megaphone dangling from a chain
PHOTO: Ana Flávia

2019 saw continued growth in voice technologies, following the massive leaps in 2018 and 2017. In many ways, 2019 was about the maturation of voice and the ecosystem around it. As we start into 2020, we begin to ask what’s next.

The Future of Voice Technology

Voice technology today is where mobile technology was 10 years ago. In 2020 we will see it expand across multiple industries. Through the use of conversational technology, voice searches and interactions will become more fluid, increasingly accurate and more streamlined than traditional text searches. 2018 research from PwC showed only 10% of surveyed customers were unfamiliar with voice technology, and of the 90% that were, 72% had used voice technology.

Companies will continue to recognize the importance of voice search for modernized interactions, as consumers and end users are becoming more familiar with voice, and expect seamless experiences. When done properly, voice can create a clear path between a customer and a product, opening more opportunities for sales and cart conversions. Even in instances where customers do not ultimately end up buying, positive voice interactions will build trust and loyalty with the brand. We saw a number of examples of this in 2019, with organization as disparate as WW, Eisai (for children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome), Spotify and EA making big moves in voice.

People are comfortable with voice and in five years, they will want this voice experience in their homes, in the store and everywhere in between (public and private spaces). Imagine walking into Home Depot and getting what you need — without ever speaking to a human. That day is coming.

Related Article: How Marketers Can Get Into the Voice Experience Party

Voice Technology Increases Accessibility

Aside from the traditional buying experience, voice also opens up opportunities for increased accessibility. Those who may not be able to use or navigate the traditional text keyboard will have an alternative path for gathering information and completing their goals. This increases brand inclusion and recognition in demographics that may have been previously untapped.

None of this will come, however, if there aren’t services that open up the possibilities of voice to organizations. We’ve seen new companies start up that offer tools to help build voice experiences, and we’ve seen existing companies add voice and natural language to their offerings. Gold miners need pickaxes, and both need money. That might be why funding for voice startups was slated to increase by nearly three times in 2019. We expect that number to continue growing in 2020 as more companies realize they want to build richer voice applications, and they need voice search, natural language understanding (NLU) and analytics tools to help them do it.

Related Article: We Need to Build Accessibility Into Our Digital Workplaces

Voice Everywhere Is Coming

We will likely never again see the growth in raw percentage for voice that we saw back in 2017 and 2018. Instead, voice is now on the path towards ubiquity and maturity. Companies are starting to understand how to integrate voice into their efforts in order to make more money, services are appearing to help them do that, and users are expecting voice to be everywhere. In 2020, we expect this last point in particular to continue. Voice everywhere is coming, and it’s an opportunity for brands and customers to talk to it.