The drumbeat continues. In language reminiscent of the press that foretold the Great Mobile Revolution just a few years ago, we are now hearing that 50% of all searches will be voice-based by 2020. That’s a lot of growth yet over the next two years, but the sentiment is probably more important than the specifics of the prediction. Voice is the new interface, and whether or not it ever eclipses desktop and mobile in share of search audience, we can at least say with confidence that it’s taking a permanent seat at the table.
As usual, it’s wise to keep an eye on the future while applying some healthy skepticism to the hype. Amazon, Google, Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft have collectively done an excellent job of proving that the market for voice-based devices exists, but the monetization of voice search is lagging far behind overall usage. In fact, a report just out from The Information claims that although Amazon has sold 50 million Alexa devices, only 2% of Alexa users have used their device to make a purchase on Amazon this year—and of those, 90% purchased just once and never tried again. Clearly, Amazon hasn’t made transacting business on its own retail channel compelling enough in a voice context.