Digital Transformation Technology United States

How voice search can help regain consumer trust


By Jon Heim | Director of Product Management, Conversation Services

June 25, 2018 | 5 min read

In light of the recent headlines surrounding misuse of data and consumer privacy concerns, consumers are more suspicious than ever of any sort of advertising that they perceive is leveraging their personal data for targeting purposes.


In fact, a recent study by ExpressVPN revealed that 71% of US consumers worry about how brands and tech companies collect and use their user data. As a result, poorly targeted advertising can tarnish and dilute brand images. So, what can advertisers and marketers do to solve this dilemma? The solution might lie in being more conscious of consumer perceptions.

Interestingly, as much as we’re currently experiencing a public push for greater data-tracking transparency, the reality might be that consumers actually don’t value the transparency that much.

Researchers from Harvard Business School, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and IESE (the graduate business school of the University of Navarra, Spain) have shown in their paper “Why Am I Seeing This Ad? The Effect of Ad Transparency on Ad Effectiveness” that consumers are reluctant to engage with ads that they know have been offered to them because of their online activity, etc.

Realizing how third-party data has been used to target us makes us feel intruded upon. Consumers know they’re being marketed to, and it makes them instantly suspicious and wary. By the basic principles of the Social Exchange Theory, people weigh the benefits vs. the costs when deciding if it’s worth it for them to interact with a person, company or service. The misuse of data and overt advertising leveraging that data drive people’s perception of the risk up. This makes viewers less likely to engage with an ad and more likely to have a lesser opinion of your brand. But, as people become more and more comfortable interacting with their devices with their voice, a conversational approach might be the best way to mitigate this issue.

In an entertainment setting, user trust and brand safety can remain intact by combining the power of voice search and sponsored discovery. By using their voice to search for new content to watch, consumers are actively asking the system for what they want as opposed to being fed potentially non-relevant recommendations.

Consequently, even if the system then leverages the user’s viewership history, third-party online activity, or even voice tone and sentiment, to provide a hyper-targeted, sponsored content recommendation, the conversational aspect of this interaction doesn’t make the user feel like they’re being marketed to. In what is more of a natural way to communicate, you ask for something and then get an informed recommendation in the moment, just like you would from a friend that knows you very well. If done correctly, it doesn’t feel intrusive – It just feels like you’re getting exactly what you’re looking for.

Voice recognition technology – especially the kind that can handle advanced, natural language interactions -- offers content providers and marketers the unparalleled opportunity to target consumers with pinpoint accuracy while preserving user trust and brand safety.

Mis-targeted ads (or even well-targeted ads, but that are delivered at the wrong time) are violating user trust, making it obvious for consumers that they’re being marketed to. Voice has the power to help brands and advertisers regain consumer trust by allowing marketers to target their desired audiences without them perceiving the effort as marketing. Done correctly, it’s not even marketing – it’s a heads up from a trusted friend. Hence, no violation of trust. The timely and subtle aspects of voice-powered content search can help bridge the consumer trust gap.

It is now time for marketers to engage with consumers in the most natural way of all: conversation.

Jon Heim is director of product management-conversation services at TiVo

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