Search is Dead, Long live Voice!

In case you have not heard, Voice Technology in the form of Amazon Alexa Skills, and Google Home Actions, are invading homes and are changing the way we interact with technology forever. Especially when it comes to search!

By now almost everyone has heard of Alexa and Hey Google. Today their voices are heard in about 20% of US homes and the numbers are on the rise. We communicate with them through devices scattered all over the house. In the living room as smart speakers, in the kitchen embedded in our microwave, in the bedroom as an alarm clock and in our car as navigation devices. They turn on lights for us, play music, set reminders, help create shopping lists, answer trivia questions, get us directions and let us play games; all without us ever having to pick up our smart phones or turn on our laptops. 

However, why would a business invest in developing solutions utilizing voice technology? What real problems can voice solve? And why is search dead?

Voice is our natural form of communication 

First, voice is the most natural way for human beings to communicate, both at home and in business settings. We may have created a generation of “millennial's” that find comfort in communicating via text and emojis; however, they were not born that way. Mom and Dad did not rejoice when their child sent their first text. No, they rejoiced when their child said their first words. Even the most technologically advanced generation "millennial's," started communicating using voice. Therefore, communicating with “technology” via voice, is the simplest method for us as humans, and communicating via voice, is easily adoptable by all generations, not just the most technically advanced, for both home and work purposes. 

Voice technology adapts to users

In the past we had to adapt to technology. When computers first made their way into businesses, if you did not know how to "type" on a keyboard you had to learn. It is hard to believe, but prior to computers everyone didn't know how to "type." It was a skill learned by a select set of people, mostly women, who didn't get the respect they deserved, they were an elite group of very skilled individuals, they were "secretaries." With the advancement of computer technology into the workplace, we all had to adapt, we all had to learn how to “type,” even the "boss," and using a keyboard became common form of communication, for all generations that followed, not only in the workplace, but in the home as well.

Then the mouse and graphical user interfaces became the latest in technology. Controlling a "cursor" with a "mouse" was a completely foreign action for us; but it was easier then typing every interaction with the computer or constantly hitting the up and down arrow key. So again, we adopted, we figured it out, because there was no other way to communicate with technology. We suffered and still suffer with carpel tunnel syndrome, we create ergonomically designed mice and keyboards, but if we want to use technology, we must adapt to technologies’ form of communication, we must change, no matter how painful. 

Finally voice and natural language processing comes along, and guess what? We had “voice technology” way before we had computers. The rules of voice communication are already established. We all have been learning to communicate using our voices since we were young. No longer do we have to adapt to the technology; the technology will now adapt to us. If Alexa can't understand us, she must learn, she must become smarter, in the same way a child learns, slowly over time she will begin to have more complex adult conversations and this process is happening very quickly. Today if I want to know where the closest Italian Restaurant is, I will ask Alexa or Google and get my answer, all without having to “search” for it. In the future she will become more conversational and follow up with questions about reservations and directions. This is happening today and will become the norm very soon.

The era of “Search" is over, Long live "Voice"

We have to remember, search engines became popular when the internet was young, when most information was stored in books, found at the library, and only some information was available electronically on the internet. Google was formed 20 years ago, 1998 in Menlo California. Search engines helped you "find" the information you were looking for and Google used a new technology, PageRank; it determined a website's relevance by the number of pages, and the importance of those pages that linked back to the original site. Now, 20 years later, for any question we could ever possibly imagine, there is an answer, a page, somewhere on the internet, with many links to it.

Today we are in the era of “SEO,” search engine optimization, or “the process of affecting the online visibility or Page Rank of a website or a web page in the search engine's results.” Everyone is battling for placement at the top of the search results. If you are #1 then users will most likely click on your link and access your information, and possibly become your customer. 

Tomorrow, in the era of voice, there will be no search results as we know it today. Alexa will not say, here are the top 10 Italian Restaurants in the area, which one would you like? No, voice assistants will do the search, find the best answer, based on our personal preferences and present the us with an answer. The era of "search" as we know it is over.

What’s a business to do?

More and more consumers, clients, and customers, are expecting information to be available on the latest platform and voice is the platform of the future. However, Alexa and Google are not wizards, they are not wise, all-knowing beings. In the same way a child learns English, grammar, math, history etc., we need to teach NPL interfaces about different subjects, and our organizations, our companies are the new subjects and the way we teach them is by building Alexa Skills or Google Actions.

Business should see the parallels between voice adoption and the adoption of websites and mobile apps. Businesses should get into voice by starting small, with simple solutions, ad learn over time. Focus on the content that is most relevant to your organization, most valuable to your customers, and make it easily accessible via voice. All indicators from Amazon and Google, lead us to believe, that early entries into the voice market will have huge advantages over late entries. 

“Search” is dead, long live "Voice!"

To learn more about how your organization can reduce friction in accessing information, by implementing voice solutions that provide quick easy access to your organizations critical customer facing information, contact us here.