaking at a recent Mediatel event, Saxon explained that the future of voice lies beyond in-home smart speakers. “As we see voice getting integrated into more products, so voice is going to go out of the home and on the go, and that offers a great opportunity for brands,” she said.

“You’re going to have a much greater experience and breadth and depth of opportunity.” (For more details, read WARC’s report: The past, present and future of voice marketing.)

Already, nearly half (47%) of consumers say they use voice assistants to source “general information”, a marked increase on the figure of only a couple of years ago. This opens the door for brands to provide relevant voice content and information at multiple stages during the purchase journey.

“As people are becoming more familiar with this technology, we are seeing behaviour beginning to change,” said Saxon. And for younger age groups, it’s rapidly becoming the norm.

As voice technology spreads into new areas, voice assistants have the potential to become “the gateway to the smart home”, offering opportunities for brands to align themselves to the type of device that people are using.

But brands will have to tread carefully to understand which family member is using a voice assistant and what the particular context is. And utility will always be more important than innovation.

Sourced from WARC