Voice assistants are taking over. Adapt or die.

Similar to the rise of social or mobile apps, voice requires new strategies, knowledge and understanding, says Arnold Worldwide's AI strategy lead.

Humans learn to intelligently interact first and foremost through voice. Any parent will tell you the joy of being able to understand their child and their needs via words rather than a tantrum and flinging food. Speech is the most natural way for humans to interact.

It’s no surprise that with modern consumers expecting a seamless, frictionless experience with products and brands that voice becomes the most sensible interaction choice. This user expectation has led to the proliferation of AI-powered voice assistant platforms like Alexa, Hey Google and Cortana. 

Now these companies are on a collision course, and what better place to have a heavyweight bout than Las Vegas? CES 2018 became a showdown where Hey Google and Alexa decided to fight it out for market share, with consumers ultimately being the winners. Alexa and Hey Google billboards, keynotes and panels dominated the conference. An attendee at CES this year would have been hard pressed to find a product that doesn’t work with or have Alexa or Google assistant built in. As of now, roughly 4,000 products have Alexa integrated and 1,500 have Google assistant.

For some companies, the voice revolution has left them flat-footed. Soon these platforms will be a primary way many users will interact with a company, potentially replacing other methods altogether. While this doesn’t mean the end of apps and web interfaces, it does mean that there has to be an understanding of how voice fits into any given ecosystem. Similar to the rise of social or mobile apps, voice requires new strategies, knowledge and understanding. 

Like with any revolution and new experience, companies will rush to get into voice. Expect a lot of poorly made voice experiences. There are many as it is. This is a company’s opportunity to have a "Hey, we made this new thing" moment, which may unfortunately fall flat.

Voice is a beast like no other that will challenge UX, copywriters and coders to work together like never before, pushing the bounds of their respective expertise. And companies will have to reevaluate how they measure this new way customers interact.

Looking for advice to adapt to this new voice assistant opportunity? Like with anything, provide a mix of value, utility and a little bit of entertainment if possible. Both Alexa and Google provide clear roadmaps to making skills and apps for their platforms, so there’s no excuse. Voice is a chance to impress and elevate the user’s experience. Savvy users have long memories and won’t suffer through frustrating, ill-conceived interactions. Get it right the first time or you might not get a second chance.

Anthony Modano is SVP, Marketing Director & AI Strategy Lead at Arnold Worldwide.

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