The reason behind this preference for voice may relate to our innate need to communicate. “For most of our cultural evolution as a species, humans have transmitted knowledge and ideas from one generation to another through oral tradition,” says Nick Ryan, composer, sound designer, artist and audio specialist. “The voice is therefore perhaps the most innate and intuitive way for us to communicate.”
Simply put, voice is natural and easy, saving consumers time and effort. In our research we found that the main reason for using voice was efficiency, with our respondents describing the tech as “convenient” and “simple to use.” In fact, 76% of all regular voice tech users say that “using voice technology feels really natural now and I don’t even think about it.” Duncan Anderson, CEO and cofounder of Humanise. AI and former CTO of IBM Watson Europe, explains, “It’s about being super-helpful, super-efficient, not getting in the way, building something that allows me to get the job done with minimal fuss.”
With developments in natural language processing and speech-recognition error rates now matching human parity at 5%, we’re seeing voice become more than just a time-efficient shortcut. Voice assistants are starting to play an advisory role, acting as a digital butler and seemingly forming relationships with consumers. Globally, almost half (43%) of regular voice technology users say that they love their voice assistant so much they wish it were a real person.
Brands are going to have to make sure they craft their own voices and personalities to build a deeper emotional connection with consumers. “Companies will now need to think about the actual voice of their brand,” says Martin Reddy, cofounder and CTO of the PullString voice technology development company. “They have to think about how their brand sounds, and the words and language that their brand uses when communicating with customers—the personality of their brand as it’s presented to users.”
Voice tech goes global
It’s important to note the global nature of this phenomenon. It’s not just North American and European markets embracing voice—our research shows that Asian markets are also welcoming this tech. Japan is at the forefront, with the likes of Musio, Gatebox and Line’s Clova. Similarly, in China, consumers are very familiar with voice technology and often find it easier than typing Chinese phonetic characters. In fact, a majority of our Chinese respondents believe voice technology will encourage communication—78% of smartphone users think voice technology will help people interact more with each other, as they won’t be always looking at a screen. Globally, this figure decreases to 53%.