Voice Search Is Expanding – Even into the Insurance Space

Technology and tech change are two important facets of the insurance space. Our business has changed a lot in the past decade, since the Affordable Care Act became law. More changes are expected in the months and years ahead.

Americans have been using web search for decades, including searching for health insurance prices and looking for an employee benefits agent. The trend now is toward voice search and artificial intelligence (AI) technology. What that means is using a virtual assistant like Amazon’s Alexa devices, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, or Microsoft’s Cortana. These tools all make it easy to voice search for information, get directions, create reminders, and much more, by allowing us to search using natural language.

Numbers Don’t Lie

It’s difficult to argue with usage numbers like this:

  • Statista estimates there are more than 265 million current smartphone users in the U.S.
  • There were 66.7 million smart home devices in the U.S. in December 2017, and more than 118.5 million just one year later.
  • Predictions estimate more than 50% of people will use a voice assistant in the next year.


Everyday Requests

Most Americans are using their smart devices for conventional requests – like getting the weather, asking for directions, finding phone numbers, making reservations, or playing a game (Jeopardy was added to Alexa in 2016). Now, you can ask Alexa to read your email and respond by voice. If you are interested in setting this up for yourself, link here to an article on the CNBC website. After setting it up, you can even use Alexa to have your messages from Word & Brown read to you when using most email service providers.


User Profile

According to PwC’s Consumer Intelligence Series survey, younger consumers (18-24 years old) are adopting voice technology at a faster rate than their older counterparts. However, while they are statistically more likely to use a virtual assistance than 25-49-year olds, the older group is using the technology more frequently.


Significant Awareness

Voice technology awareness is high – with just 10% of surveyed respondents unfamiliar with voice-enabled products and devices. Of the 90% of survey respondents who are familiar with the technology, 72% have used a voice assistant.

Seventy-four percent of consumers with a mobile phone are using mobile assistants at home. That may be because a majority of focus group participants think speaking to a voice assistance in public “just looks weird.”

While at home, 44% of consumers have used a voice assistant to control another smart device in their home, including:

  • Television: 58%
  • Lights: 36%
  • Thermostat: 29%
  • Alarm System: 26%
  • Outlets/Switches: 22%
  • Small Smart Appliance: 19%
  • Locks/Garage Door: 18%
  • Doorbell: 16%


Online Shopping

Half of the respondents to the PwC survey say they have made a purchase using a voice assistant, while an additional 25% say they would consider doing so in the future. Most of the purchases are small and have been for items you don’t necessarily need to see in person – like takeout food, groceries, a book, home-care items, electronics, transportation (Uber, Lyft), or making a reservation.


More to Come

In spite of growing capabilities, most consumers have not advanced to using voice commands or virtual assistants for advanced tasks in their homes.

Inhibitors to increased voice tech include:

  • Limited knowledge of device capabilities
  • A lack of trust
  • Hesitation due to complexity or price

PwC’s survey found 38% “don’t want something listening in on my life,” 28% were concerned about privacy issues, 21% were unsure of the value in relation to the price, and 17% were unsure of the benefits of a smart home device.

Insurers like Nationwide, Liberty Mutual, and Farmers Insurance Group have already launched Amazon Echo skills for their prospects and customers. Other companies are embracing Google Assistant or developing their own voice-assisted technology. More companies are expected to follow. Stay tuned for updates on voice search capabilities implemented by Word & Brown and our carrier partners.

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