The Voice Gap

According to figures by PwC, an incredible 72% of consumers use digital assistants including Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri. It’s clear that voice is on the rise, but it is more than just a novelty. As we enter 2019, many brands will be considering a strategy specifically to tap into the voice opportunity.

The challenge with voice search is that when a user asks a question, they are given one answer – often the first organic search result. If that information is incorrect, there is a loss of trust and potentially even reputational damage for the brand in question.

Yext commissioned investigative research with 2,000 UK consumers. Among the most striking findings; as many as 70% of respondents have yet to act on the results provided by voice search alone. Meaning, they are still looking to cross check the information offered up by voice search tools with what they can read on their phones and computers.

What is compounding the issue for businesses is that many respondents said that they see the brand as responsible for the information provided, not the search provider.

On the rise, but limited

Gartner predicts that voice will continue to rise and, by 2021, brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by as much as 30%. Why? It’s human nature. The human mind is inherently designed for one to one conversation — far more so than the motion of typing or swiping on a smartphone.

“Early mainstream” consumers are already relying on voice to order food, get traffic reports, research products, shop and even facilitate family time because of the convenience and ease of experience it provides.

However, with only one answer provided, voice users want to know that the one answer provided to them is always the right and best answer. Consumers expect the experience of a voice search to be better than searching the web. Over a third of respondents (37%) say the accuracy of business information plays a decisive role in determining the extent to which they would depend on a voice search assistant. In order for that expectation to be met and for customers to get the best possible experience, business information provided by voice assistants must be accurate. Once a customer has had a negative experience engaging with a brand or retailer through voice, they may not engage or buy from that brand or retailer again.

Information blind spots

Up-to-date information on location, ratings and opening hours are all vital factors if users are to make informed decisions. Unfortunately, these are also the types of information most commonly found to be inaccurate.

In the UK, 35% of consumers express that they have discovered inaccurate opening hours upon checking with the physical store. 21% have seen inaccurate locations listed and over a quarter (26%) haven’t been able to get in touch due to incorrect contact details. For voice to succeed, brands need to play their part to ensure they are a source of truth about location, menus, hours — everything.

There is certainly room to grow trust in search results – online and with voice. When completing a search online, more than 50% of consumers are still looking to qualify what they read by clicking on three or four online sources. One in ten respondents admitted they would check six or more sources.

Approximately 80% of consumers prefer to make a voice or text search to look up information about local businesses. It’s not a great experience for a customer to ask their digital assistant for the opening hours and then for them to have to visit the website to check the information is right.

Furthermore, for the third of people who don’t check an additional source, they risk arriving at a closed restaurant. Aside from leaving a bad taste in the customer’s mouth, the customer is less likely to visit again. They may even tell their friends, families and colleagues they have wasted time.

Brands must establish trust

Just 22% of consumers feel that the responsibility for keeping information up-to-date lies with the search engine. In fact, half said the responsibility should rest with the retailers and brands. Interestingly, one in ten people believe they themselves are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the digital knowledge.

Voice users believe that Electronics (39%), Groceries (35%), Books (23%) and Fashion (22%) are the most promising retail sectors for voice search and shopping in the UK. Nearly nine in ten voice users (89%) plan purchases around winter sales periods with more than half looking to invest in consumer electronics. The findings show that retailers will have to pay particular attention to voice during annual sales peaks such as Black Friday, Cyber Week and the January sales.

To meet ever-increasing consumer expectations, brands must ensure that its information is accurate. The stakes are even higher with just one answer being shared through voice. It must be the best information for the consumer-based on the context they are in, and equally benefit the business wanting to be discovered.

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