Nearly 25 percent of U.S. homeowners have at least one smart speaker in their home, and nearly 40 percent of that group own two or more smart speakers.1 Isn’t that crazy? Why are we letting these digital voices, artificial intelligence, and ears into our homes? Whether it’s Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home, or Apple’s Homepod, Americans are seeing the value with the devices. Voice technology is here and is growing. It’s part of your marketing future. Our cost benefit analysis projects that the high cost of development and support may preclude many small companies from adopting this tech today, but there are huge upsides to contemporary brands in competitive markets. Let’s take a look.
One of the greatest aspects of voice technology is that it’s easy. It is easy to setup, and you can begin taking advantage of the genius behind the device quickly. All you need to do is prompt the device and talk. It’s natural to nearly all of us. From asking a simple question to requesting a music playlist to adding items to your Amazon cart, the ease-of-use is undeniable and is something brands can take comfort in knowing adoption of use has a low barrier to entry.
Relationship Building: Benefit
Most consumers know what Alexa is, but that’s all they’ve really come to know from the device. There is a massive opportunity for storytelling and relationship building through voice technology. Brands like Campbell Soup are integrating smart voice technology through Amazon’s Alexa app to provide consumers advice and tips for cooking with their product.2 Home cooks can ask for help or ideas with a Campbell product. This access and real-time insight helps build stronger ties with a product and brand.
The most prominent example of loyalty benefits that come along with voice technology is Amazon. It takes about five seconds to add a product to your Amazon cart by asking Alexa. This ease-of-use creates high loyalty in the e-commerce space. But for those not looking to directly sell, there is still value and loyalty to be earned. Conversational interfaces allow you to scale human interactions across all channels. If you can get consumers engaging with you more often through voice technology, you can build empathy over time, deepen the relationships you have with your brand followers, and improve their loyalty.
Data: (Huge) Benefit
The biggest benefit of voice technology is the insight your brand can capture from data collection. Brands that leverage an omnichannel service have a lot to gain from voice technology integration because it provides their customers with an additional (and sometimes unexpected) channel for them to engage. Voice technology also provides a data-rich gold mine on customer interactions, intent, attitudes and behaviors. Brands can leverage this data to enhance user experience across their platforms and even their approach to messaging. One example is Argos4, a popular store in the United Kingdom where people browse products on the company’s website and reserve and pick them up in a store. When Argos evaluated ways to make improvements for shoppers, they turned to company data first. Internal research showed 55 percent of people like purchasing through voice-activated gadgets. Argos took that finding to heart. As part of its marketing strategy, Argos teamed with Google Home and allowed people to check the availability of products with that speaker or the Google Assistant. They found voice technology to be a perfect opportunity for them to engage consumers and increase sales activity. The advantage of this process for some shoppers is that they do not need to provide payment details to reserve items. It’s only necessary to give a phone number and email address, then pay for the products when picking them up.
The development, integration and rollout (awareness building) for a brand can come at a massive cost. The scary part is that all this work is not guaranteed to be successful or as measurable as more traditional tactics. Plus, brands have not got on board with fully supporting their voice technology integrations with massive media spends as they have with national TV or digital buys. The silver lining is that the benefit of potential ROI is increasing every day. According to Dara Treseder at AdWeek, consumer voice commerce is expected to reach $40 billion by 2022.3 For comparison, today the consumer voice commerce market is nearing a modest $600 million.
The last factor brands need to consider before fully investing in voice technology is the ongoing support they’ll need to provide after development and launch – and we don’t just mean customer support. Consumers have always expected brands and products to evolve, which is no different in this space. A brand’s voice technology standards must be extremely high – continuous review and learning of consumer data is paramount and is expected with voice technology. Think of it like an app. There are updates to apps nearly every month because brands are taking the data and feedback and refining their technology offering. This ultimately leads to better user experience and elevated engagement.
Voice technology is only going to continue to advance and become more widely adopted by consumers. The benefits heavily outweigh the cost, especially for brands looking to keep a competitive edge. We’re still in the early adopter phase but brands need to act now. It’s up to individual brands and marketers to determine if they’d benefit from leveraging the platforms and data, but one thing is for sure, we’ll need smart and responsible marketers to lead these brands down the right path and blaze new trails for this evolving spectrum of marketing opportunity. Let us help you analyze your customer data and map out an approach to integrating conversational interfaces to your marketing plan.