This post is part of our Think 2020 series, in which we explore the mindsets, behaviors and emerging solutions shaping marketing and communications in the year ahead.

We heard repeatedly throughout the past year that by 2020, half of all internet searches will be carried out via voice. So, we’re here. Is it true?

Turns out it’s going to take a bit longer to get there, but with a third of the U.S. population tapping voice assistants at least monthly, screenless browsing is decidedly on the rise. Pair that with the explosive growth of smart speakers – the fastest-growing tech in history – and you get a trend that’s poised to go mainstream in the not-too-distant future.

Who Uses Voice Search

65% of consumers 25-49 use voice-enabled devices daily
58% of U.S. smart speaker owners make $75,000+
60% male

According to various sources cited via 99firms.com

How We Use Voice Search

20% of results are triggered by 25 words like “how,” “what” and “best”
52% of smart speaker owners want info about deals, sales and promotions
75% of smart speaker users perform local voice searches at least weekly
61% use voice search when hands or vision is occupied

– According to various sources cited via 99firms.com

What’s Next

The majority of voice searches currently happen on a smartphone. That gap between mobile and smart speaker queries could begin to close as Americans add millions of new Amazon Echos, Google Homes and similar offerings to their homes this year.

As voice-enabled devices become more omnipresent, expect consumers to lean more heavily on them for a wider variety of asks. We’ll continue to see users tap voice assistants for things like music, weather reports and daily flash briefings, but it’s essential for brands to also prepare for a surge in “near me” and longer, more conversational, information-seeking keyword searches.

The world of voice search is still largely uncharted territory for marketers. The brands that commit to experimentation and innovation now will reap the rewards of their curiosity in the near future.

Think 2020

It’s time to develop a strategy for how you’ll meet and engage your target audience via voice search.

Paid Search Research

A small paid search campaign can be a great place to start if you’re new to voice search.

Even before running a test, you can mine your existing paid search keyword logs to determine how many and what kind of voice search queries are already driving traffic to your site. Armed with that knowledge, you can begin to optimize your content and test its performance with a dedicated paid search campaign.

Don’t forget about Bing here – it’s the search engine that powers all Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana devices.

Position Zero

Also known as the “featured snippet,” this is the single search result a voice assistant will grab and speak back to a user. It’s often – but not always – the first answer on the search engine results page.

There are a variety of ways you can optimize your content for voice search, including keyword research, writing and editing with long-tail, natural-language search queries in mind, and using special markup called “speakable” schema that signals to a search engine which snippets of a page are best suited to be returned out loud.

Voice Storytelling

Like branded blogs and the early days of social media before it, voice technology presents a transformational opportunity for PR pros to connect directly with their target audiences.

For now, smart speaker experiences in particular are largely ad-free, which means lots of open road for creative brand storytelling that educates, entertains or inspires. Seek out interesting collaborations with relevant media outlets or other brands that allow your product or service to shine through the value audio experiences offer to listeners.

Let’s Connect

We can’t predict the future – but we can say with certainty great ideas are fueled by curiosity and collaboration. If you’re looking for a partner to tackle this decade’s business challenges with relentless creativity, we’d love to hear from you.