Commentary

The Rise Of Voice: Are Marketers Listening?

Customer experience is undergoing a massive shift — similar to how smartphones took hold ten years ago. At that time, if your brand didn’t have a mobile strategy it’s likely you didn’t survive. Today, we’re on the precipice of the next catalyst: Voice.

In her annual Internet Trends Report, influential analyst Mary Meeker named voice one of the top trends of the year, noting the rise in mobile voice and improved voice recognition. We’re entering a new era of customer communication as people transition to mobile-only and voice assistant usage — which surged by an estimated 130% in 2017

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Voice allows brands new opportunities to engage customers in every element of their lives — from their desk or living room to the car or grocery store. While there’s an initial learning curve and element of comfort that must be reached, consumers have shown they are quick to engage with voice technology because it feels less intrusive to their day. Marketers who can create a winning voice strategy now, will find themselves leading the critical perceptions game.

Heard and Not Seen

In this new era of voice, the phrase “seen and not heard” has been flipped on its head. Brands must operate in an audio-only space, instead adopting voice personas in much the same way they would adopt a logo or color scheme — a voice that becomes synonymous with the brand. 

Gartner predicts 30% of browsing sessions will be done without a screen by 2020, which highlights the immense opportunity in creating a voice-first strategy that not only appeals to modern audiences, but also provides brands with an approachable persona.

Service-First Engagement

Voice is enabling deeper and more frequent consumer touchpoints with a brand. The voice app ecosystem, for example, is a driving force for brand marketers – similar to the mobile app gold rush a decade ago. 

The subsequent opportunity for marketers is an expansive, new frontier. AI can mine voice conversations for insights, and with such data, brands can link their voice and digital marketing initiatives. That said, voice engagement should not be intrusive, consumers will not respond well to voice-activated messages that ooze advertising. Companies who find a way to offer service-first experiences with their consumer will breed longer lasting trust and loyalty. 

Service-first voice-automation works across industries — everything from Domino’s Pizza, which introduced voice-activated ordering through its app last year, to Whirlpool, whose collaboration with Amazon’s Alexa allows users to control their washer and dryer through voice commands.

Personalize Your Voice

A challenging aspect of voice engagement is posed by hyper-personalization — the message should be delivered to the right person, through the right device at the right time. Brands will have to determine how to deliver human touch in a scalable way at the right moments within the customer lifecycle. 

With the improvement in personalization and targeting capabilities, voice will become a popular conduit for marketers as a way of sending individual messages to meet consumer needs.

Marketers eager to take their place in this new landscape must start now to define a strategy that lets their brand transition seamlessly no matter the medium. Successful customer engagement requires innovative, flexible thinking, and time will quickly tell which brands are capable of rising to the top.

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