Director, Marketing Science
Speak easy in a voice-enabled world
Voice search has given marketers to have yet another touchpoint on the consumer’s shopping journey. More and more articles are being published on this topic with a focus on how brands should take advantage. However, only a small portion of Canadians have scratched the surface of using voice technology—and not for making a purchase. Brands need to take a step back to understand how their audience is utilizing voice and where the opportunity lies.
We know that English and French Canadians consume media in different ways. With voice search, this is no different. Our own proprietary research at Mindshare shows us that 40 percent of English Canadians use voice technology regularly, compared to only a third of French Canadians. The bigger difference is how both audiences are utilizing the technology. Forty-four percent of French Canadians say that they use voice technology because it’s fun, cool, and futuristic, all of which play on emotional benefits. By comparison, over half of English Canadians claim they use voice technology because of functional benefits, e.g. it’s faster and more convenient than typing.
Even when compared to the rest of the world, Canadians use voice technology in unique ways. Canadians are 29 percent more likely to use voice technology to ask questions and support activities in managing their home than the global average. That said, as a country, we are tracking behind the global average on using voice to find information about products or brands. Canadians simply aren’t early adopters of voice. This could be due to the delay of Google Home and Amazon Alexa in crossing the 49th parallel but there is more to it.
For those Canadians who aren’t using voice, the most common reason was concerns around privacy. So much so that those who have not adopted voice are decidedly hesitant to do so. This is even worse among French Canadians, a quarter of whom say that they have no interest of using voice technology ever. This means 2.2 million people aren’t even considering adopting voice.
While voice search is well on its way in other markets, Canadian brands need to be aware of the implications around their desired audiences and understand how to be helpful in a question and answer-driven voice world but not enter the uncanny valley and violate privacy.
This is a good time to prepare for when Canadian sentiment shifts. The first place to start is with search engine optimization and reworking content strategies. Brands need to ensure that content online is not only search engine optimized (SEO) for text but also for optimized for voice. This includes creating featured snippets, answers to questions people always ask, and simplifying for quick answers for mobile users. And they need to do this in French and English.
Voice is already here in Canada, but it’s being adopted in the typically slow and reluctant way of Canadians. Brands need to dig into the data and research to understand how different areas and segments inside our country—demographic, regional, and language-specific—are responding to the new technology and what approaches will best connect brands to consumers. Ignoring voice is not an option, but rushing in without understanding the landscape is also less than ideal. It is time to work on the foundation of voice but not spend too much energy building massive voice solutions.