Listen up: here's why do you need to think about voice now

Voice assistants have proven popular with consumers, but why should marketers take notice?

As consumers rush to embrace voice tech and connected devices, we ask the industry why marketers should be keeping their ears to the ground.

Swave Szymczyk, global director of digital and retail marketing, Originals at Adidas

Voice is set to become the next big input into our computers, and so instead of typing you will be just able to just ask your digital assistant for anything, whether that’s a brand or whether that’s a commodity.

And we need to, as marketeers, be taking that very seriously because what we want is for the consumer to say to their assistant ‘sell me a pair of Adidas shoes’ rather than just ‘sell me a pair of sneakers’.

Luis Navarrete Gómez, head of global search marketing, Lego Group

For any marketeer who wants to run any kind of media activity in Alexa, they will need to ask whether or not they are adding value for their customers and enhancing the user experience. That will be the main challenge so the first thing I would ask myself is how can I make the experience for my users better than it is now.

Amazon will continue exploring areas of monetizing this technology though, along with Google and Apple as well, and they will face challenges as it is not yet clear how they will do this.

I’m totally confident they will find ways of implementing ads on voice search devices, although these will most likely be in a different format. They won’t be the same as we know them in the search marketing industry now.

But at the end of the day you need to understand your customer to really know what works for you. And good marketing is based on knowing where your audience are. If you are able to create ads in a different format that ultimately improve people’s lives or make the shopping experience easier or make finding your content much more engaging, that will be the winner.

Lego is still investigating this, trying to understand what questions our audience might ask to these kinds of devices and trying to understand what is coming up right now. Once we have a better understanding of what type questions people are asking from these devices we will be able to put programs in place that will help us to create content that will cater for these kind of devices.

Vincent Coyle, director of paid performance media, Zoopla

Brands are slowly warming up to the opportunities of voice search, but most websites don’t have the appropriate meta data to be included in voice search database and ads in voice search will take a while to make it on to most media plans as it’s a completely new format.

But brave brands will experiment and figure out if it’s right for them. It all comes down to the penetration of home assistant devices and the use cases. It will help an advertiser’s business case when Alexa’s skills are diversified to more use cases in productivity and lifestyle.

Zoopla isn’t working in this space at present, but there could be an opportunity for ‘how much is my house worth’ type of voice searches.

The tone of voice needs to be important consideration though. As does testing whether consumers will interpret ads in voice search as intrusive. As with all advertising it’s a balance between ad revenue, consumer value add and context.

Daniel Wilkinson, head of paid media, Jellyfish

From a technology perspective, there are a lot of interesting things happening with both in-home and mobile devices. For example, people are becoming used to interacting with digital assistants and it’s changing consumer behavior.

With regards consumer intent, search has always been a great barometer. Until now, it’s always been what people are searching for that has acted as that gauge. Now, it is how people are searching that is providing an interesting dilemma for marketers.

Today, the advertising model associated with voice search still relies on a screen to deliver results but the technology will evolve to enable brands to have meaningful conversations with consumers. This adds a new dimension to search marketing that brands will need to prepare for.

Natural language processing is also advancing and with the recent example of Google’s assistant making a lifelike phone call brands have the opportunity to create some truly unique experiences for their existing or potential new customers.

There is also the possibility for things to go wrong with key questions about privacy and how data is stored and used an important consideration for any marketing activity let alone with an emerging approach such as voice search.

For now, marketers should be thinking about what their consumers are searching for, how they are searching, why their product or service should be important to that consumer and what a great conversation with that person would look like. Then, when the technology or advertising opportunities arrive you’re somewhat prepared to take advantage of them.

Abby Carvosso, group managing director of advertising, Bauer Media

Brands have already started to experiment with voice to understand the role it has to play in their marketing strategies. Within Bauer we are seeing an increasing number of brands expressing their interest in new forms of voice activation, realizing a consistent brand sound will be beneficial in a world which is becoming more audio-led. Sound adds color to our lives, thoughts, memories and feelings, plus the multiplier effect that it can have on your ROI in the digital age.

Voice search is quickly becoming the go-to search method for consumers; ComScore research predicts that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches. Voice clearly isn’t going away, and with the growth of Amazon Echo in the home and voice activation in cars, it is only set to grow further over the coming months and years.

Advertising on Alexa is still in its relative infancy but all the signs are showing that it will grow considerably as consumer habits adapt. Voice-controlled devices, such as Amazon Echo, will be in 40% of homes by early 2018 according to predictions by Radiocentre. With the rapid adoption of the device in the home, brands need to begin experimenting to finesse their strategies and explore the unique campaigns they can activate. Crucial factors to consider when developing a campaign on Alexa are the time of day, location and wider contextual events like the weather. Once these are further adopted, advertising will quickly become an expected and relevant experience.

While brands embark on this journey, to ensure long-term success with voice, they need to start experimenting early to understand how to best create striking campaigns. Naturally, combining strong audience insight and understanding how users are engaging with the devices is key. However, as brands and media owners continue refining their approach, the magic spark will be when marketers are able to personalize campaigns to consumers on an individual level.

Ian Haworth, chief creative officer, Wunderman

Voice is going to be the next frontier of brand and customer experiences. It will bring your brand to life, creating a literal expression of its tone of voice, connecting and engaging with people to help them understand and feel who your brand really is.

It can give you the edge over the competition you’ve always wanted too; marketers will be able to convey their brand in the exact way it was conceived during ideation, whether that be in a cheeky, confident, classy or other manner. And that’s just the start. A brand’s voice can be adapted to different situations to create an engaging customer experience, understanding nuances, tone and language far better than any other medium.

Estimates show 50% of search will be conducted by voice by 2020, so marketers have to start developing their voice interactions now. It’ll require a big investment but it’ll be worth it. Voice integrated services will live and die by the way they’re executed. Robotic, clunky, or gimmicky efforts won’t encourage repeat uses, and your brand voice will quickly get lost among your competitors.

Julie Kollman, chief research officer, Kantar

If you thought the internet changed the world, get ready for voice. The internet made everything accessible to everyone all the time. Few of us can imagine having to look up a fact in a book or having to visit multiple shops to comparison shop. Yet, voice has the potential to become as ubiquitous and embedded in our everyday lives – perhaps much more quickly – as the internet for three simple reasons.

Voice will also make using the internet – which is already easy to use – even easier, because it will eliminate the need to type. It will enable ‘hands free’ search, shopping, browsing, viewing etc, giving us even more opportunities to multi-task. Speaking is also significantly faster than typing. Humans can speak 150 words a minute. How fast can you type on a smartphone? Neuro research by Neuro-Insight for JWT and Mindshare also found that processing information you hear requires 50% less brain activity than reading it. Finally, voice opens up these benefits to those uncomfortable or incapable of typing – the very young, elderly or infirm. Essentially everyone, anywhere.

It’s emotional. Our neuro research has shown emotional engagement with voice assistants doubles as users become more familiar with them. According to the Stack, Microsoft’s assistant Xiaoice has more than 40 million users and a surprising number (25%) have told it ‘I love you’. In qualitative research, respondents also reveal that they often converse with their voice assistant when lonely or sad. In our increasingly dehumanized worlds, they have the potential to fill in the gap.

It’s elemental. While the internet has opened up the world it has also made it somewhat overwhelming and impersonal. Information overload is a common complaint. It is not inconceivable that you could live life without interacting with another human. Voice brings the vastness of the internet back down to a ‘human scale’ by curating information for you, making many of your choices, entertaining you and being your friend.

Just as the internet fundamentally changed consumers’ interactions with brands, voice has the potential to fundamentally change the relationship. At the most basic level, asking for a brand out loud compared to choosing it online is two times as emotionally engaging. More importantly, your brand will need to develop an actual voice consumers will converse with, which will have significantly greater power to create emotional engagement. Real, dynamic conversation will allow your brand to become more relevant in more ways and establish never before seen levels of ‘closeness’ and ‘love’. The voice revolution is coming.

For more on voice technology, pick up a copy of The Drum's July issue where we speak to Susan Bennett (AKA the voice of Apple’s Siri); find out how AI assistants are being utilised in sectors such as retail, charity, healthcare and education; discover how it is opening up the internet to older generations and the visually impaired; and ask what it means to be 'voice native'.

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