December 13, 2019

Seven voice search trends to watch for in 2020

By Derek Kent

Voice search and voice-activated content strategies are quickly gaining the attention of marketing professionals as voice interface begins to surround us in many ways. Voice-activated content has been prominent for large brands such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home. However, we now see smaller brands joining the game as consumer voice search usage continues to rise.

There is a ton of potential for marketers in agriculture and food to employ voice-activated search and content strategies to reach their target audience with the right message at exactly the right time. We took a look at growing industry trends in voice search and came up with tips on how to start your voice search strategy and how our data is powering the next generation of artificial intelligence and machine learning.


1 – More smart speakers at home

In the U.S. smart speaker ownership has risen ~40 per cent in 2018 from 47 million to 66 million owners in one year. This means an average of one-in-four U.S. adults now have access to voice search through a smart speaker at home. An increase like this moves smart speakers from a fun novelty to a must-have utility at home.

These days it is easier than ever to own more than one device as larger brands introduce support devices like Alexa’s Dot and Google Home Mini. The number of smart speakers per home has risen with over 40 per cent of smart speaker owners saying they own more than one.

Over the years the popular locations in homes with more than one device have not changed. The living room still holds a strong lead, while the kitchen and bedroom come in close for second place. We’re betting the key hubs for farmers and producers will be the office, the kitchen table, and the cab of the tractor or combine.

The rise in multiple device ownership and popular locations in the home suggests consumers are finding value in the devices being nearby.

map showing U.S. adult smart speaker installed base january 2019


2 – Rising use of smartphone voice assistants

Voice assistant use on smartphones has seen a steady rise over the past year with over 70 per cent of users in the U.S. admitting to having used their phone’s voice assistant. More than half of this increase is from consumers growing familiarity and comfort from using voice search at home with smart speakers. Helping them feel comfortable with their phones native voice assistant or in using a third-party app such as Amazon’s Alexa in the Amazon shopping app.

In fact, smart speaker owners are 10 per cent more likely to use the voice assistant on their phone. Of that 10 per cent, over 27 per cent are daily smartphone voice assistant users.


3 – Growing selection and value

As the popularity of voice search grows so do the selection of devices available. From Apple’s Siri debut in 2011 to Google Home in 2016 product selection is increasing quickly. As smaller brands such as Sonos and Riva begin to join the marketplace consumers are presented with more choices while larger brands are faced with stiffer competition, leading to higher production value to remain competitive.


4 – Shifting consumer interest and privacy concerns

One of the top reasons consumers have begun to take interest in voice search has been the improved quality of the device’s ability to understand them when speaking. Followed close behind are the device’s sound quality, how much it can do, and the speed of response. The feature concerning consumers the least would be the personality of the device.

When it comes to privacy there has been significant talk in the media about our devices listening to us while we go about our day and the amount of personal data these big brands collect. Interestingly enough, consumer perception of smart speaker privacy has started to balance evenly between concerned and not concerned in 2019.

graphic of U.S. consumer perception of smart speaker privacy risk


5 – A new tactic for the marketing toolbox

With consumer trust on the rise and a growing use of at-home smart speakers and smartphone voice assistances, marketers will be taking a closer look at voice search strategy in 2020.

When it comes to marketing, the number one challenge for any organization is understanding and reaching the target audience. As data on voice search use and its users builds exponentially, some of the findings already paint a picture of opportunity in e-commerce and email.

Amazon Prime members are 50 per cent more likely to own a smart speaker, with 70 per cent of those owners using Amazon’s Alexa which can order directly from a consumer’s Prime membership. For e-commerce-based businesses, this is a dream come true.

Email has long since been one of the best ways to reach an audience directly, and Gmail users are roughly 31 per cent more likely to own a smart speaker. However, these owners are not more likely to be using a Google Home device. Not to worry email marketers, the popular Amazon Alexa device can access your Gmail and read your emails to the consumer, unlocking the voice search strategy for email.


6 – New content opportunities for brands of all sizes

User-generated content is the top content trend heading into 2020. But are brands optimizing their hard-earned content for voice search? Developing a content strategy on its own can be difficult. Much like video or written content, there is no templated standard for voice search and no two companies are identical when it comes to branding or audience.

When optimizing your content for voice search, think about the following:

  • Behaviour and voice – think about the questions your consumers will be asking and be sure to have content to support the answers.
  • Relate to your business – provide authentic and helpful information when answering questions and relate the answer back to your business.
  • Test for competition – ask a smart speaker or voice assistant the questions your consumers will be asking and research the results. Who comes up first and how do they answer?
  • Customer journey – so you’ve written answering content to all of your consumers opening questions, now think about what they will ask next.
  • Analytics and optimization – like any digital strategy, tracking and adjustment is key to success.


7 – Fuel for AI and machine learning

Over 150 voice technology companies showcased their latest innovations in machine learning, AI, and AI voice solutions at Voice Summit 2019. Startup companies like Aebis demonstrated human-like collaboration via vocal interfaces, while Audioburst revealed how they are changing the way consumers engage with talk-audio content.

AI technological development and improvement stems from the massive amalgamation of our personal data which is then sorted by advanced algorithms into something called knowledge domains. While the new tech is as complicated as it is exciting, some are worried about the coming job disruption.

Google’s AI assistant is already experimenting with fully AI automated customer service, appointment booking, and other voice-activated phone functions. Check out these two short videos’ demonstrating Google Assistant’s AI and machine learning capabilities:

In 2020, both exciting new tech and job disruption are trends to keep an eye on.


Key take-away

Even though voice search and voice-activated content are quickly developing as an effective communication channel, the technology is still in the early stage of infancy. Farmers and producers have always placed innovation and technology at the heart of their operations, so marketers would be wise to keep their eyes on this evolving communications opportunity.




Derek Kent is a Digital Specialist and Content Analyst at AdFarm with family roots in agriculture. He is proud be part of the connection between the world’s oldest endeavour and the latest in digital marketing technology and strategy.