Facilitating Conversation Between AI, Voice: Q&A

The recent announcement of a Kantar partnership with Pulse Labs has the potential to change the conversation regarding AI and voice and to address the growing number of questions about the space. I sat down with Nick Nyhan, Chief Digital Officer, Kantar, and Abhishek Suthan, CEO, Pulse Labs, to get further insight.

Charlene Weisler: Can you please give a quick overview of the partnership? 

Nick Nyhan: Voice is not new, but voice as an automated platform is fairly nascent. As voice emerges as the new big platform, being made available by many big platform companies, there are some big decisions to make and questions to answer, such as: How will consumers take to it, and for what reasons?  Where should marketers and brands extend themselves but not go too far?  How will the platform find its sweet spot in people’s busy lives, and where might it replace something else or add to it? 

Kantar has been answering these questions for many years, and with Pulse Labs, we can combine expertise areas to answer these bigger questions for clients.

Abhishek Suthan:  Our partnership with Kantar was born from the recognition that the data and understanding we have from the voice platforms, while valuable on its own, could be greatly enhanced when combined with broader market insights. Much like any brand, consumer voice behavior is best understood and analyzed as an integral part of a broader consumer picture. 

Weisler: Can you share some usage figures on voice assistants today, and where you project it will be in the next two to three years? 

Suthan: To start, there are about 75 million smart speaker owners in the U.S., and almost 150 million globally, and those numbers are only going to keep rising. Right now about 25% of digital radio listening happens on smart speakers, and that more than doubled in 2018. 

But the really big story over the next two to three years won't be the continued rapid growth of metrics like these, but the spread of voice assistants from smart speakers into many other devices  particularly within the car. Just yesterday, McDonald's announced the acquisition of a voice technology company and the creation of a research lab to bring voice tech to its drive-thus.

It doesn't require much stretching of the imagination to see a world where we'll be able to place orders via voice directly in our cars while we drive to our favorite restaurants. And that's just one of many applications on the horizon.

Weisler: How are you linking to Kantar?

Suthan: We're still working out all the possible ways we can find synergies for our respective data sets. However, we've been able to effectively combine data from Kantar's consumer survey panel with voice behavioral data from Pulse Labs.

Weisler: What types of datapoints and metrics will you offer?

Nyhan: We will bring attitudinal and behavioral data in various combinations that make sense to the client question at hand.  Some may require actual interaction data between consumers and the platform, whereas some may require a larger study of consumers attitudes via survey or field observation.  We want to be able to bring the right data from real consumers.  

Weisler: What are your preliminary takeaways?

Nyhan: We see adoption entering a second phase, past early adopters and into a second group: people who were given the smart speaker as a gift, or only use it play music.  As the audience grows,  use cases will need to be refined and experiences will vary as experimentation explodes and everyone learns. 

Suthan: It's remarkable how much people are using their voice assistants to create quick reminders, like shopping lists. One thing that's notoriously difficult in audio advertising is tracking how well consumers remember ads, and what actions they inspire. Well, now we can help with that, and this is just one example.

Weisler: What are your initial deliverables, and what future deliverables are you building? 

Suthan: Right now we're working with select partners on customer research, while building overview metrics and dashboards for general consumer behavior on voice devices. The future deliverables will be determined by what our customers are interested in and want to know.

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