The way we access content online is changing all the time. In the past, this referred to our choice of search engine as well as the algorithms of Google, Yahoo, Bing and other platforms. The rise of social media and news aggregators also gives Internet users new avenues to explore and make use of.
But now, more and more of us are using our voices to search the web and find out essential information quickly and efficiently. In fact, mobile voice searches on Google more than doubled in the past year. However, it seems like certain generations are embracing this revolutionary search technique more than others.
Teenagers vs. Adults
According to a Northstar Research study commissioned by Google, teenagers are ahead of the curve when it comes to talking to their smartphones. Out of the 1,400 Americans across all age groups that took part in the survey, 55 per cent of teens said they use voice search more than once a day. For these adolescents, speaking into their device is just like any other interaction, such as taking a selfie or checking social media.
Even though this is somewhat expected from a younger generation, who are generally early adopters of new technology, adults aren’t that far behind, with 41 per cent saying they use voice search every day. It might feel a bit strange for those used to typing in a search query, but a further 56 per cent said talking to their smartphone made them “feel tech savvy.”
Voice search behaviour
When do teens use voice search:
While watching TV – 59 per cent
With friends – 57 per cent
In the bathroom – 22 per cent
While exercising – 17 per cent
While cooking – 8 per cent
When do adults use voice search:
While watching TV – 36 per cent
With friends – 24 per cent
While cooking – 23 per cent
While exercising – 15 per cent
In the bathroom – 15 per cent
Results from the survey also provided insights into when, where and why we use voice search. For example, rather than typing in a postcode, address or house number, both teens and adults seem to prefer asking their phone for directions. On top of that, 38 per cent of adults use voice search while watching TV, as looking at the screen while physically inputting information can be distracting.
This is also the case when it comes to cooking, as 23 per cent of adults admit to using voice search in the kitchen. If you’ve got messy fingers or need to concentrate on accurate timing and measurements, talking to your phone is a much easier way of finding out important cooking information.
What teens use voice search for:
Call someone – 43 per cent
Ask for directions – 38 per cent
Help with homework – 31 per cent
Play a song – 30 per cent
Find out movie times – 20 per cent
Check the time – 13 per cent
What adults use voice search for:
Ask for directions – 40 per cent
Dictate texts – 39 per cent
Call someone – 31 per cent
Check the time 11 per cent
Play a song – 11 per cent
Find out movie times – 9 per cent
As for teenagers, one-third say they talk to their phone for help with homework. While this might be considered cheating or an ineffective way of learning, 74 per cent feel that voice search in the classroom at school is unacceptable. Even though voice search has a whole host of practical applications, most believe it is “just for fun.
The younger generation don’t feel that ashamed or embarrassed about using voice search while hanging out with friends either. One in five teenagers also admitted to conducting a search while in the bathroom too. However, only one-quarter of adults are comfortable talking to their mobile device while others are around.
Why do teens use voice search:
It’s the future – 89 per cent
It’s cool – 79 per cent
It’s safer/for multi-tasking – 78 per cent
Why do adults use voice search:
It’s the future – 85 per cent
It’s safer – 76 per cent
It’s cool/for multi-tasking – 63 per cent
The future of voice search
Despite the fact that both teenagers and adults are embracing voice search in several ways, there is still greater potential for the future. The survey asked people what they would like voice search to achieve and deliver in the years to come.
What teens wish a voice search could do:
Send a pizza – 45 per cent
Find the remote – 34 per cent
Find keys – 34 per cent
What adults wish a voice search could do:
Find keys – 44 per cent
Send a pizza – 36 per cent
Find the remote – 34 per cent
For adults, practical requests such as locating their keys came out top. Although this item would need to have some sort of Internet or GPS connection, you wouldn’t put it past someone like Google making this a possibility. Teenagers on the other hand were more concerned with getting out of the cooking by ordering a pizza. But even this is still technically possible by asking to call the nearest takeaway and placing your order for delivery.
Voice search is not only changing the way consumers browse online content, it is also forcing marketers to change their approach to things like SEO. At the moment, one of the most popular voice search requests is asking for directions and companies that do not have their location or contact details on Google could be missing out on lots of footfall.
What’s more, the majority of voice searches aren’t conducted with keywords in mind, as they are spoken naturally using every day language. Therefore, content creators may have to re-think the way they construct and produce pieces of text in order to target this growing group of consumers. And so it seems that these insights into audience activity aren’t just enlightening and entertaining, they could be consequential to the future of marketing.