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Voice search: A digital space race

Voice search has been identified by the world’s leading technology providers as a huge opportunity to acquire market share over the next decade.

It has become a hot topic in the industry, with every new hardware and software release being met with significant press coverage, and countless op-eds and articles analyzing the voice search ‘explosion’ taking place.

It’s clear why the topic has garnered so much interest; not only do voice assistants seem to tally with what many of us grew up thinking the ‘future’ would look like (essentially an episode of the Jetsons), but they also herald the first real shake-up for the search industry since the launch of the first SERP way back in 1996.

Google currently holds a dominant position in the western search market, but even it needs to continue growing. Voice search, and the increased number of queries this would deliver if widely adopted, could provide that growth.

For the competition, who hold a combined 20% of the global search market share to Google’s 79.8%, voice search presents a fantastic opportunity to gain some ground and perhaps even prevent another search monopoly in this relatively new arena.

By gaining control of the voice search market, and providing integrated, seamless device solutions, companies like Amazon and Apple could convince users to purchase more of their hardware. Moreover, Baidu’s speech recognition levels are the highest within this global competitor set, which could provide a platform for them to expand beyond their native China.

From an optimistic viewpoint, voice search technology has the potential to revolutionize how we source information, how we communicate, and even how we live our lives.

Nonetheless, the path to voice search becoming ubiquitous and, perhaps most importantly to marketers, monetizable is not a straightforward one. With so many technical and practical challenges remaining it would be prudent to avoid being overly hasty in making proclamations that 2017 will be “The Year of Voice Search”.

A study by Forrester indicates that most people are still not using voice search at all. Speech recognition needs to reach around 99% accuracy before the user experience is good enough that people might adopt voice search more widely. Monetizing what is majoritively still a screen-free interaction remains a significant challenge for search engines.

That said, with the combined might (and investment) of the world’s tech giants behind it, all the signs point to voice search gaining traction with consumers through 2017 and beyond.

So who are the major players taking a stab at it? Our playful infographic highlights takes a look at why Google, Amazon, Microsoft and co. might be so keen to steal a march, and where their respective advantages and disadvantages might place them in this voice search ‘space race’.

Click the image to view the infographic as a PDF.

Infographic created by Malena Finguerut, content and marketing specialist at Croud, and graphic designer Chelsea Herbert

Malena Finguerut is a Content and Marketing Specialist at Croud, a global digital performance agency.

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