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Creative trend: Voice tech killed the keyboard star

Voice is set to be the next big disruption to the marketing industry, with 87% of B2C marketers believing virtual assistants and chat robots will be integral to consumer interaction by 2021. The medium is quickly establishing itself in our everyday lives, unlocking new opportunities for creative agencies.


Becki Crossley

The popularity of voice is believed to be down to how natural it feels, as it mirrors how most of us interact with one another. For businesses, especially retail, this new form of interaction has unlocked new opportunities for sales, customer service and brand awareness. In the US, 22% of smart speaker owners have purchased something using their devices, and in 2019 the voice recognition market is estimated to become a £460 million industry.


Hey Siri, how does voice marketing work?

Voice search assistants will try to answer a user’s query with the highest ranked piece of information on the internet. Creative agencies can use this information to adapt their SEO to match the long tail form of voice searches and ensure their clients are the top answers, while gaining a better understanding of how customers are interacting with devices (and therefore brands) using voice technology. As with all marketing, successful brands will be those who have a solid knowledge of their audience, and what they want.

Agencies can help make sure their brands are top of the list by integrating voice into their product, adapting to the way that consumers want to communicate. Online supermarket Ocado are already on it, partnering with Amazon and their voice assistant Alexa. By linking your Ocado account to your Alexa app (something you can also do with voice – just ask Alexa to “enable Ocado”), you can use voice to add things to your order, check if your delivery is on time, and even ask what’s in season to get inspired. Other brands are integrating voice into products by allowing customers activate products using voice (for example, turning on the lights), adding value to the customer experience. 


Cortana, where is voice marketing at currently?

Smart speakers from the likes of Apple, Amazon and Google are used in the majority of homes across America and the UK. But voice products have been around longer than smart home devices. Apple, one of the pioneers of modern voice search, introduced virtual assistant Siri in 2011, which is now built into their range of iOS and macOS devices. Apple HomeKit allows you to control smart devices in your home simply by asking Siri to turn on the lights, adjust the temperature and check the lock – allowing you to control almost everything in your home without the touch of a button.

Voice is growing, and fast. With soon to be over 1 billion voice assistant devices (mobile, smart speaker, smart home devices, desktop and more) in circulation by the end of this year according to Alpine.AI, the voice market is placed to make a huge dent in traditional marketing.


OK Google, what are brands doing already?

Apps that are created for smart speakers are called Skills (for Amazon’s Alexa) or Actions (for Google Assistant), and give users specific voice controls for their services – such as Ocado’s shopping Skill mentioned above. Amazon also have their own shopping Skill, which lets you order items or hear the day’s best deals. These apps are highly predictive based on your behaviour, and use your shopping history and current market trends to suggest a product it thinks matches your request best.

Voice is already becoming a big hit for some non-retail businesses too. By simply asking a smart device with the Uber Skill installed to order you a taxi, you can have it arrive at your house without having to open the app or tell it your location. Domino’s also have their own Skill, taking the laziness of ordering takeaway one step further. You can order a pizza using just six words, “Alexa, ask Domino’s to feed me”, and your favourite pizza is ordered and delivered to your door. “There’s never been an easier way to take words from your mouth and replace them with pizza,” they claim.

It’s also being used very cleverly (if cheekily) in advertising. Back in April, Burger King aired an ad where an employee asks the camera, “Okay Google, what is the Whopper burger?” The phrase triggered Google Assistant and caused them to read out the top hit; a Wikipedia description of the burger. The page had been edited earlier that week to read out Burger King’s desired description (Google later stopped the advert from triggering Google Assistant, although the phrase supposedly still works if spoken by the user).


Alexa, what does the future hold for voice marketing?

Voice marketing looks set to affect our interactions with technology in a few different ways. With smart speakers, we are already seeing voice being used as its own interface, independent of screens and touch devices, to answer our queries and perform tasks we don’t need to use a web browser for. This is going to affect how companies approach SEO, as they will have to compete to be the top answer on a voice search as well as a web browser search.

It’s also part of the overall interaction between consumer and brand, with any smart device now coming with a voice assistant installed or connectivity with the major voice assistants like Apple HomePod’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home. This is part of the idea of the smart home, where a voice request made into one device can bring up a website or app on your smart screen, only to use that same device to turn on the lights and adjust the temperature. When users are accustomed to using voice products at home, using it in the world around them will be next.

In fact, any part of physical marketing that requires customer interaction can be enhanced by voice search. For example, large stores on busy high streets could install window displays with voice search enabled, allowing passers-by to interact outside of opening hours – whether that be browsing stock, checking opening times or getting information on a particular product. Marketing sometimes gives consumers a phrase to search online to bring up a desired result – the same could be done with voice search, telling users to speak a specific phrase (similar to asking Google what a Whopper burger is… but with the participation of the customer) to deliver a specific piece of information, which could be directions to the nearest outlet, details on a promotion, or more.

Agencies can add value to the customer experience by providing them with an alternative to potentially more complicated options (such as finding and calling a store number to get a query answered), and giving them something extra from an interaction with voice search, as opposed to speaking to a person. With people wanting to spend less time staring at their screens, voice marketing opens up a wealth of opportunities for creative agencies to both satisfy this consumer need, and still get their message across in an engaging way.


Ok Jigsaw24, how can I give this a go?

There are a few things you can use to get started with voice marketing that you might already own. Adobe Creative Cloud already allows you to test and experiment with voice controls on apps and websites with XD, and they bought voice technology Sayspring in April 2018 – so we can expect more tools for voice integration in future Creative Cloud updates.

The powerful iPad Pro can house apps with voice functions without becoming slow and unintuitive, so is perfect for testing your voice marketing campaigns on. You can use their internal microphones or invest in a unidirectional one which can cleverly distinguish background noise from the users voice for better recognition.

A great way to test the water with voice is to build your own Amazon Skill, which you can do with the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) – self-service APIs, tools, documentation and code samples available on the Amazon Developer website, along with webinars, guides and short courses for building your Skill. You can even browse what other brands have created to get inspired! A similar set of tools are also available on the Google Developer site for building Actions, so you can reach a wider audience across multiple platforms.

In a sort of roundabout turn, advertising is returning to the soundwaves. With 72% of smart speaker owners using their devices as part of their daily routines, and an estimated 23% of homes having a voice enabled smart device, voice search already has the infrastructure in place to blossom. With intelligent AI and machine learning constantly fine-tuning recognition capability to understand our words and intentions, the future of voice sounds promising. It could be a world where we get what we want, when we want, all from our smart speakers.


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