As we all know, technology is changing rapidly and marketers need to keep up.

Digital agencies like The Artlab need to understand how technological changes will affect people’s every day lives, businesses and the industry we work in.

One key technological change in this year and last year had been the growth of voice-powered personal assistants.

Almost everyone has spoken to Siri or another tech-powered personal assistant. They are in phones, in laptop operating systems and even in home-based smart speakers.

How many people do you know that got an Amazon Alexa or a Google Home Smart Speaker this Christmas?

Not everyone is convinced by personal digital assistants. And there use still attracts some serious questions, not least relating to privacy. But nobody can deny the success of the technology.

Even grandparents have adopted Alexa, creating a new willingness to use vocal commands to test Alexa for uses such as shopping, and the kind of online searches that might previously have been typed into Google.  

Since cheaper devices like the Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini came out, society now appears to be accepting voice-driven technology. 

Google refuses to publish the percentage of queries driven vocally but what is self-evident is that it’s growing exponentially, from 40% of adults using voice searches in 2016 to an estimated 50% of searches being voice-driven by 2020 (its only quite recently we were quoting statistic like this for mobile search!).

If this trajectory holds we will be witnessing a revolution in digital communication, and even the possible decline of more visual-based interactions, including the now rather quaint-looking text-driven search website.  

And of course, there will be repercussions.  For instance, vocal enquiries tend to be shorter, so as to be clearer, which will move behaviour away from more complex ‘typed’ searches.

In response Google technologies (such as Hummingbird and RankBrain) are already working to help their algorithms decode what is being asked, even if the question is rather convoluted (we’re back to grandparents with Alexa again). 

Further, many voice searches are looking for quick returns on local topics such as restaurant opening hours and the weather, which may well lead Google to prioritise local results. 

And finally, the key one… we are used to the importance of the first page of a Google search response (search engine results page, or SERPs); however, devices such as the Echo will only verbally relay the first position in a search, which means getting the top spot is going to be even more of a bun fight.

In terms, then, of impact on an agency such as Artlab, and looking on the positives… that means there may well be even more business at the very premium SEO strategy level. 

And of course the prioritised locality of responses will place the agency in an important position with business in Manchester and the North-West region. 

Further, thought will also need to be directed towards voice searches, and tailoring targeting optimisation towards long-tail keywords and phrases, and to more general topics rather than specifics.  Digital advertising strategy also needs to be rethought in this context.

The bottom line is that while we don’t know entirely where this is moving to, the fact is that it is moving. 

Any business, or indeed any consultancy like The Artlab advising business, needs to be fully across these changes and remain flexible to evolving behaviours, and to amending strategy accordingly.

The digital sphere shape shifts, and agencies need to move with those changes, in order to correctly advise clients.  Voice search is now a reality.  And the fact remains that Microsoft’s own voice recognition system now has an error rate of 5.1%.  And that is the same error rate of a slightly more organic technology.  The human being.