It may seem like chasing a trend but in my eyes at least, it's a sensible move because these developments are far from fads -- they are soon to be the new norm.
Google is already claiming that 55% of teens and 41% of adults are using voice every day, although I would add that I would imagine a lot of these are just requests for Alexa to find a song or Google to dim the lights. This is where the vast majority of activity is right now, but comScore is predicting that as soon as 2020, half of searches will be made via voice.
The reason is simple. Voice takes away the "friction" of entering a password on a mobile device or booting up a PC to ask a question. Just the act of speaking alone is estimated to be nearly four times quicker than typing. Plus, we now have helpful assistants at the press of a button on a mobile or waiting inside a smart speaker, poised to search the net and bring us back a near instantaneous answer with no need to fire up Google and get typing.
Crucially, the real reason that this has taken off is not just because it reduces friction and is widely available. The real reason for the rapid growth of voice is that it works. Research has shown that voice technology surpassed the 95% recognition success rate benchmark during last year. This is crucial because, the scientists believe that with any less than 95% systems are too frustrating to talk to.
At the moment, e-commerce is tiny for voice. The big uses are calling someone, finding out what is on at the cinema, getting directions, dictating texts and answering homework questions. However, voice commerce will come. When it does, brands will want to be the snippet that Amazon or Google reads out when their sector is searched for, and so it's of no surprise at all that a London agency has decided to set up a specialist shop to prepare brands for the new wave of interaction.
Speaking of which, we also have visual search and commerce. Instagram has just made posts shoppable and Snapchat has partnered with Amazon to allow photographs of goods to be identified and the user taken to a page where they can be bought. Google has committed itself to make its Google Lens service a part of everyday Google searches so an object in a picture can be searched for and ordered.
It's a massive shift in how we shop and how we interact with brands that is set to stay. The first wave of the internet involved lots of text on computer screens and then the second was all about clearer info making items "orderable" or "actionable" at the touch of a button on a smartphone screen. The third wave will be about voice and visual on mobile devices and smart speakers.
I think it's safe to say that with such a massive shakeup big agencies launching voice and visual shops will become the norm, and that Mindshare is at the head of this curve.