Nearly 20 percent of adults in the U.S. own a smart speaker. Whether it’s from Google, Amazon, Apple or another technology brand, the use of voice-enabled tech is growing and becoming more prominent: according to a study by OC&C Strategy Consultants, more than 50 percent of adults will own a smart speaker by 2022, with the market set to rise to $40 billion. It’s clear that this isn’t just a fad — it’s the next step of technological integration into our everyday lives.

This means big changes for marketers as well. An Adobe Analytics Report claimed that 47 percent of consumers would prefer to use digital-assistant technology to inform their buying decisions. 43 percent said they’d use the technology to add items to an online shopping cart, and 32 percent would use it to rely on comparing product prices. Of course, consumers are still reluctant actually place orders using voice-enabled devices, but there is a marked shift in how consumers are shopping and looking for products. 

It’s interesting to note that when Google searches, and later SEO, came into prominence, the trend was to shorten searches to optimize your results. If you typed out a full question, you might be hard pressed to find what you were looking for. But now with voice-enabled tech, it feels much more intuitive to search for products or information by speaking as you normally do. So for marketers and advertisers, who have long-since relied on SEO keywords and shortened phrases to attract consumer attention, they must begin to rethink their strategies.

The driving force behind voice-enabled tech involves data analysis combined with natural language processing in order to interpret consumer searches and find the proper results. The better that these technologies are, the more accurate the response can be, which will naturally lead to greater customer satisfaction. As a result, marketers must harness these technologies before they dive into voice-related advertising.

The biggest value that these voice-enabled devices will change marketing and advertising is through an enhanced interactivity with customers. As people have micro-moments and seek answers to questions in an instant, having a digital-assistant engage with them about your brand and the solutions they can offer represents a massive opportunity for brands. Take for instance the ability for Amazon’s Alexa to incorporate a celebrity like Jimmy Fallon and use his voice with their device, a playful yet brilliant way for NBC to market the late night host. This isn’t quite yet at the level of having a full-on conversation with a consumer, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Of course, voice-enabled tech is not without its pitfalls, and it’s something that both technology companies and marketers will have to overcome before it fully changes the landscape. For one, many experts fear that we are currently over-relying on the main vendors of voice-enabled tech — namely Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple — which may limit a marketing team’s potential strategies, particularly if these vendors decide to make changes with their technology that disrupts a current strategy.

In the same vein, there lies the issue of personalization. Will customers be willing to utilize multiple voice-enabled devices to have profiles and preferences with each brand? Or can multiple customer profiles exist on the same device? This overlap may be something that companies are reluctant to incorporate, making it difficult to foresee whether we’ll be able to experience true personalization in voice technology for the near future.

Even in spite of these challenges, the field is still growing and ripe for opportunities. In 2018, there were over 1 billion devices that provided voice technology and digital assistants, and that number will only continue to grow as consumers seek greater convenience from the brands they enjoy. It’s up to brands, namely their technologists and marketers, to find the best path forward for voice-enabled tech.