The Rise of Voice Search: 60% Started Using It in Past 12 Months

In the past 18 months I have given a number of presentations on voice search and virtual assistants where I ask a room full of digital marketers whether and how often they use voice search or Siri/Google Now/Cortana. I have been consistently surprised by the small numbers who raise their hands.

Voice search and virtual assistants hold enormous promise (and “disruptive” potential) and I’ve always operated under the assumption that voice interfaces and virtual assistants would become widely used and entirely mainstream. I recently spoke with MindMeld CEO Tim Tuttle about voice assistant adoption. MindMeld is a company that provides AI and voice search/assistant capabilities to third parties.

MindMeld voice search data

As part of a recent partnership and platform release, the company exposed survey data about use of voice search and virtual assistants.  The survey was conducted in October among smartphone users in the US (1,800 adults). The main finding was that 60% of respondents had just started using voice search in the past year — 41% in the past six months.

The following chart shows voice assistant penetration in the various age categories. Interestingly, usage is lower among those 25 to 34 than it is among those 35 to 54.

Voice Assistant Mindmeld

Asked “what is your primary voice assistant?” the largest group (40%) said they used Siri, 26% said they used Google’s voice search and 6.1% said Microsoft’s Cortana. Another 2% were using Amazon’s Alexa (on the Echo device) and roughly 37% said they haven’t used any voice assistant.

Three things are interesting here: Apple users appear to be much more conditioned to use voice search/commands than Android users. Cortana is also “punching above it’s weight,” given that Windows Phone’s market share is less than 3% now in the US. Accordingly, Cortana is being used on Android by a meaningful number of users.

MindMeld voice search data

In addition quite a few people have bought Amazon Echo devices. These may be Prime/Amazon loyalists. But if we can extrapolate from the sample (for fun) the data suggest that there are roughly 4.9 million Echo owners in the US.

The chief method of discovery is word of mouth with “media” (articles, TV) being a distant second place. There’s a pun in there somewhere with “word of mouth” being the primary way “voice assistants” are discovered.

MindMeld research voice search

In terms of satisfaction levels, just over 50% said they were “somewhat satisfied” or “very satisfied,” while 38% were “neutral.” As natural language understanding gets better and the outputs become richer and more useful, usage and adoption will only increase.


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