Here’s a quick roundup of a few of the most important statistics we think digital advertisers should know about this week.

More than half of consumers have searched for a local business using voice search in the past 12 months.

With the rise of Smart Speakers and increased accuracy of voice recognition software, it should come as no surprise that voice searches are becoming exponentially more popular. Voice search terms differ from text searches significantly, with users much more likely to ask specific questions like “where can I buy pizza nearby?” Google are currently piloting a new tool for structuring local business data, which will make it easier to get local outlets listed on location-based searches. In addition, long tail keywords like “washing machines with free delivery and year warrantee” will account for a larger proportion of searches, so advertisers and SEO experts will need to ensure they know what questions customers are asking about their products. Free tools like Answer The Public can be a useful place to start looking for inspiration.

82% of customers rate an ‘immediate’ response as important when they have a sales or marketing question.

As buyer journeys change, so too do their expectations at each stage. Increasingly, consumers expect more information from firms early in the buying process, so if the answer cannot be found by browsing your website, an overwhelming majority will want to be able to ask a representative for help.

We’ve written before about how chatbots can be a great way to drive sales through websites and social media, and this is just one more reason they are becoming ever more popular with both retailers and consumers.

88% of retail business leaders believe that AI should play a role in suggesting products to customers.

According to a recent report from Microsoft, advances in machine learning have led business leaders to foresee many of their existing practices becoming obsolete within just a few years. One key element of this is that almost half of retail leaders believe that AI can and should be able to recommended products for consumers to purchase, though only 22% think this should be free from human input. Many firms are already developing machine learning strategies to facilitate this trend but, as with all new technology, there are several challenges to effective implementation, including…

A quarter of UK retailers say they do not have the right digital skills in their business to make the most of new technologies.

27% of retailers surveyed by consumer savings app Voucher Codes admitted they did not currently have adequate skills within their business to make the most of emerging technologies. With machine learning representing a very recent development for businesses, and digital skills more in-demand than ever, firms across the sector are competing hard to attract new employees who can support this process.

Businesses will increasingly be looking to recent graduates to fill these gaps, as just 18% of UK workers say they are actively learning new skills to help them keep up with future changes to their work caused by new technology.

eCommerce now accounts for 10% of global retail sales.

With one pound in every ten spent with retailers now coming from online transactions, eCommerce continues to grow around the world with no signs of slowing. In the UK, the share is 16.4% and climbing. In fact, recent research from Kantar estimates that by 2022 that number will have grown to one pound in three!

59% of firms say that improving customer data quality and gaining better insights from existing data is a top priority.

Another one which, really, we should have expected! Businesses want better quality data that they can do more with. Poor data management, siloed data sets and lack of proper analytic resources can all  create barriers to this, which is why half of the UK and US surveyed by Forrester last month say they plan to increase spending on customer journey analytics by more than 10% in the next year.

Got any great stats or facts you’ve learned this week? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.