From the mid-2000’s and early 2010’s it was impossible to go to any conference in the marketing/media/tech space without someone proclaiming that it was the year of mobile.
While technology advanced exponentially through the period, consumer behaviour took longer to evolve, held back by poor customer experience.
Even today, I am amazed by the poor mobile experience offered by some brands, expecting consumers to battle with their mobile sites or apps, which haven’t been truly designed for the medium, to carry out even basic functions. Given many of these companies are often operating in markets in Asia where it is not just mobile first, but mobile only, it is clear that brands are not thinking about their customer’s wants and desires.
We are now witnessing a similar trend in the voice arena. Over the past few years we have seen a huge increase in voice assistants, with the launch of Siri in 2011, Google Now in 2012 and Amazon Alexa in 2014, to name just the main players. While the original interactions with these assistants were clunky; it’s clear that there has been a huge evolution and capability of the products. Firstly around the basics of voice recognition and being able to understand accents and colloquialisms, followed by the functionality and the breadth of services offered through the platforms.
So, it’s evident that the technology is getting there, but we are yet to see mass adoption across all consumers. Why is this?
There is clearly a consumer split between early adopters in the space and the remainder of the population who still very rarely, (or never) use voice assistants. There are some cultural issues to overcome, such as the stigma of using devices in a public setting (go back to the 80’s and the rise of yuppies pulling out their briefcase sized mobile phone and shouting for everyone to hear; something that probably held back mobile phone usage for several years due to the everyday consumer not wanting any association with this type of person).
There are concerns around privacy, an issue that was much debated after Burger King’s ad campaign in 2017, activating Google Home devices to provide more information about their Whopper Burger. As someone who works in digital I thought the execution and innovation of the campaign were novel, but this only continued to raise public concerns that advertisers could listen to consumers at any time. Given the recent controversy around Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, this is an area that needs very careful handling by the brands asking us to adopt these devices.
But what does this all mean?
While adoption may not be widespread across the total population at present, this will clearly shift over time. Recently Comscore predicted that 50% of all searches will be conducted by voice by 2020, so every brand needs to start thinking now about how they play in the space.
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There are three streams that brands need to engage:
- One is getting the hygiene factors right, matching basic consumer expectations and providing a seamless experience. These factors include optimizing search listings with information such as opening hours and location if they have a physical presence.
- The second is to ensure that concerns about privacy and security are addressed transparently. Brands need to invest now, in connected consumer experiences, where an opt-in exchange for utility, convenience and value is considered and designed right out of the gate.
- Lastly, there is also an innovation play. Brands need to investigate how they integrate APIs (Application Program Interface) and create skills on Alexa as an example. Branded assistants powered by specialised vertical AI will dominate the voice search landscape over the coming years. Brands should be considering how they use their industry expertise to deliver value in their niche. The first mover advantage in this space can be significant due to brand recall and ownership of a vertical, sector or particular capability. For example, once you teach dog lovers that there is a voice assistant called “Pup” that responds to all their needs, they will be more likely to use the call “Hey Pup” to find a dog walker than to rely on Siri, Google.
Brands who engage early and create unique value for consumers will have a huge advantage over the laggards in the space. They can begin collecting unique data sets, shape future customer experiences, evolve their products and presence as hardware evolves and be ready and ahead of the game when voice reaches critical mass.
At APD we are already partnering and having these discussions with many clients. Over the next few months we will be sharing with you our Australian-centered consumer research and key insights that will help you identify how to best experiment in this space.
Phil Cross has well over a decade of experience in the word of digital and performance marketing; he now leads Digital Transformation engagements at APD – helping some of the world’s biggest brands evolve to survive and thrive in the age of disruption.