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Trends for 2020: Voice Takes Off (Thinks Out Loud Episode 271)

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Trends for 2020: Voice Takes Off (Thinks Out Loud Episode 271) – Headlines and Show Notes

We're kicking off 2020 by highlighting a key trend you need to know about. What is that trend? The growth of voice in your customer's journey. Voice has been growing in importance for a few years. But it looks like this year is the year it really takes flight. And, of course, that means you need to think about how you can use voice to improve your marketing and customer experience.

Customers use voice search. They listen to podcasts. They expect relevant experiences, immediately. These all connect to make voice a key component of your marketing strategy and tactics. And Thinks Out Loud has some recommendations on how to make voice work for your business.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you:

Relevant Links – Trends for 2020: Voice Takes Off (Thinks Out Loud Episode 271)

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You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

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Running time: 18m 00s

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Transcript — Trends for 2020: Voice Takes Off (Thinks Out Loud Episode 271)

Show Opening — Trends for 2020: Voice Takes Off (Thinks Out Loud Episode 271)

Well, hello again everyone and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs. This is episode 271 of the big show, and I think we have a really cool show for you. I want to follow up with what I've been talking about for the last handful of weeks with, you know, the decade in review that I closed out last year with and with your digital marketing new year's resolutions that I opened last week with, to talk a little bit about the trends you want to pay attention to here in 2020 and beyond.

I don't think, I always think it's funny when you're talking about trends for 2020 or trends for 2019 or trends for 2021 whatever the year happens to be. Because if it's a meaningful trend, it's probably not a one year event. It's probably something, it's almost always something that has benefit to you, not just for this year, but for the next year or two or three. You know, once you get out more than a couple of years, two, three years, it may get tough to say it will consistently be true, but if it's worth doing, it's something that probably should have some legs underneath it, something that will carry you forward for some time to come.

The Trend: Voice Takes Off

And one of the trends that I think you need to pay attention to now, if you haven't been already, is the growth of voice. I really think we are in an era when voice is taking off in a big, big way, and I'll explain why in just a moment. But for some background, I've talked about voice as a powerful trend before and whether voice and VR and AR and AI represent hype or hope for marketers as well as others over the last few years. And I will link to all of that in the show notes.

But I want to say that some of those may have been a little early. You know, 2017/2016 voice probably was, you know, interesting, but not necessarily critically important to your business. As we move forward though, in this year and the next year, all the data strongly suggests that that simply is no longer the case.

Digital Sleeps, Creeps, and Leaps

Like a lot of things in digital, I really think we're seeing an example of where the trend "sleeps, creeps and then leaps." You know, it's something where you don't see it much until one day you look around and it's everywhere. And I think we're starting to hit the point where voice is going into that "leaps" mode. It's sort of slept for a little bit. It's been creeping slowly. And boom. Now here we are, where it's suddenly gotten very big.

Data Showing How Big Voice Is Getting and the Growth of Voice

I wrote a piece for Hotel Executive this month that talks about, you know, how "voice is mobile's next big trick." And we're seeing data from the Global Web Index that says 27% of the global online population is using voice search on mobile. That same report says, quote, "with between 40 to 60% of consumers planning to purchase a new mobile within the next 12 months, the majority of their new phones will have integrated voice assistance." Research from Path Interactive says that 70% of respondents report using voice search at least a few times a week, and 27% of respondents are using voice search one to three times per day.

So that's a lot, right? We know that Google has been saying for some time that about 20% of all mobile searches are voice powered. Now, I want to be fair. Google has been saying that number for a couple of years. And they haven't updated the number, which means one of two things, well, at least one of two things is true.

One is that that number has grown a ton and they want to keep it closer to the vest because they don't want Amazon and Apple with Alexa and Siri to get into play there. Or the other possibility is that it hasn't grown as much as they would like. And so they're, they don't want to like, you know, oversell it.

I'm not sure which of those is true, but given what we're seeing from data around Apple and data that we're seeing from Amazon, I suspect that the more like the former, that they don't want Apple and Amazon to catch on, than the latter. For instance, according to Fortune and some other folks, Apple's AirPods business is somewhere between a $6 billion and $8 billion business, and it's growing fast according to Fortune.

That revenue alone would make AirPods, just AirPods, number 384 on the Fortune 500. Which, okay, only the 384th biggest business on the Fortune 500. But that's still one of the 500 biggest businesses in the world, so that's pretty good, right? That's crazy, you know?

According to a bunch of different data, there were 100 million Alexa-powered devices sold in 2018. And according to Quora Creative, the Echo Dot was the best selling product on Amazon during the 2018 holiday season. Not the best selling voice product, the bestselling product overall. And that discounts all of the other Echo devices that are out there, or all the other Alexa-powered devices that are out there.

So clearly voice is growing in terms of its ubiquity and in terms of the frequency with which customers use it. I mean, that's a really, really big deal and it's becoming a bigger and bigger deal, something that you need to pay attention to, we need to pay attention to as digital marketers, as digital strategists, if we're going to connect with our customers where they want us to.

One last data point I would call out is that according to Path Interactive, they found that the majority of respondents, 78%, believe that within the next five to 10 years, at least half their searches will be done through voice search devices.

Now the reason I saved this one for last is because it goes back to a quote I've referred to many times, which is that we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10. So when people are saying they expect about half of their voice searches will be done through voice search devices in the next five to 10 years. That's a likely an underestimate.

It doesn't mean that we're going to get there in two. It just means that one of two things will be true. Either we will get to half voice search as being there faster than five years, or we will get a lot more than half of searches done within that period, or both.

Your Response: Trends for 2020: Voice Takes Off (Thinks Out Loud Episode 271)

So given that, given these potential realities, what should you do about it? How should you change what you're doing or how should you think differently about this?

How to Show Up in Voice Search

And the first is to understand that audio is a key component of your customer's experience. So you want to be sure that when people are looking for you voice, that you actually can respond to them.

And the way you do that is to make sure that you do well in Answer Boxes and Featured Snippets in things like Google Search, because that's what powers voice responses for Google and for Siri on Apple devices, that's how they get the answers to the questions that they want.

Research Answer Box and Featured Snippet Keywords

And how do you do that? Well, you have to target keywords that Answer Boxes show up for. It doesn't make a lot of sense to try to be an Answer Box for those queries that Answer Boxes don't appear. You want to take a look at what kinds of keywords align with your business objectives that also have Answer Boxes attached to them and start creating content that actually answers those questions. Which is the second thing that you have to do. When we talk about Answer Boxes and Featured Snippets, you need to think about the questions that your customers ask.

You know, either brainstorm them, brainstorming them with your sales and customer service folks, doing keyword research, looking at your Google Search Console data and looking at your site search data to understand the questions that people are asking and the intent that they have when they don't ask a question, but just putting the specific keywords.

Answer the Questions that Customers Ask

You want to target those questions as the keywords within your content. You know, you want to think about things like what are directions to your locations or finding times that your businesses are open, your business is open, or how-to's around products, services, or solutions. You know, what are people asking when they have questions about your product? What are people asking when they have questions about your service? What are the how-to's they're asking when in the old marketing vernacular, "nobody wants a drill, they want a hole"? What kinds of questions are they asking about that that your product or service might be a good answer for?

Provide Clear, Concise and Correct Answers

Now, assuming your product or service is a good answer to those questions, the next thing you want to do is to make sure that you've got a clear, concise and correct answer to that question, which means you may not be talking about your product or service. You have to answer the question. The best answer is what Google's really looking for. So you want to focus on making the answer as correct and as perfect as possible. The answer absolutely can be, and likely should be, part of a longer piece. You know, "Content is King" and all that. But the core of the answer really has to appear in the first hundred words or so, maybe 150. You want to get to the answer fast because on voice, that's what your customer wants to do. Get to the answer fast.

Format Your Answers in Structured Data

You can make that work even better by formatting responses as either a numbered list or a bulleted list. Again, that's a very clear case of "here's a direction to the place," "here's what time you're open," "here's how you do the thing" that somebody asked how to do. And if you have tabular data, you know, tables or graphical data graphs used, use structured data markup for those. Make sure that you've got the data marked up in a way that Google can clearly understand this is tabular data, this is graphical data, and here's how I can present it best to answer the question somebody asks.

Consider Voice Apps Like Alexa Skills and Google Actions

Another thing you're going to want to do is think about Alexa Skills or Google Actions and whether they're appropriate for your business or your brand. You know, when you talk about Skills or Actions, they're basically just apps for voice. I don't necessarily think you need to create those in every case. But you do need to say, are there appropriate Skills? Are there appropriate Actions? Is there an appropriate customer experience, benefit, to offering a distinct voice experience for our customer and make them more successful and more effective at what they do?

Consider Podcasting

And then of course, the last thing you can look at, and I fully admit this is a little self-serving given what I do, but also think about an audio experience for your customer with your content, like podcasting. One of the reasons I podcast is because I want people to be able to experience my content when they're on their, on the go on mobile devices and the like without having to read or look at their screen. It may not be appropriate for every business, but I've talked a bunch before about why podcasting may or may not make sense for your business, and it's probably worth taking a look at. For you to say, "Hey, is this something where we can help our customers using voice and using mobile when they're on the go to help them be more effective." So it's one more thing to think about.

TL;DR — Trends for 2020: Voice Takes Off (Thinks Out Loud Episode 271)

So it appears clear that voice is really taking off. Voice is really speaking up as we get into 2020 and the growth is there. The time really is now to start thinking about it for your customers. Think about how you can be the right answer in voice for your customers to make sure that they can get the information they need while on the go.

And when they're asking the question out loud, you should look at the Skills and Actions, you know, Amazon and Google's voice apps, to determine whether they're appropriate for your brand and for the customer experience that your customers expect.

And finally you might want to take a look at podcasting to say, "is that an appropriate content experience and an appropriate customer experience for our customers to help them get the information they need and be successful as they go about their day?"

Ultimately, voice is here and it's time to really listen to what our customers are saying and engage in a conversation in a very real way with them to help them accomplish their goals. So the last question I have for you is, "are you listening to what they have to say?"

Trends for 2020: Voice Takes Off (Thinks Out Loud Episode 271) — Show Closing

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week, but I'd like to remind you that you can find the show notes for today's episode as well as an archive of all our past episodes by going to Again. That's Just look for episode 271.

While you're there, you can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes you find there to have thinks out loud delivered to you every single week. You can also subscribe to Thinks Out Loud on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, or whatever your favorite podcatcher happens to be. Just do a search for Tim Peter Thinks, Tim Peter Thinks Out Loud or Thinks Out Loud. We should show up for any of those.

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As ever, I'd like to thank our sponsor SoloSegment. SoloSegment focuses on AI-driven content discovery and site search analytics to unlock revenue for your business. You can learn more about how to improve your content, increase your customer satisfaction, and make your search smarter by going to Again,

With that, I want to say thanks so much for tuning in. I always appreciate you listening. I really wouldn't do this without your support, so it means so much to me. I hope you have a great rest of the week. I hope you have a wonderful week ahead and I look forward to speaking with you again on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well be safe and as ever take care everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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