TEXT MESSAGE, EMOJI, MEME OR VOICE NOTE?
In less than a decade the instant message has been dominated by the written word, the image, and now audio. Your voice is incredibly versatile, being able to convey instantly emotions ranging from joy to fury, and switch intonation to signal irony, sarcasm, or sincerity. All in one sentence. Which might explain why young people are increasingly turning to voice notes, sending quick, short, bitesize audio clips rather than a written text.
The spoken word is the perfect tool for striking the exact meaning they want to get across. Whether young people are being flirty, sassy, or serious, they know they can trust their voice to communicate accurately and authentically.
"From the tone of someone's voice, I instantly understand where they're coming from. I can't really misunderstand them – which is exactly why I use voice messages over text. Also, they're not like a phone call where it can feel like your stealing an hour from someone. They don't have to stop their day to chat to you – you can just trade voice messages without the hassle and go on about your day." - Áine, 21, The Love Network
Over 200 million voice notes are sent each day on WhatsApp. And voice messaging is now a standard feature on most messaging apps like Snapchat and Facebook Messenger, even on dating and hookup apps like Tinder and Grindr, where avoiding miscommunication is paramount!
Saying what you mean and trusting your intention will be understood is obviously more attractive than fumbling around with a keyboard and hoping your message will be interpreted the right way.
SHOPPING & THE VOICE OF CHOICE
Young people's voices ring loud, and they're getting louder. In January 2018, there were over 1 billion online voice searches, carried out by an estimated 326 million people worldwide. Some experts are even predicting that by 2020, half of all internet searches will be conducted by voice.
Microsoft's voice assistant, Cortana, currently helps 133 million users each month and plays a central part in the company's 'head up, hands free' future they're hoping to realise, ultimately freeing young people from the screen. Cortana is joined by Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google Now – suggesting a tech future that is primarily based around the voice. Even from a hardware perspective – big tech firms are focusing on developing their voice-activated devices – such as Google Home and the Amazon Echo. There are estimated to be 33 million such devices worldwide now.
This eruption in voice technology is changing the face of retail. Two percent of consumers in the UK are using voice activated devices to do their shopping. Though it seems small, that 2% represents 20% of device owners, and the trend is growing.
It's impact on retail stems from how young consumers are engaging with brands, or rather, disengaging. Because it's increasingly likely that a consumers' favourite brand is what Google or another device tells them will match their exact need. Especially when it comes to shopping for everyday FMCG producs, when you know what you want. Instead of asking their device to purchase 'Bacofoil Cling film', they're asking it to buy 'cling film'.
"I don't care what brand bleach I buy. Bleach is bleach. I don't even know any bleach brands. The [Amazon] Echo saves me having to think about it. I say I want bleach, it sends me bleach. End of. I go on with the rest of my day, and my bathroom is clean." - Steven, 24, The Love Network
Voice-activated shopping is giving rise to the increased growth of 'brandlessness', where young people are opting for generic over branded goods. Young people care less about the brand, and just want to know the product will do what it's supposed to do. This desire for functionality came through clearly in our Youth Culture Uncovered research also, with 95% of youth rating it as an important factor when purchasing a product.
Young people are looking to make their lives as stress-free and seamless as possible. Voice notes help remove any danger of being misunderstood. As a result, voice messaging is becoming a much more natural way for young people to communicate.
Equally, recognise that in de-stressing their lives, for everyday FMCG products, young people are foregoing choice based on anything other than quality and functionality. Brands are becoming less important to young people, and voice-activated devices are allowing them to cut through the noise.