Voice Activated Devices Are All The Buzz

Voice activated remote controls, echoes, smart phones, smart tv’s, and home kits (talking to your house to turn on your lights, alarm system, appliances, etc.), are gaining popularity and flying off shelves. “According to research by Activate Inc, there will be an estimated 21.4 million smart speakers in the US by 2020. Because of the emphasis on the importance of search engine optimization and paid search, the rise of voice search will have a significant effect on marketing efforts”.

But who is listening? Are you communicating with your ‘house’? or is there a person in that device somewhere recording you and learning your habits?

Smarter and smarter software is the trend with voice activation ranking high on the list. Here are some of the pros and cons, and how it affects marketers:


It helps the handicap

This is the most obvious advantage, helping those who have trouble using their hands or are blind. It can also greatly empower the elderly who can’t easily move around.

“…it gives those individuals who are blind or who cannot manipulate a keyboard due to a physical disability the opportunity to make use of a computer and in many cases gain a level of independence. Voice activated programs can allow people with disabilities to be able to work and in some cases obtain an unknown level of self-sufficiency”.

“This makes the use of these types of software applications a way to increase productivity as well as giving individuals with disabilities a new way to interact and work”.

It makes the world move even faster and elevates productivity

Speech recognition software can make productive, time-saving contributions to an organization. Documents can be transcribed at a much faster speed and accuracy using voice activation rather than manually writing or typing. We are all familiar with phone call centers using voice activated software to direct your call to the appropriate live person. This saves on overhead costs. Physicians using voice over dictation free up time and resources as well and are able to see more patients.

“Everyone from doctors, writers and the disabled are making use of voice recognition software and voice activated applications. What used to have to be dictated to secretaries or took hours to write out by hand can be submitted directly through the use of voice activated software to a word processing program. A small amount of editing and the document is ready to go”.

“The average office worker types between 50-70 words per minute. However, speech recognition programs can handle 120 words per minute at 98% accuracy with proper training, even editing can be accomplished through the use of voice activated programming”.

“….physicians and clinicians who document healthcare through voice transcription are able to attend to more patients, thereby raising their billing for the extra hours worked. On average, they are able to see one-third more patients than they could by using the EMR’s structured template”.


Siri spies on you, relentlessly

The creepiest factor; you are being listened too ALL the time. Some devices are ‘on’ when on, so everything being said in the environment can be recorded by the manufacturer. This perhaps is our worst science fiction fears come true.

Apple has previously confirmed that it holds on to Siri recordings for up to two years, disassociating them from user accounts after six months and using the unidentified recordings for product improvement”.

“There is no opt-out for the recording process other than not using Siri, though users can deactivate location services in the privacy settings to further disassociate any personal information from the recordings”.

It needs to get to know you

Voice activated software needs to learn your voice, and your accent. This can be a frustrating learning process.

“All voice activated software applications and programs that are compatible with voice recognition are going to require some kind of user specific training”.


Marketers need to understand that voice activation behavior greatly changes the digital landscape.

 “All things considered, voice search is still a new feature in the digital landscape, particularly for marketing. An important thing to consider is that there are two ways to voice search. A mobile assistant like Siri allows you to dictate a voice command on your phone and then see results displayed on the screen of your device. Devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home allow you to speak to them and they will speak back to you with the result of your query. As things move further away from the screen, the more things will change. Everything when it comes to digital advertising, search engine optimization, and user experience has considered the screen as an integral part of the process. As marketers, it’s important to stay on top of the new features and products, as they come up to continuously optimize the process of reaching customers through voice search”.

Media planners need to contemplate target audiences with this in mind:

“One of the most important considerations for your marketing campaigns is defining your target market and figuring out where and how to reach them. Studies show that 71% of people ages 18-29 are using mobile personal assistants for voice search – so if your target market skews younger, it is an important consideration. However, older people are still using voice search. Surprisingly, the 54+ age group still had a reported 34% of people using voice search regularly”.

Companies need to consider updating their apps to accommodate voice activating capabilities as well. Both Dominoes and Burger King jumped on board with these concepts:

“…Dominoes rolled out a new Siri-style ‘voice ordering’ system developed by speech recognition firm, Nuance. The software sits alongside Dominos’ virtual assistant ‘the Dru Assist’, and claims to make ordering more efficient and accurate for customers.”

Burger King created headlines in the US when it’s voice-activated ad campaign on Google Home was blocked and its functionality shut down by Google. When asking Google Home ‘what is a Whopper’, the device answers using the information provided on the brand’s Wikipedia page, which was edited to say:

“The Whopper is a burger, consisting of a flame-grilled patty made with 100 percent beef with no preservatives or fillers, topped with sliced tomatoes, onions, lettuce, pickles, ketchup, and mayonnaise, served on a sesame-seed bun.” 

Obviously, there is still some work to do, but companies and marketers need to consider voice integration into their future strategies.