No matter where you turn these days, it seems like everyone is talking about voice – and for good reason. The space is undergoing massive growth.
Voice technology has taken a major leap forward, with speech recognition hitting 95 percent accuracy, the same as the human threshold.
These improvements have led to widespread adoption of voice assistant devices – Amazon Echo’s install base rose from 10 million to 30 million in 2017, according to Mary Meeker’s 2018 Internet Trends report.
With the growing influence of this channel, there’s a huge opportunity for brands.
Recent research on the future of retail found that 50 percent of searches will be initiated through voice just two years from now and Gartner predicts that by 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30 percent.
However, just like with any new channel, it’s easy for brands and marketers to get swept up in the hype and try to jump into voice without a strategy.
To help brands navigate this Wild West landscape, I’ve outlined four things that are key to keep in mind to ensure your voice strategy is on the right path.
1. Don’t Think of Voice as an Isolated Channel
It’s easy for marketing teams to hone in on exciting new channels and end up siloing them off – we’ve seen this in the past with mobile and social, and we’re beginning to see the same thing with voice.
It’s important to consider voice as one touchpoint that fits into your broader marketing strategy. This not only means ensuring that your presence on voice channels aligns with your broader brand identity, but from a more technical viewpoint, ensuring that the data from your other marketing channels is informing your voice strategy, and vice-versa.
In today’s landscape, consumers have increasingly high expectations for their interactions with a brand, so it’s imperative that you recognize customers across channels and engage with them accordingly.
Additionally, while most people think of voice as something that lives on a voice device (like Amazon Echo or Google Home), voice can also live on mobile and IoT devices like wearables or connected appliances, and additional use-cases are being developed at a rapid speed.
Because of the many touchpoints that voice will live on – perhaps even as the search function on your brand’s website one day – it’s crucial to take a holistic approach when incorporating voice into your marketing plans.
2. Design Content for Voice
Part of considering voice as one piece of your broader marketing strategy is being thoughtful about how you’re approaching content development on voice channels.
This presents a unique challenge for marketers, many of whom have traditionally focused on visual branding – creating banner ads, videos and TV commercials that evoke a specific aesthetic or brand identity.
Now, instead of just thinking about what your brand looks like, you must also discern what it sounds like. With the rise of voice, we’ll see a greater emphasis on copywriters and attention to the content written for voice platforms.
When delving into voice, marketers must also keep in mind the kind of content that does well on the medium.
Voice is a unique channel, as it allows brands to connect with people in a more natural, symbiotic way that enhances rather than interrupts their daily lives (as opposed to traditional advertising).
Ensuring that your brand’s voice presence is remaining faithful to those tenets will be key in delivering success.
One great example of a brand that has succeeded in both delivering brand-relevant and engaging content on voice is Diageo, which introduced an Amazon Alexa “happy hour” skill.
Through the voice of rapper Snoop Dogg, the app suggests drink recipes based on the mood of users (and directions on how to make it), offers reasons to celebrate depending on the day, and helps users find nearby bars with Diageo products (enabled by an integration with Yelp).
3. Relevance Becomes Even More Important
Relevancy is critical in any marketing campaign, but voice raises the stakes. It’s a rapid form of communication, and being told the wrong information resonates differently than reading an errant email.
Given that voice is a new technology, one that is not yet universally trusted, consumers have even less patience than normal for bad interactions.
Voice responses need to be well-thought out and incorporate context and relevance. Every touchpoint is happening in real-time, so it’s important for voice campaigns to be informed by data gathered throughout the customer journey.
As an example, a commuter driving home to the East Bay from work in San Francisco asks their connected car where they can buy a certain item. That item is available at a particular chain of stores – a voice program using appropriate context and location-based data will recommend a store on the path home from their commute. Without relevancy, the recommendation could end up all over the place.
4. Identify Goals for Voice
While you want to ensure that your voice strategy is relevant, on-brand, and engaging for the consumer, perhaps the most important question you can ask yourself when beginning the voice journey is “what are my goals with voice?”
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and feel like you need to jump on the latest trend, but truthfully if you aren’t going into it with a measurable, downstream goal, it won’t be a success in the long run.
Whether your aim is to increase sales, bolster engagement, increase brand awareness, or encourage repeat buyers, it’s crucial that you identify that purpose, and that your work in voice maps back to that north star.
For instance, allergy medication maker Zyrtec has seen success with its Daily AllergyCast skill. Similar to a weather app, Zyrtec pulls in localized data around pollen count, pollen type, humidity, wind speed, and even social media activity by location to create an allergy impact score.
This skill helps users know when they need to reach for their Zyrtec – and positions the company as a helpful resource in the seemingly never-ending fight against allergies.
It’s just the beginning for voice, and it’s not too late for brands to get on board with this new trend.
Voice is in the same position social media was many years ago – a shiny new object, siloed from the rest of the marketing stack. And its path to the future is the same. Brands need to understand it, develop medium-specific content, and incorporate it into the broader marketing strategy.
Companies that can bring relevance, context, and content to voice will be able to ride the wave of this emerging trend and deliver unique, exciting customer experiences.
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