What marketers want: Planning and delivering voice in 2019

Find out what Mirum's Miranda Anderson has to say about brands taking on voice this year.

As we help clients set their strategic plans for 2019, it’s clear to me that it will be the year big brands take on voice. Smaller, more risk-friendly businesses have already boldly taken on the voice interface to much success, making this an obvious next step.

The market for voice users has reached critical mass, and is expected to grow. Today, roughly 23% of US households have a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home, and Gartner predicts that will expand to 75% of households by 2020.

According to eMarketer, 91.0 million people in the US will use a voice assistant at least once a month this year. And that’s because over 65% of people leverage voice assistants like Google and Siri on their mobile phones. The next generation of smartphones for kids also focuses on voice-only applications, like walkie-talkies on steroids.

But enough about the adoption rates – why should your business be taking on voice, how can you leverage it, and what should you consider?

The UI is exceptionally user friendly

The driving force behind this adoption is easy to imagine: Because talking is the new texting or searching, and listening is the new swiping. Users consistently report that leveraging voice is an easy and effective interface to find services or destinations nearby, to communicate with friends and family, and engaging in a dialogue of Q&A is exponentially simpler than filling out a series of forms. That’s what makes voice appealing to users – and thus should be advantageous to marketers as well.

Voice adds dimension to the experience

Voice is not meant to displace visual experiences, but rather to add to them. As you consider how to add voice to your marketing and experience mix in 2019, consider those things that voice does well, versus things it does not. For example:

1)         Q&A – Absolutely. It’s a simple, effective and expected behavior.

2)        Product comparison – Hm. If those products are easy to understand, maybe. By contrast, if the products are complicated and a comparison requires extensive detail, probably not.

3)         Filling out forms – Yes, please. Much like chat, a voice interface is ideal for filling out a form, whether it be a user profile, a decision support tool, or a banking transaction.

Building from the basics

Advances in AI are making these voice applications progressively more dynamic, and are driving more meaningful interactions for people who use them. Here are some main considerations you should understand between building for Amazon and building for Google:

Amazon’s Echo is widely adopted in-home and certainly has the in-home market share.  Alexa continues to get better at understanding natural language but still has room to grow.  If you are an Amazon shopper and prime video viewer, Alexa’s knowledge about things users need or might need to buy, where users need to go, or what you want to watch continually get better.  With Alexa’s ability to understand a user’s whole family’s needs, it shines as a home assistant. 

Google assistant however is starting to close the gap in-home, and has much more market share if we include Google assistant on Android mobile devices.  The Google assistant has much better natural language processing capabilities and with its increasing adoption in-home and in-hand, and a plethora of new hardware, it will increasingly get smarter, faster.  The Google assistant is really good at finding answers to questions.  After all, Google was born an answer engine.  Add machine learning, neural networks, natural language processing, image recognition on top of all the answer data and Google is already powerful. When it comes to the assistant, the wealth of personal and behavioral data from every logged-in device, and you get an incredibly powerful assistant behind a voice interface.  Users will experience fast assistance with contextual knowledge.

Where to start

Determine which platform your users are embracing most fully.

Workshop with your agency and technology partners around a problem or challenge your business is facing, which could effectively be resolved with voice.

Build a proof of concept, and roll it out internally – in the lunchroom or at the reception desk – and experiment to see how users engage.

Build a roadmap for that single proof of concept to roll out from BETA to Scale.

Already covered the basics? Here’s how to evolve…

Determine how you want voice to be leveraged as a business, and develop an 18-month to 2-year roadmap for how voice will come to life.

Plan for the data warehouses that will drive the experience - the ability to use data behind the assistant will quickly become the differentiator in good experiences versus subpar ones.

Develop a voice and tone for brand standards that can literally be interpreted to a voice.

Miranda Anderson is the director of client management at Mirum.

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