In July, digital knowledge platform Yext announced it would be submitting business listings directly to Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa. Yext, which manages business information (think business names, addresses, phone numbers, hours of operation, etc.) for companies such as Taco Bell, Rite Aid and Steward Health, assists companies with controlling their brand strategies across digital platforms from maps and search engines to voice-controlled smart speakers. With this development, companies that work with Yext can update their business information and increase the likelihood of being included in queries such as, “Alexa, where’s the nearest pharmacy?”
The move signifies that large corporations believe voice search will continue to grow, and they have good reason. A recent survey from NPR and Edison Research found that 36 percent of smart speaker owners used them to look up a local restaurant or business within the last year. Considering that Alexa usually offers just three suggestions when asked — often pulled from Yelp.com listings and now from Yext as well — local businesses will need to step up their digital efforts if they want to be found through voice searches.
Approximately 18 percent of adults 18 years and older own a smart speaker. That’s 43 million Americans, though other experts say it’s closer to 50 million. NPR and Edison polled 909 adults 18 years and older online from May 21, 2018 to June 1, 2018 — only 33 percent of those under the age of 34 owned a smart speaker, so Baby Boomers and Generation Xers are actually the ones buying and using these speakers (see Graph 2). That’s not too surprising. Both generations are more likely to own homes.
Of those polled, NPR and Edison divided them into two categories: First Adopters and Early Mainstream (see Chart 1). Early Adopters may have been later to the game, but over half reported using their smart speakers more than in the first month of ownership. What’s more telling is that large chunks of both groups plan to buy another speaker (See Charts 3 and 4). Voice search may not be a reason consumers want to buy another, but clearly, they don’t mind asking Alexa or Google Assistant to turn on the lights.
If 36 percent of smart speaker users already asked Alexa or Google Assistant for a local business listing in the past year, imagine how that number will grow as more consumers buy speakers and get used to using them. To prepare for this ongoing voice search adoption, create listings on Yelp, Google My Business and other platforms and concentrate on building a strong digital presence. In the coming years, you will likely be competing not on one page of search results, but for one of three search results.