Voice and Voice-enabled devices are experiencing rapid growth in terms of sheer numbers of devices, some 200% year on year according to several estimates. With over 2.5 billion devices that are voice capable, has Voice really moved beyond the novelty for consumers and turned into a mature commercial opportunity for your business?
We think for some verticals and applications, Voice is an essential investment right now. Voice can deliver direct benefits to your consumers and meet their expectations in a number of ways. In this article, we take a hard look at the opportunity and hype surrounding Voice with a special look at voice search and the opportunities that exist with suggested examples and some evidentially informed opinions.
As it stands, Voice is a complex landscape and refers to many things, sometimes it refers to the type of interaction input method (spoken commands), other times it is speech feedback and more commonly it can also mean the rise of voice-first services and devices where the primary way to interact is with voice.
At present, Voice is used primarily for interaction with smart devices. Searching, checking a status, providing a utility (timers, shopping lists, alarms) and information lookups are also core applications, but it can also act as a shopping channel. Although a nascent field, voice commerce is set to grow. The initial direct commercial might appear small and on the surface and you’d be forgiven that it is based on your own usage patterns. However, looking closely at the wider landscape and what consumer intent and usage patterns show us, the picture is a bit more nuanced.
One in five people are heavy users. Interacting with their voice assistant at least five times per day. Seven out of ten people who own a voice-controlled device now use it on a daily basis, up from four in ten in 2018. Gen Z (16-20 y.o.) users think typing is slow and voice is faster and more natural as means of searching for information.
Asked whether they would purchase something on voice or in a physical store less than 1% of consumers surveyed said they would rather shop on a smart speaker. This comes as no surprise as shopping is a highly visual medium and it takes time to get used to a new channel. Unless the voice search is accompanied by a visual consumers are effectively buying something blind. In another survey, only 2% of Alexa users had made a purchase with their device, and very few went on to make a second purchase. .
Given such low engagement with directly commercial applications, how can voice make an impact right now and affect the bottom line for retailers and service providers? We think there two possibilities:
1. Voice Search Optimisation for existing websites
Right now addressing search is vital to making the most of Voice. Consumers can’t buy your product or buy into your brand or services if they’re not being served content that relates to you. With content which is optimised for voice being served first, the benefits of being a fast mover in this area can result in a positive return on investment. Optimising for voice search is already a growing discipline and there is no one size fits all approach that works. Most voice optimisation strategies are about content and understanding how it fits in around user intent. This could include consolidating disparate content, expanding the depth of information you’re offering or something as simple as identifying speakable content. With the right kind of optimisation approach and content development, you could end up occupying the first position for the voice search result and the organic desktop or mobile search result.
2. Customer Service Voice Skills for smart speakers and hearables.
Voice Skills are apps which run on voice enabled speakers and hearables, currently they support Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. According to the OfCom Report on voice assistants, 20% of UK homes now have smart speakers and this number is growing. We think there’s an immediate opportunity for developing voice skills to facilitate existing interactions with the customer experience touchpoints commonly handled by telephone support. A good starting point is to consider If you have FAQ content on your site, or if you have a list of commonly asked questions through your support lines, you can envisage a possible voice skill that addresses user enquiries interactively.
There are many examples for each vertical where a voice skill is aiming to deliver a net benefit to end users, some are related to customer service, others are information based. Having a voice skill right now is fundamentally positioning a brand to be experimenting with using the latest technology and aligning itself with the future demand. There are also plenty of examples of voice skills which are about providing educational content or entertainment value that positions your brand. If you’re a specialist drinks brand you could consider a voice skill that gives your customers cocktail recipes based on your product.
You shouldn’t ignore Voice. Now’s the time to act.
We think the best thing you could do right now is focus on voice search optimisation for your existing site content but if you have the budget and inclination to experiment, a voice skill might be worth investigating too. Using a voice skill as part of your marketing mix is a credible bet on an area that is rapidly growing in maturity. With as many as 30% of marketers expecting to do something with a voice skill and the growth of the hearable market, how you position your efforts is more important than ever and we can help you through the myriad of options.
What Creode can do?
As digital marketing specialists, we can give you a voice strategy that cuts across search and apps. This includes creating new voice-based business models to balance or augment traditional screen based revenue streams. As well as making the information on your website voice-search ready and meaningfully positioned to capture a slice of the market it deserves. If you’re thinking of creating a voice skill with us, not only will we ideate and develop it, we can create and manage the PR around its launch too. Request our Voice Assistants Insights and Ideas (Insurance + Finance Sector) document for inspiration on voice skills as well as an executive summary of the space.
Check out our interactive Miro board to find out more about about voice search and kick off your own research.