What is Voice Search?

Making search easier than ever

Voice search, also known as voice-enabled search, lets people request information by speaking rather than entering text in a search box. The trend toward simplifying and streamlining the search process for improved user experiences has fueled the development of voice search technology. This popular user interface can save time and reduce exertion by replacing keyboard-entered queries.


A surging technology 

Voice will always be humanity’s best communication tool, and that reason alone makes voice search a compelling option. Here are a few statistics that illustrate the growing importance of search using voice technology and voice-enabled devices:

  • The smart speaker market (stand-alone devices that respond to verbal commands with computer-generated voices) is set to exceed $30 billion by 2024
  • Thirty-four percent of people who don’t own a voice assistant are interested in purchasing one
  • A Gartner study predicted that in 2020, 30% of all browsing sessions would include voice search 
  • Analysts at Juniper Research forecast that voice-search-enabled eCommerce will grow to more than $80 billion per year by 2023 

With the surge in online shopping related to the pandemic and the huge influx of new products to online marketplaces, experts predict even more demand for voice-centric user experiences.


Benefits of voice search for users and eCommerce shoppers

Searching by voice saves time by eliminating the need to pull up a search engine web page and input a question in a search box. From reviews of local restaurants to the latest sports scores, voice search makes information access spontaneous, convenient, and easy. And when search engines use advanced natural language understanding to generate desired answers, this technology can become a trusted “consultant.” 

Voice search eCommerce simplifies the process of finding products and exploring buying options. Voice-driven shopping is markedly faster than entering text in an online search box, and it offers new opportunities for personalized, barrier-free searches and upsells. 

For example, suppose you’re shopping online, and just before finalizing your order, a voice-enabled shopping assistant tells you about a tantalizing add-on to your order for a dollar more. Chances are good that you’ll pay attention, and you may very well add the item to your purchase.    

According to WhatIs.com, popular applications for voice search include:

  • Search engine queries 
  • Requesting specific information, such as stock quotes or sports scores
  • Launching programs and applications
  • Selecting search options  
  • Searching for content in audio or video files
  • Hands-free voice dialing

Accuracy in voice search requires the effective use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. AI makes the voice feature smart enough to capture shopping behavior and habits. 

AI-based natural-language understanding (NLU), makes it easy for users to consistently find what they’re seeking, even if they’re not sure exactly what they need. Instead of entering a keyword that leads to “No results found,” a user can simply ask a question in plain language, for example, “highly rated romantic comedy movies from the 1990s”  

By harnessing the power of AI and NLU to detect important details, plus the speaker’s intent, Algolia breaks down the important segments of an oral request and deduces exactly what the user wants. From an eCommerce standpoint, this gets customers to their desired products more quickly, leading to more conversions and increased sales revenue.      

In addition, through analysis of prior purchases, a voice assistant can remind online shoppers about products they’ve bought and might want to buy again. Not only is this type of unprompted guidance an added convenience for shoppers, it can serve as a business booster for marketers and brands.


Voice search is the new mobile

More than a decade ago, the mobile device and smartphone revolution took the world by storm, catching many developers and marketers off guard. Now, voice search is creating the same sort of upheaval, enabled by several popular iOS and Android apps and devices. Here are a few products and services that have practically become household names:

Google Assistant

“Hey Google” is all it takes to launch this digital voice-based app. Google Assistant uses the Google search index to find answers to queries, delivering a spoken response based on the information it receives. Essentially, Google Assistant does the Googling for users. The functionality of Google Assistant can also be extended with Google Actions, or third-party applications that brands can create and users can call to interact with the brands or add new functionality to their assistant.

Google smart assistant devices 

Google’s stand-alone smart assistant devices use Google Assistant. Google Home is a small speaker device, while Google Home Hub adds a screen. The screen is particularly helpful for someone who learns better by watching as opposed to hearing. Google Home Hub can show graphics and videos to clearly illustrate how something is done.

Amazon Alexa 

Similar in functionality to Google Assistant, Alexa can find answers to specific queries, as well as answer general questions about matters like the weather and sports. Developers and brands can build skills, or standalone voice apps that live on the Alexa platform.

Apple Siri

Voice-based digital assistant Siri has been embedded in every iPhone sold since 2011. To put that captivating voice at your command, all you have to say is “Hey Siri.” 

Microsoft Cortana

Cortana is a virtual assistant developed by Microsoft that also uses Bing to perform tasks and answer questions posed by users. Cortana offers assistance in English and seven other languages.  


Using voice search to boost customer engagement

Many companies are using Voice Search and voice-response technology to define and promote their brands online. Here are four examples that stand out: 

Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker uses voice search to promote the features and quality of its Scotch whiskey to shoppers on its website, helping build brand affinity and customer loyalty. Visitors are asked questions about their preferences in whiskey. Their responses lead to a recommendation of the Johnnie Walker product or products most appropriate for them. 


In 2017, this global brand launched its GoodNes skill for Amazon Alexa: a visual and voice browsing experience for customers who enjoy cooking. Aside from Alexa, GoodNes offers a visual guide that runs on Safari or Chrome on either a desktop PC or a mobile device.

Domino’s Pizza 

The Domino’s voice assistant, “Dom,” automates pizza ordering by phone to ensure that the process is convenient and quick. Dom takes people’s orders and checks their order status. Dom is central to the company’s strategy of incorporating voice-activated digital technology in its ordering and customer-service pipelines. 

Patrón Tequila

This premium tequila brand partners with several virtual assistants, including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Voice-activated “bartenders” on the Patrón website share Patrón Cocktail Lab recipes, how-to videos, tips, and recommendations with the company’s target audience.    


Algolia’s commitment to voice search

Algolia is working hard to promote voice search as a way of enriching the user experience and improving the functionality of our customers’ websites. By employing query understanding, artificial intelligence, personalization, and search relevance — technologies that are easily implemented on the web, on mobile, and in voice-first applications — you can take your search capabilities to new heights.


For more information about the Algolia approach to voice search, see: 

Voice Search statistics you need to know for 2020

Voice Commerce: The Future of Search & E-commerce

Voice search lessons: best practices for building a great voice experience

What is natural-language understanding? 

Learn more about Algolia voice search

About the authorJohn Stewart

John Stewart

VP, Corporate Communications and Brand

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