How much does voice search really matter?
How much does voice search really matter?
15 FEBRUARY 2019 8:27 AM

Tech experts and industry commentators often like to point to the growing prevalence of voice search, but how can we quantify its real impact on the hotel industry?

The rise of voice technology and voice search is monumentally important for most businesses, and the hotel industry needs to brace for the impact of the massive shift in consumer behavior.

That’s the message I’ve heard ad nauseam at industry conferences. But how on the nose is that advice, really?

It’s true that the statistics behind the rise of voice search can be staggering when taken at face value.

Some observers note that Google sees more than 3 billion searches in a given day, and many are expecting voice searches to represent half of overall searches over the next couple of years.

I totally believe that. Voice search is becoming ever more prevalent in my day-to-day life, especially as Google Home and Amazon Echo smart speakers grow ever more popular—although the jury is still out on how they fit in hotel guestrooms.

But when I think about the things I’m shouting at my smart speakers at home, I can tell you that I’m not anywhere sold on the technology hugely changing booking behaviors.

In a way, this discussion mirrors that of the consumer shift to mobile versus desktop booking. And while guests have more and more interactions with hotel companies via mobile—especially early on during the so-called “inspiration” stages of planning—many consumers still return to a desktop environment for their final booking because of the ease and practicality of doing so.

And voice search is a much more extreme example of that. It’s great when I’m asking it to play music, to tell me the weather or my commute, or (more likely) to make animal noises for my 2-year-old son. But is it ever really going to be a useful medium for me to shop around and compare my travel options? If I’m booking a hotel for a conference, is voice search ever going to present me the different hotels in the vicinity of the conference and detail the rates and amenities in a useful way?

Of course not. I’m skeptical about asking the thing to order me a pizza because that seems like too complex of a task.

And voice doesn’t hold the same top-of-the-funnel allure as mobile, either, in my estimation. The entire draw of browsing on mobile is the imagery, which you don’t get via voice.

So that leaves me wondering: Just where and how in the booking process does voice even fit? The only practical use I can think of would be to double-check details or confirm bookings after that fact, but is that really the earth-shattering change everyone is promising?

What do you think? Let me know via email or on Twitter.

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