Voice is the New Touch

Depending on your age, you may or may not remember the first computer mouse. It debuted in the 80s after several rudimentary prototypes, including one made of wood. But the mouse as we now know it hit the scene in 1983 with a commercialized version from Apple that featured trackball technology and a single, horizontal button.

It was the first time people could control their personal computer with touch. And ever since then, we’ve been obsessed. The point-and-click mouse eventually gave way to the trackpad and touchscreen, giving us even easier ways of engaging with our devices with a tap of the finger. But today we find ourselves in the midst of yet another wave of tech innovation. This time it’s no longer centered around touch, but rather voice.

In fact, voice-activated-everything is spreading like wildfire--from Siri on our smartphones to connected home devices like Google Home in our living rooms. A recent study by Park Associates found that the adoption rate of smart speakers with integrated voice assistants grew 140% last year alone. Music is one of the leading activities on these devices and, among Pandora’s listeners, we’ve seen listening on smart speakers grow by a whopping 282% year-over-year.

To give this more context, let’s compare the adoption rate of smart speakers to another common in-home device: the television. While it took many years for a single household to own multiple TVs, it’s already common for people to have several voice-activated devices scattered throughout the home. In fact, according to a recent smart speaker study conducted by Pandora and Edison Research, we found that 1 in 3 smart speaker owners already own two or more devices.

Voice Takes the Lead in a Screenless World

When it comes to technology, voice is the new touch. Users are already turning to smart speakers and voice assistants to talk, search, entertain, shop, etc. in moments where they may have used a screen in the past. But why is adoption suddenly increasing now? Voice assistants aren’t exactly new (Siri launched back in 2011) and touchscreens aren’t exactly outdated (yet!).

In one sense, advancements in voice recognition technology are making these devices more affordable and accessible to the general public. Especially in the home, voice-activated devices are quickly becoming ubiquitous. However, there’s also the element of frictionless connectivity that’s attractive to many consumers. These devices make many interactions easier, especially when it comes to making purchases--likely the reason why Amazon decided to join the fun with the launch of the Echo, Dot and Tap.

But perhaps the most compelling reason for voice’s surge in popularity is how “human” it feels. There’s nothing more personal than communicating with your voice, and that makes our interactions with technology feel more natural. When we asked smart speaker owners what they use their device for most, we found that personal, human-like interactions ranked especially high. According to our study with Edison Research, within any given week 46% of smart speaker users check the weather, 42% want to hear a joke and 40% like to ask general questions. It’s interesting that something so “human” as telling a joke outranks even the most practical (asking a general question).

Voice Technology Leads to More Listening

A byproduct of this shift from screen-centered to voice-centered technology is a huge increase in the time people spend with audio, including music. In fact, 7 in 10 people who own a smart speaker report listening to more audio in the home since acquiring it, and 65% say they listen to more music too.

For both content creators and brands looking to reach a connected audience, audio has never been a more pertinent or powerful engagement platform. So, with much of our interactions with technology moving toward voice, marketers of all industries should seriously consider their brand’s Sonic Identity. This includes everything that creates the “sound” of a brand--from a sonic logo, to a musical jingle and even the voice profile of the actor. Put together, these elements form a powerful, auditory representation of the brand.

How Marketers Can Adjust to a Voice Strategy In a screenless future, all we need is our voice to harness the vast digital world around us. This is a major shift that requires re-imagining audio as an effective medium for keeping your brand relevant and top-of-mind.

Pandora has spent the last decade prioritizing this side of our business. With over 2,000 connected device integrations (including Google Home and Amazon Echo), we are uniquely poised to help our advertisers translate their visual messages into impactful audio ones.

So, how are you going to ensure your brand stands out in an audio-first world? If you’re hungry for more smart speaker insights, you’re in luck. We will be releasing more insights from our study with Edison Research right here on the blog. It will provide answers to common questions like: Who’s leading this trend? And how are these devices being used?

If you’d like to skip ahead and learn more about how Pandora can help you deliver impactful audio advertisements across our suite of connected device integrations, please get in touch by completing this short form. One of our experts will be in touch shortly to get you started.

Sources: [1] Edison Research, National Smart Speakers Study, Spring 2017 [2] NPR and Edison Research, The Smart Audio Report