State of Voice

After a recent network event focused on ‘Voice Engagement and Technology’, we wanted to share some of the key themes that emerged, useful statistics and our view on this particular topic.

We met with a wide range of brands, from healthcare and hygiene products, to financial and telecoms. Each brand had a slightly different take on the challenge and opportunity voice technology presents, but there were lots of similarities to everyone’s approach, which seems to reflect where this technology sits as a solution for most.

Usage statistics* suggest that voice is more mature than you might think, but like most technical innovations, brands are currently learning and experimenting with what will work best for them. And, as with all emerging tech, there’s lots of avenues to consider.

How to optimise existing content for voice and creating bespoke content for voice specifically, were areas of particular interest. There seems to be a realisation that building products and/or services that create unique value for your audience with voice technologies can, in fact, meet brand, experience and marketing objectives.

Almost everyone noted that the rules and guidance on voice search are pretty opaque and not yet standardised, with measurement being a particular challenge. However, with this in mind, it feels like Amazon and Google are aiming to make voice more familiar to traditional marketing and advertising performance teams. Speakable markup from Google and Amazon’s ‘Choice badges’, lending themselves to order logic, are evidence of this.

In reality, there are still some big challenges to overcome from a user perspective, which ultimately will influence how a brand can use the technology successfully. Users gravitate to a small number of voice application commands and the fall off rate from these is dramatic. In fact, 40% of users abandon a chatbot (Voice Tech) after just a single interaction. This is because memorising command syntax in voice interfaces is hard.

What’s also clear is that carrying a convincing conversation is hard, as computers are dumb (not very human). Amazon has offered a $2.5 million prize pool for a team building a system that can converse for 20 mins. As humans, we use vocal intonation and other non vocal cues to interpret language. Technology can’t quite manage this… yet.

So considering all of this, here are our takeaways for voice right now:

Don't limit your thinking on voice to "something for Alexa or Google Home". The same idea or strategy can be scaled to fit multiple conversational touch points from chatbots to mobile voice assistants to smart speakers in the home.

Similarly, don’t think of voice in isolation. Voice with a screen, can make the application of a new technology feel both familiar and exciting.

When building a brand with voice interfaces, the resource needed may be different to the norm. For example, you may consider script writers rather than copywriters to create your brand persona on voice.

The best ideas can be simple (although the tech may be advanced). One of the best example of this is Monzo’s integration with Siri, enabling a one touch payment, activated by voice.

It feels a bit like the .com land grab, so go and get your space now!

Ultimately, voice will win in fields where swiping or typing cannot play. Clearly defining problems that swiping or typing cannot solve, but voice technology can - should be a focus for most.

*38% of global internet users have used voice search or voice command tools like Siri in the past month (Source: GlobalWebIndex Q1 2018)