Rise of the Voice Assistants

by John Watton

Posted on 01-31-2018

From arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence (AI) to smart cars, drones to domes­tic robots, a seem­ing­ly end­less num­ber of tech inno­va­tions were announced at CES this year—all of which are set to improve the ways we expe­ri­ence the world around us. One of the biggest is undoubt­ed­ly Voice Assis­tants, with Ama­zon, Apple and Google in a race to inte­grate their respec­tive AI-pow­ered assis­tants into every smart device you can think of. And it’s clear that Voice Assis­tants are increas­ing­ly being wel­comed into people’s homes. Adobe Dig­i­tal Insights revealed that, in the US, sales of Voice Assis­tants grew by 103 per­cent year-on-year. These fig­ures point to what’s in store for Europe, with Ama­zon already announc­ing that its Echo Dot was the best­selling item across its online store this Christmas.

Emerg­ing devices always pro­vide mar­keters with new ter­ri­to­ry to navigate—just look at the launch of the iPhone ten years ago, and how the sub­se­quent rise of the smart­phone shook tra­di­tion­al mar­ket­ing meth­ods to the core. As the con­ve­nience of Voice Assis­tants is recog­nised by consumers—with 22% of users cur­rent­ly using them to make purchases—these AI-enabled devices will be the next big dri­ver of wide­spread change.

But if voice is the new chan­nel, how can mar­keters lever­age these assis­tants to their advan­tage and ensure they’re cre­at­ing stand­out expe­ri­ences? And—with mar­keters already incor­po­rat­ing an aver­age of 6.1 devices into cross chan­nel strategies—how can they over­come any chal­lenges? We’ve round­ed up our top five tips below.

1. Build adap­tive, loy­al­ty-form­ing experiences

With their con­ver­sa­tion­al user inter­face, Voice Assis­tants are putting the human­i­ty back into com­put­ing, with con­sumers inter­act­ing with these devices as if a friend, rather than a machine. Thanks to the pow­er of AI ana­lyt­ics, these devices can assess tone and sen­ti­ment in the user’s voice, under­stand­ing their likes and dis­likes bet­ter than their phone can, and in the most human way pos­si­ble. By intu­itive­ly antic­i­pat­ing their needs and pref­er­ences best, brands can cre­ate an entire­ly adap­tive cus­tomer expe­ri­ence that’s per­son­alised to each user at scale— some­thing that our recent research with Goldsmith’s Uni­ver­si­ty revealed was an imper­a­tive for boost­ing loyalty.

2. Look beyond your app

If Voice Assis­tants can inte­grate with all a consumer’s favourite brands, the user won’t have to log into a par­tic­u­lar app each time they want to find out cer­tain infor­ma­tion. That might be their bank bal­ance, how many air miles they’ve col­lect­ed, or loy­al­ty points held for a brand. By com­bin­ing these data points, Voice Assis­tants could advise users on how much a flight may cost them, and if there are hotels in the sur­round­ing area offer­ing good deals. As these data points begin to work togeth­er, mobile apps will slow­ly become a thing of the past. Con­sumers will start to favour an expe­ri­ence that inte­grates all rel­e­vant data across their favourite brands, rather than apps that exist in siloes.

3. Pre­pare for the next fron­tier of cus­tomer service

How con­sumers com­mu­ni­cate with brands is rapid­ly chang­ing, with peo­ple turn­ing to social media and chat bots in a bid to make a quick and con­ve­nient query. If cus­tomer ser­vice isn’t up to scratch, con­sumers will jump to anoth­er brand that will make them feel val­ued. Voice Assis­tants are about to trans­form this indus­try and will offer brands a new chan­nel in which to con­verse with cus­tomers, in a more human­like way than ever before. What’s more, with the addi­tion of AI-enabled voice ana­lyt­ics, the cus­tomer ser­vice expe­ri­ence can be adapt­ed to each user. For instance, if the Voice Assis­tant can detect if a cus­tomer is feel­ing irate, brands can assess whether the con­sumer should be offered a bet­ter deal, or an inter­ac­tion with a con­tact cen­tre representative.

4. Lever­age SEO when mar­ket­ing to the machines

While we’re in the midst of the expe­ri­ence busi­ness wave, where cus­tomers want to feel a con­nec­tion with what they buy, what does the ulti­mate expe­ri­ence look like for some­thing that’s _arti­fi­cial­ly _intel­li­gent? When you’re mar­ket­ing to a machine, the days of psy­cho­log­i­cal brand­ing exer­cis­es are redundant—the only way to influ­ence a dig­i­tal enti­ty will be via dig­i­tal methods.

So how exact­ly do brands ensure that it’s their prod­ucts Voice Assis­tants are rec­om­mend­ing? With­out a screen for con­sumers to scroll through, how will these devices present and pri­ori­tise options?

To mar­ket to the machines, brands must refine their SEO, so that voice assis­tants are pick­ing up their prod­ucts first. AI will be key here, which can help brands opti­mise their search cam­paigns for Voice Assis­tants bet­ter than ever before, as well as fore­cast­ing how par­tic­u­lar search cam­paigns will fare over extend­ed peri­ods of time.

5. Know your audience

With mul­ti­ple users shar­ing a sin­gle device, Voice Assis­tants may get con­fused about who they’re speak­ing with. To ensure voice-enabled expe­ri­ences are as per­son­alised as pos­si­ble, and con­sis­tent from place to place, mar­keters will need to ensure their Voice Assis­tant expe­ri­ence is con­tex­tu­al­ly aware. This doesn’t just involve a Voice Assis­tant in a house­hold recog­nis­ing each and every user, it means recog­nis­ing indi­vid­u­als when they’re far from home, whether that’s in a shop or a hotel room. By pro­vid­ing a con­sis­tent, seam­less expe­ri­ence across mul­ti­ple Voice Assis­tants, which recog­nise the user and their pref­er­ence no mat­ter where they might be, these devices will become as indis­pens­able as mobiles.

To achieve this, brands must invest in AI-enabled voice ana­lyt­ics so that users can be detect­ed. Ensur­ing that their brand’s expe­ri­ence can link up to oth­er devices that con­sumers own is also key, so that they can iden­ti­fy who exact­ly is in the room and pro­vide them with a per­son­alised cus­tomer experience.

With Voice Assis­tants reach­ing into our cars, speak­ers, TVs and appli­ances, mar­keters are sit­ting on a chan­nel big­ger than any­thing that has come before—but reach­ing its full poten­tial won’t be easy. If 2017 was a year of sig­nif­i­cant exper­i­men­ta­tion in the voice space, 2018 is the year in which mar­keters must learn how to serve Voice Assis­tants, and ensure they’re ful­ly inte­grat­ed into the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. Those that treat voice as an add-on and don’t use data to cre­ate con­sis­tent expe­ri­ences across chan­nels will lose out and find it hard to catch up as the tech­nol­o­gy is built into more and more devices.

Topics: Digital Transformation, AI, Innovation, technology, Voice Assistants, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA