Amazon introduced its Echo device to Prime customers in 2014 and launched it to the general public in June 2015. While Amazon doesn’t make sales numbers for Echo public, Forrester Research estimates that since its launch, Amazon has sold more than 20 million of the voice-activated devices. What started as a single model lineup has now expanded to six different Echo models being available.
Google began selling its voice-activated Google Home product in November 2016 and has since added the Google Home Max and Google Home Mini. Both products integrate with hundreds of smart devices that are used to manage the smart home and the internet of things. Apple, of course, has its own device, Samsung its own voice assistant software, and there are more entries in a market that is only going to get bigger while it gets more crowded. And this is all in addition to the voice-powered assistants Siri and Google Assistant that are built into every iOS and Android phone.
These products are used for a wide variety of purposes: to listen to music; to get news; to get information; to turn the lights on and off; to make phone and video calls; to set alarms; to hear jokes; the list goes on and on. They are also used for consumer behaviors like ordering household goods and that trend is only increasing. In fact, ComScore projects that by 2020 half of all searches will be from voice. Also, Forbes reports that their research indicates consumers using voice search tend to be more likely to act on the results of their search.
These devices also address accessibility issues that make traditional search challenging, if not impossible, for many. It’s a new opportunity for the visually impaired, who can now perform searches using a device that doesn’t rely on a screen to convey information, resulting in a more natural experience. For the tactilely impaired, it allows them to skip the difficulties and challenges of interacting with a typical keyboard and mouse. Voice search has become not just a relatively new trend, but an enabling technology, empowering many more people to access the experiences and results that are easy to take for granted. Some of the consumers who need your services the most, now have a new and increasingly accurate and robust way of searching for them.
Consider just two potential scenarios that this technology makes possible – in theory, if not yet in practice.
Because of a worksite accident almost 15 years ago, a construction worker experiences severe mobility limitations and vision impairment. He’s been an early adopter of assistive technology for more than a decade, but having voice access to the internet will further increase his independence. He may already use his Echo for home automation, entertainment and online shopping. But he still has a complex and challenging history of medical needs. With the power of voice search, this person may also be spending a lot of time performing research surrounding an ongoing SSDI claim.
A woman is in a car accident next year. Two weeks after the incident, she continues to experience not only headaches but hand tremors that make it difficult for her to do her assembly job. It also makes it extremely challenging to use a keyboard to search for a personal injury lawyer online. She turns to Siri for PI lawyer suggestions within 10 miles of his home. Siri then asks if she would like to call one of them, and she is able to connect directly to an attorney through her HomePod.
While most of the impact of voice search on law firm marketing is yet to be felt, the implications of this technology are enormous and seemingly inevitable. Voice search is not something you need to simply wonder about. It’s a change in how consumers interact with the internet, and it’s something you need to address right now in order to prepare your firm for the future.