Brands today know that listening matters. That’s why they keep an eagle eye on social media, call center transcripts, and user reviews, to glean what consumers are asking, feeling, and desiring. 

But there is a strong case to be made for keeping track of another conversation: the one taking place on voice assistants and smart speakers. What are consumers saying on voice, and how are they saying it?

RAIN and PulseLabs set out to explore this through the lens of the coronavirus outbreak, tapping into PulseLabs’ panel of 1,400+ people in the United States who share their voice assistant search history. 

We looked at thousands of queries from this group across March and early April to see how smart speaker and voice assistant behaviors changed as the pandemic unfolded.

Key Insights

You can dive into the full report findings here, but here are a few of our biggest take-aways:

More People are Looking to Voice for News & Info. Voice requests for updates about the coronavirus increased by 250% in the month of March, indicating that people are increasingly looking to their voice assistants for news and a variety of facts about current events. 

Voice Searches Carry Rich Emotional Valence. Spoken searches and commands can carry more emotion and sentiment, valuable for brands in any industry. For example, we found that people confide in Alexa, asking questions like “Alexa, what are the chances I’ll be infected?,” “Alexa, I’m scared,” and “Alexa, am I going to die?”

Spikes in At-Home Voice Use Presents Big Potential Value for Brands. The conversation on voice can yield valuable insights across industries. As one key example, we found a 50% increase on voice apps related to ordering and delivering food. And questions about recipes have gone up by 41%. Analysis of these utterances confirms the intuition that people are cooking and ordering food more than before, while also providing clues about which brands and experiences they prefer.

Accuracy is Paramount for Trust. Over recent months, both Alexa and Google Assistant have taken pains to ensure that reputable, recognized sources provide answers to coronavirus-related queries through a strong emphasis on 1st party experience. The volume, variety, and seriousness of the queries seen in this report validate the importance of those efforts.