Don’t be Beta Max in a VHS word. Get into voice activated search Now!

My teenage kids laugh at me, when I tell them that “Voice Search” is the future and in 10 years time typing into phones will be passie. Now that’s a Millenial view!!

For my generation, it was impossible to see beyond CD’s, to MP3 players, to streaming services like Spotify, so they be right, but I think they’re wrong and travel business’s should be putting resource into understanding how they can exploit the disruption that a shift to voice search may create.

The uptake on voice search is like to be very contextual to a users location and environment.

The home will be the first battle ground, as it provides a private environment reducing “Voice Embasement” (VE), with voice activation via simple commands like “lights on” or play Coldplay straight forward to deliver. Voice controlled TV’s will be next, with food shopping to follow shortly after once Tesco’s etc launch voice controlled shopping lists, linked to home delivery services.

The car provides private environment where typing is illegal but voice is not. Voice dialing, navigation or music selection are tools are uncorporated into most new models rolling of the production line.

Its inevitable that once people become used to the utility provided by these services that VE will decline and most interactions with mobile phones will become voice activated rather than typed. Just stop and think about it?

Its fine to talk to another person on your mobile walking down the street, but not to ask for directions or recommendations for a holiday?

Simple travel needs like booking hotels near X or flights to Y, will migrate to voice activation first, just as they where first to move from phone booking to online booking. The shorter and simpler the booking journey, the quicker it will migrate to full voice booking.

However, will booking a holiday be completed by full voice booking? Well in the 1990’s, did we think 60% of holidays would be booked online. The answer is a simple no, as its hard to see far ahead in a rapid evolving internet based world.

Although nobody can predict the future, here are three obvious things to consider.

  • Impact on search. Users have been trained to type as few words as possible to find companies that offer holidays that may meet their needs, as they know to then expect a “Search” box’s which harvests their key requirements, such as destination, departure airport, duration and party type. With voice activated search it will be much simpler to state all your requirements initially and get straight to results. So expect an explotion of long tail searchs with its knock on impact to PPC bidding and SEO optimisation.
  • Voice back to typing? Initially, voice is likely to be restricted to the “research” stage of booking e.g. “Find me cheap deals to majorca from Gatwick for 7 nights for a family of 4”. Results can then be returned, but what next? Will customers switch to typing and booking online or prefer to carry on talking to a call centre via their mobile.  I think the answer will be heavily dependent on their location. For example, yes if they are driving to work but no if they are on a train or in the office.
  • Pay more attention to Bing. Google is the dominant engine for typed search, but crucially Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsofts Cortana voice search results are all powered by Bing. It is going to a bit like the 1980’s battle between Beta Max and VHS!! For my money the Google voice recognitions software is much better than Bings current efforts, so Google may take the VHS slot.

Voice activation feels a bit like the Mobile debate 6 years ago. The experts all told us it was coming, but it was still hard to imagine the impact. Well start imaging guys, beause change often leads to disruption and disruption provides opportunities for first