Voice Technology has been the talk of the town ever since Apple launched Siri and Google rivaled it with Google Assistant. Today, with Google responding to search results out loud and Alexa reading out the top headlines for the day every morning, marketers are getting their brands ready for voice revolution. But, what is this voice technology and where is it headed?
How does Voice Technology work?
Currently, voice technology works in a very simple fashion. It uses speech recognition technology to convert voice into text (all this happens in the background, within a fraction of a second btw). The text is then pinged to the server and the relevant result is relayed back in text format, which uses text-to-speech technology to say out the relevantly correct answer.
Why is voice technology gaining popularity?
Well, of course, voice tech, especially in search is becoming so popular because at the core, it mimics our natural behaviour. Asking Google to recommend a Greek restaurant near you is as easy as, if not easier than, calling your friend and asking for a recommendation.
It takes least amount of effort. Any technology that helps you go hands-free or chord-free adds so much convenience to your life. In fact, Google recently revealed that most consumers use Alexa and Google Assistant to multi-task. What kind of multi-tasking? Things as simple as playing music while they are cooking or adding a grocery item to the shopping cart while planning their meal or ordering a pizza from Dominos while they continue studying.
In India, specifically, it is gaining popularity with those who are not so literate (whether educationally or technologically) and can’t wrap their heads around finding the right answer through google. In fact, YouTube is filled with examples of grandmothers using Alexa or Google Assistant to play their favourite songs or tell them about the weather
Where is voice tech headed?
To answer this question, we need to look at how new technology is adopted. There are typically two ways in which any innovation is adopted:
Push model – This is where a breakthrough occurs and a consumer does not even know that a need for the technology/product even exists before he/she interacts with it. Think Henry Ford and and his famous quote: If I asked them what they want, they’d have said faster horses.
Pull model – This is based on asking the consumers what they want and then creating a product for it. Read: nespresso A simple device to make a good cup of espresso available to everyone.
So where does voice come into this?
Of course, at this point of time, it’s a little far-fetched for people to order food by talking to their device while they board a bus for their daily commute to work. Most people, living in a crowded country like India, would prefer the privacy that visual interfaces gives while still having the ability to communicate with the world through videos, images and text messages.
That being said, voice will replace digital, visual interfaces gradually. However, even the voice tech companies need to work on making voice part of everyday life. What we mean by that is voice tech needs to move from content to context. Voice tech needs to have the ability to understand the context and take care of the tasks around it.
To tell you what we mean, here’s an example:
Currently, you need to say the following commands to Alexa:
- Alexa, remind me to bake a cake for my sister’s birthday on Saturday at 10am
- Alexa, please add flour, eggs, sugar to the shopping list
- (on Saturday at 10am) Alexa, please turn on the air conditioning
Instead, it should be able to do all of the above; i.e. set a reminder, add the ingredients to the shopping cart based on previous purchase behaviour and switch on the air-conditioning on Saturday at 10am when you simply say “Alexa, remind me to bake a cake for my sister’s birthday on Saturday at 10am”.
When voice tech is able to understand context, you will see more and more people joining the bandwagon and embracing the technology to enable them to make their lives better.
Does this mean that brands should not invest in marketing efforts to be voice-ready today?
Absolutely not! That’s not what we mean. In fact, all brands should start making their content ready for voice today. Here’s the how and why of what we say:
- Voice gives you a clear intent understanding of the audience. While text-based search a person may just type “term insurance” but while saying it, they will define it as “which is the best term insurance to buy” or “renew my term insurance now”. If you notice, both these queries for voice search have a different and specific intent. This differentiation will help marketers ascertain the buyer’s journey and cater their content accordingly
- Providing sharp content. With the queries being sharper, marketers will be forced to give sharper responses. This means that the days of writing long-form content for a specific query and cramming it with keywords and hoping that your brand appears in the search results above your competitors are numbered. Now, only those brands that have a very sharp, relevant and more recent response to the queries being asked, will be the ones to benefit.
- Voice commerce is here to stay. With more and more consumers becoming dependent upon voice assistants to manage shopping carts or ordering food for them, brands will need to ensure that their systems are compatible with and ready for these changes. Being present on platforms like Amazon and ensuring higher ranks for Google Shopping is now almost mandatory.
- Need for increased top of mind recall. With people using voice commerce so regularly, it is only a matter of time that the smaller brands would be wiped out. What are the chances of your brand of toothpaste being on the consumer’s mind while ordering for toothpastes when he hasn’t even seen your ad anywhere?
- This also means that product discoverability will change. Brands will need to fight for consumer’s attention in a non-visual format and this is where sonic branding comes into picture (or the mind, with no visual interfaces ;)). With digital media becoming more and more expensive, brands will seriously need to reconsider their media budgets. Imagine how expensive would it be to buy space on Amazon to feature your brand when someone is looking for a competition brand in your category!
For now this is where we believe voice is headed at. What are your thoughts on this topic? Let us know.