How Do Consumers Use Voice Search?: Interpreting Our Google Survey Results

voice search

In our increasingly connected digital world, there’s a good chance you’ve been exposed to voice search in some way. Maybe you’ve chatted with Siri on your iPhone. Perhaps you or a friend have even invited a digital assistant like Amazon Echo into your home.

But just how many people are using virtual assistants powered by voice search? How are they using them specifically, and what are their attitudes toward the technology? Do retailers need to be concerned?

We conducted a Google Consumer Survey to find out, and we’ll pull back the curtain on our full results in our webinar, Search Without Screens & The Rise of Voice Assistants on Thursday April 19 at 2:00 p.m. EST. In this webinar, you’ll learn:

  • How consumers are using voice search assistants in 2018
  • What voice paid media could mean for retailers and consumers
  • How to get found and be heard by voice searchers

Register now to reserve your spot. Can’t make it? No problem! Our webinars are available on-demand within 24 hours or less via  

In the meantime, we’ll share some of our findings right here as a sneak preview.

The Skinny On Our Survey

Our study polled over 1,000 respondents from February 12-15, 2018. We targeted users of voice-activated assistants among the general U.S. population on the Google Consumer Surveys publisher network.

Early, Enthusiastic Adopters

We found that 20.5% of respondents currently use a voice-activated virtual assistant like Siri, Alexa (Amazon Echo), Google Home, or Cortana. However, when you include those who previously used a voice assistant but have since stopped, that number rises to 38%.

These results suggest that voice assistants still have a way to go before becoming widespread technology. We can expect the percentage of users to continue to grow as more digital assistants find their way into U.S. homes. After all, smartphones were considered a niche device about a decade ago. Now they’re just about universal.

But those who use voice search tend to use it often. 46.3% of respondents said they use voice search one or more times a day. Voice search users appear likely to make it part of their regular routines.

A Growing Array of Devices

Mobile phones were by far the most common device on which respondents use voice assistants, at 63.6%. Many popular smartphone models now feature integration with a digital assistant: Siri on the iPhone, Google Assistant on Android devices, and Cortana on Windows Phone, to name a few. A mobile phone is a natural gateway to voice search for most consumers.

Consumers predominantly use voice search on their mobile phones.

Current manufacturing trends could narrow the gap between mobile phones and other product categories over time. Digital assistants are being integrated into a variety of everyday consumer products. You may have already interacted with Cortana while playing Xbox or talked to Alexa in your Toyota. Consumers will be more inclined to try voice search when it’s built into items they already use regularly.

Emerging Habits & Preferences

Convenience seems to be the strongest factor pulling users toward voice search. As the most popular response, 50.4% of respondents said they use voice search because it’s hands-free. A sizable portion (42.8%) also enjoys that it’s faster than typing.

Most respondents use voice commands to play music or other media (55.6%), with significant percentages also using them to receive updates on news and weather (31.3%), or to set timers and reminders (33.9%). It’s not hard to imagine people setting their digital assistants up as entertainment or informational hubs, ready to dispense content or perform functions directly applicable to their daily lives.

Not Sold On Shopping

Users haven’t been so quick to let their virtual assistants help them with shopping. However. Just 8.1% said they used voice search to purchase an item, and a resounding 71.5% hadn’t even used it to find information related to a purchase.

The most common items purchased through voice search or virtual assistants were entertainment products like music or movies (43.0%), as well as everyday household items (26.2%). What makes these the favored product types of voice searchers? Why are consumers so hesitant to make purchases via voice assistants in the first place? We have some ideas we’ll share during the webinar, so be sure to tune in.

Most users turn to virtual assistants to buy entertainment media and household essentials.

What Retailers Should Know

Voice search is still in the early phases of monetization, as only a select few brands have access to different voice-to-commerce capabilities. However, this doesn’t mean businesses should ignore voice search or not consider how it can benefit their brands. There are strategies you can implement to make your website or business stand out to voice search users.

You’ll want to imagine yourself in the shoes of consumers. Consider the questions they might ask a virtual assistant that could lead them to your business. Free online tools like Answer the Public are very useful for identifying common question phrases related to your field or industry.

An example of Answer the Public for the search query, “voice search.”

It’s also a good idea to optimize your pages to appear in featured snippets on Google. With voice search, you don’t have the luxury of the entire first page to draw eyeballs to your site. There’s only one result that matters, the one in the coveted “position zero.” Investigate opportunities where your site can claim a featured snippet, and focus your content on providing the best, most comprehensive responses to those queries.

We’ll discuss these and other tips in more detail during the webinar.

Register Now for Even More!

We’ve provided plenty of data and insights to whet your appetite, but if you want to see our complete survey results and recommendations, sign up for our webinar next week. A voice-first world is no longer a fantasy – it’s an inevitability. Preparing your brand now will help you gain a valuable edge over your competitors.

Note: Last edited April 12, 2018.

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