At one time, being able to talk to computers was a fantasy right out of Star Trek. Today, it’s a modern reality. Not only do we have access voice-operated platforms, like Alexa and Siri, but our smartphones and accessible smart speakers give them widespread reach. These voice assistants aren’t just novelties: They also allow us to shop, listen to music, engage with social media, and more. As customers increasingly engage with businesses using voice technology, new voice marketing opportunities will emerge, enabling brands to provide unique and personalized services.
As part of PostFunnel’s Nuts and Bolts series, we’ll delve into the world of modern Martech to shed some light on tools and best practices being used by you — our fellow marketers — in your day-to-day strategies. Every month, our experts will sink their teeth into another aspect of this fascinating field, hopefully inspiring you to elevate your business through smart marketing.
What is voice marketing?
Voice marketing refers to ad campaigns and marketing initiatives that are deployed using voice-operated devices. When coupled with an internet-of-things (IoT) digital infrastructure, voice marketing has the potential to offer a highly personalized customer experience. Voice assistants can connect users to customer service channels or execute a purchase with just a few words.
What are the most popular voice-operated devices?
Most of the general public is familiar with Amazon’s Alexa, but it’s merely the first voice assistant to be depicted on the global stage. Voice technology is relatively easy to integrate with a wide range of devices, from smart speakers to everyday smartphones.
Voice assistants are most commonly associated with smart speakers like the Echo, but those are a relatively recent development. The most common voice-activated devices are already all around us, built into the smartphones people use every day. Apple and Google have integrated their voice assistants into smartphone operating systems, where they are used to conduct web searches and manage other device functions.
Meanwhile, the potential for voice assistants continues to spread to other voice devices. Smartwatches and televisions let us control operations from a voice-based interface, while smart homes operate air conditioning systems and music players. While these devices are less common than smartphones, smart homes deliver an integrated experience that doesn’t rely on standalone devices. They could be the next evolution of voice technology.
What most customers refer to as “Alexa” is the Echo, a smart speaker system released by Amazon in 2014. Designed initially to expand Amazon’s device portfolio beyond the Kindle, the Echo operates through the Alexa personal assistant platform instead of a traditional interface. Alexa proved such a hit that it’s now available on Amazon devices like the Fire TV, as well as third-party iOS and Android systems.
Apple’s personal voice assistant, Siri, is available on most modern Apple devices. Any iPhone or iPad customer can access it by holding their home button, while devices like the Apple HomePod compete with Alexa by offering Apple Music integration. Since Siri is only available from Apple, the only downside is that it requires a broader ecosystem of Apple devices to unlock its full potential. Yet given Apple’s market presence, we certainly shouldn’t count Siri out anytime soon.
Google: Google Home
Google Home is Android’s approach to voice assistants, activated with the simple “Okay Google” key phrase. Outside of the Google brand recognition, Google Home benefits from being widely available across third-party devices, Android-powered or otherwise. Most of the top-rated smart speakers are compatible with Google Home, giving it perhaps the best reach of any voice assistant platform.
Rounding off the market is Cortana, Microsoft’s voice assistant, the name of which was inspired by the popular Halo video game franchise. While Cortana has a limited reach compared to Google Home or Siri, it is included with the Windows 10 and Xbox One operating systems, and compatible with Microsoft speakers and headphones. Cortana is particularly notable for its ability to recognize natural voices and benefits from Microsoft’s investments in AI research.
What are the opportunities for voice advertising?
Voice assistants are a modern convenience with the potential to become much more. While voice commands take some getting used to, these audio-based interfaces can blend our physical and digital experiences. Voice devices are hands-free and highly-contextual, allowing users to seamlessly engage with the web without drawing attention away from their surroundings.
In terms of advertising, marketers can use voice technology to respond to these contextual activities. As a prime example, 71% of smart speaker owners use them to create shopping lists. Marketers could personalize ad deployments based on these lists while offering recommendations for similar products. Meanwhile, approximately 62% of customers use voice assistants to make direct purchases, a market that is projected to reach $40 billion by 2022. That makes voice advertising a field marketers cannot afford to ignore.
What are the opportunities for measuring voice marketing analytics?
Perhaps the most overlooked opportunity for voice technology is that of voice marketing analytics. Marketers may be able to optimize campaigns by using voice assistants to collect and aggregate metrics on user preferences and behaviors.
Perhaps the best example is voice identification. In 2019, marketing analytics is based mainly around device IDs such as smartphones to track customer journeys. Voice identification, however, can treat a customer’s voice commands as an audio-based fingerprint. This allows marketers to monitor customer behavior across multiple devices or track numerous customers simultaneously from a shared speaker or smart TV.
Voice analytics can also be combined with existing marketing techniques to enhance customer service interactions. The same processes that allow marketers to measure customer satisfaction, calculate retention, and reduce churn can be applied to voice channels. Over time, this can ensure that brand engagement via voice marketing is a high-quality experience that retains customers for the long-term.
What are the challenges voice marketing needs to overcome before it is realized?
Voice technology is so new that the potential of voice marketing techniques has yet to be realized. As such, it’s not entirely clear whether the benefits described above will scale to the same level as marketing for other channels.
The good news is that voice assistants have benefitted immensely from investments and research in the private tech sector. Errors and falsely identified words tend to occur less frequently than a decade ago, ensuring that voice marketing technology and analytics is at least functional. And yet, voice technology is far from perfect. Advances are still required to parse out jargon and accents, to say nothing of optimizing for international languages.
One possible concern is that voice assistant technology is almost entirely driven by four companies: Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Any third-party vendors and analytical services who wish to operate in this market are effectively beholden to any limitations of these platforms. When any of these companies change their voice assistants or shift voice priorities, it can also put third-party vendors at risk.
Despite these risks, voice assistants represent a rapidly-emerging technology that can impact millions of potential customers around the world. If marketers can address the technical hurdles and scaling challenges, voice marketing might prove to be the most understated channel in a marketer’s toolbox.