Marketers are not ready as Aussies find their voice

The human voice will fundamentally change the way consumers engage with brands as almost seven in ten people are now using their voice to interact with Assistants and Smart Speakers, the largest study into how Australians are using voice assisted technology has revealed.



The use of Assistants and Smart Speakers is booming with 11.3 million people or 69 percent of Australians having used their voice to interact with one or more devices, according to ‘The Voice of Us’ research. Smartphones are the most popular device to use Assistants, with 61 percent of respondents having used them to make voice related interactions, followed by tablets (17%) laptops (14%) and smart speakers (12%).

‘The Voice of Us’ is the latest study in the Datafication series which examines how Australians are adopting and using new social technologies. It was commissioned by creative agency The Works, part of RXP Group, in conjunction with Dr. Suresh Sood from the University of Technology Sydney. Online responses from a representative sample of more than 2,000 people aged 15+ were analysed and overlaid with census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to gauge how Australians are using voice technology and what it means for marketers and brands.

Almost three million Australians (2.9 million) now have a Smart Speaker in their home or office, making us one of the fastest adopters of the technology on a per capita basis. More than half, 56 percent, own a Google device such as Google Home Hub. Amazon’s range of Smart Speakers are the next most popular at 13 percent, with Apple’s HomePod coming in third at 8 percent.


Douglas Nicol, creative partner at The Works and leader of the Datafication project said: “The way we interact with technology has moved from clicking, to swiping and now we’re increasingly using our voices to make requests using Assistants and Smart Speakers. This has major implications for business and advertisers, as it’s fundamentally changing the rules for how brands are discovered by consumers in the digital world – and many marketers are not ready for this evolution.”

When asked what industries they would consider using human voice interfaces to interact with, almost six in ten (58%) said to get the latest news, followed by entertainment inquiries (53%); events (40%); transport information (37%); restaurants (34%); health (31%); travel (30%) and retail (29%).

However, while voice enabled technology has been embraced by Australians, more than nine in ten (91%) have concerns with using it. Being hacked was the major issue for 32 percent of respondents closely followed by 31 percent who had worries their conversations were being recorded or saved.


While marketers have invested heavily in search engine optimisation to ensure they rank at the top of text-based searches, the growth in the use of Assistants and Smart Speakers poses significant new challenges, Nicol says. “Human voice interfaces are here to stay and this will inevitably force changes in the search, content and loyalty strategies of advertisers. With voice, users are only typically getting just one answer to their query, which means having a coherent and robust voice search optimisation (VSO) strategy will become more important than ever. Appearing in Google’s position zero, also called the featured snippet, which shows web pages above the first search results is vital as it’s what Google uses to respond to voice searches. While some larger organisations are now actively building capabilities in this area, the majority are not and this has the potential to impact on future revenue growth.”

‘The Voice of Us’ also asked respondents which celebrity they would prefer to be the voice of their Assistants. The soothing southern drawl of actor Morgan Freeman topped the list for both men and women, with Ocean’s Eleven star George Clooney coming in second and the Scottish brogue of former James Bond actor Sean Connery third. Nicole Kidman – the only woman to make the top ten – ranked as the fourth most popular voice, with the dulcet tones of global treasure and environmentalist David Attenborough at five and Samuel L. Jackson at six. While he may attract considerable controversy amongst some, the voice of US President Donald Trump was rated as the seventh most popular with Aussie heartthrob Chris Hemsworth coming in at eight. John Cleese and The King, Elvis Presley, rounded out the list at ninth and tenth respectively.


The voice of the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, is a turn off when it comes to which celebrities Aussies would choose as their Assistant. Former PM Malcom Turnbull was the second least favoured, Kardashian star Kylie Jenner (3rd), convicted sex offender Bill Cosby (4th) and British footballer turned model David Beckham (5th).