Voice has already begun to transform how we search, and engage in the digital world.
Thanks to smart speakers like Amazon Alexa or Google Home - voice technology has been quickly making its way into the mainstream. In a 2017 survey, roughly 65% who owned an Amazon Echo or Google Home stated they couldn’t imagine going back to the days before they had a smart speaker. Of that same group, 42% said the smart speakers had quickly become “essential” to their lives.* Researchers are predicting that in 2018, voice assistant penetration will be around 27% in the US and that by 2022, that number will reach 55%.**
With that level of forecasted growth and adoption, it’s no wonder Voice is being touted as the “next big thing” and businesses are being encouraged to leverage Voice or miss out big. Similar to how the smartphone changed how the world interacts with digital content, Voice has already begun to transform how we search, engage and shop in the digital world.
As a business offering a service or product, what does it all really mean? Where should you even start? The team at Pragmatic put together a list of common questions businesses should ask as they embark on their journey into Voice.
By 2022, 55% of US households will have at least one smart speaker**
Voice refers to any technology that leverages spoken words or commands into its interface thus enabling people to interact with technology simply by speaking to it. While voice-only experiences are a bit uncommon, the most prevalent are voice-first like virtual assistants such as Amazon Echo or Google Home that have some sort of visual indicator as part of their experience. Voice also includes podcasts, voice remotes, in-car assistants, as well as voice-activated toys and games.
While personal assistants devices are somewhat new, the concept of using voice to enable users to accomplish tasks without needing to talk with another person is not. The voice interfaces we encounter today have humble beginnings from interactive voice response (IVR) systems which enabled users to accomplish tasks with just a regular land line phone and their own voice. The advent and adoption of mobile apps and devices like Amazon Echo is now ushering in a golden era of voice user interfaces (VUIs).
Voice has already changed the way humans interacct with digital devices in a profound way
Thanks to the strides made on the personal assistant front, adoption numbers of voice devices are showing rates that far exceed those previously seen with desktop, mobile or tablet.
Voice makes accomplishing tasks easier for many people - including those who are disabled. This greater inclusivity increases the potential to reach more people and help them accomplish their desired tasks more easily.
Every day, use cases are being discovered and developed that range from encouraging exercise in children to elder care to shopping.
Voice to text and voice recognition now make it so that speaking is faster than typing.
In some situations, speaking is much more practical than looking at a screen and typing (for example, when driving). The hands-free aspect also enables a seamless integration into activities that require both hands (like cooking or exercising) making for a smoother and more seemless experience.
We live in a multi-tasking world and Voice supports that with its passive and active nature. From listening to podcasts while driving to providing reminder alerts to someone in another room, Voice applications provide successful experiences even when we are not giving them 100% of our attention.
Because most everyone knows how to talk, learning to use voice technology is fairly intuitive. While users might need to learn a wake word (the word that activates a device), they can use their natural speech to command and reply to voice devices.
When reading written word, it’s necessary for the reader to interpret or assume tone of voice. With voice, tone and expression are clearer.
VOICE ONLY: Applications that have voice as the only input and output. These are not very common as even the Amazon Echo and Google Home have visual cues as part of their experience.
VOICE FIRST: Instances where voice is the primary input and output but it is not the only input. Examples would be Amazon Show and Echo Spot.
VOICE ADDED: In these experiences, voice is not the primary method for input or output but instead is used as an option for assisting with input. Voice to text on mobile is a common example of this.
In a recent e-marketer study 91% of senior decision-makers were planning on investing in Voice over the next 2 years and 29% of those respondents saying that they plan on investing this year.***
Not since the advent of the smartphone has there been a new channel for customer engagement. Voice offers that rare opportunity that comes with what is considered “beach front property.” It also offers a new dimension for brands and storytelling with interactive and enhanced experiences. Beyond its potential for making tasks easier, Voice can round out a brand’s identity through actual tone and sound in ways that were once reserved for expensive spokespersons and ad campaigns.
In addition to being a new channel for customer engagement, Voice has the potential for delivering improved customer experiences and service. In a matter of a few responses, Voice can give instructions or updates or even confirm orders.
And this is just the beginning. Best practices and uses are being defined as we speak. No one owns Voice so “the rules” are still being created.
With a growth trend that surpasses mobile, it’s only natural to ask if Voice requires its own strategy. If you are already leading with a user or customer-first strategy, it doesn’t. If there is one thing we have learned with the evolution of the digital world from website to smartphone it’s that a user’s information needs don’t change because of the interface or device. The nature of their interaction, however, does change and that is amplified with Voice.
While Voice does not require a new strategy (user-first still very much applies), it does bring its own set of considerations and requirements to ensure a successful experience.
As with all technology, if your voice application does not provide value, it will not gain traction. Just because you build something does not mean your audience will automatically seek it out or use it. In order to be successful, your voice application must deliver value and be useful to your audience.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to help determine if your service or product has a natural extension through Voice:
Consumer facing voice applications should not be aimed at making it easier for customer service or your internal staff - it should provide a valuable improvement to your external audiences.
It can be tempting to think that voice will automatically streamline a process or task but that is not always the case. Sometimes the visual cues a chatbot or screen provide streamline a process and there are instances where voice cannot do the same. It helps to map out the inputs and decisions in a flowchart to see how many times there needs to be a confirmation or a user input to ensure forward progress towards task completion.
There are instances where a user isn’t going to want publicly share personal or confidential information. They might be more comfortable at home but you need to consider that sensitivity when considering Voice. It may be better to leverage a chatbot or an interface that allows a user to type information for more confidentiality.
The origins of Voice stemmed from empowering customers to solve some of their own problems or troubleshoot without needing to contact someone. Voice can provide that same level of empowerment and support.
As of this writing there are still 10 months left in the year which is plenty of time for you to research, design, develop, and release your first skill.
The time to act is now, make 2019 the year of learning so you and your brand are best positioned to take advantage of the revolution in voice that is coming.
Footnotes: * Kaplan, David. (2017, August 7) “What Do People Use Smart Speakers For?”https://geomarketing.com/what-do-people-use-smart-speakers-for** eMarketer, (2018, April) “US Smart Speaker Voice Buyers and Penetration, 2017-2020” *** Vernadle, "Watching The CX Horizon" conducted by Digital Clarity Group and Vanson Bourne, Oct 5, 2018
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