26/04/2018

Voice Marketing: Five Opportunities and Challenges

Written by: Martin Klok, Senior Digital Strategist at Edelman

General, Technology

23% of marketing professionals think that the increased use of voice-controlled assistants and smart speakers will influence their marketing strategies in 2021

In a few months, Google will launch the Dutch language version of Google Assistant, opening the door for an increased use in voice activated assistants in Dutch households. That being said, it is already a quickly moving development: Apple speech assistant Siri is used on almost 500 million mobile devices and it is expected in the next year that more than 59 million people worldwide will use a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. For many marketeers this will have a huge impact on their strategies for the coming few years, but which opportunities and challenges come with it? Here are 5 things to keep in mind for a voice-driven marketing strategy.

1. ‘Marketing in the Moment’ Becomes Essential
The rise in popularity of the voice assistant offers the chance for your brand to – both literally and figuratively – enter the homes of your target audiences and become a part of their daily lives. While only a fraction of current users have indicated that they like receiving branded content via their smart speakers, there is still huge potential for service and commercial purposes. Determining the when and how of using the speakers to approach customers is essential.

With the right insights into the (daily) usage of smart speakers, you can assess where you can create added value. Is it between 17:00 and 19:00 – when people are mostly using their assistants to search for restaurants and recipes – or when users are using their speakers to listen to music together with friends or family? There are plenty of chances to tune into the different phases of the customer journey.

2. The Revolution of Voice Search
More than 20% of all mobile searches via Google are voice search queries, which has already made voice search relevant for SEO marketeers in the last few years. But the real revolution will come in the next few years as use of smart speakers increases. Through more voice-based searches…

…search subjects will become more diverse and complex, based on various forms of speech.

…the search result needs of the users will change. More focus on audio will have an impact on the optimal audiovisual design of your brand’s various channels.

… even greater competition is created for the top positions in search engines – since only the top results are considered by the speech assistants, and ultimately only these results are heard by the users.

These are just a few reasons for marketeers to change the direction of their search strategy. Because there is not much existing data available about spoken searches, qualitative user research is advisable to find out which spoken search queries your target groups use and in which domains these searches are. You might conclude that it is more efficient to focus on long-tail in order to be able to claim more specific search domains.

3. Brands are (quite literally) getting a voice more and more
Where music and voiceovers in traditional advertising have helped brands get attention or form an emotional bond with customers for decades, the rise of voice assistants gives a new dimension to the importance of audio. For example, the translation of tone – in many companies an integral part of the brand identity – into the sound of a voice becomes necessary. It’s not for nothing that ‘voice designer’ is an up and coming career choice among talented designers.

Make a conscious choice for the voice of your brand. One that is in line with your brand values and keeps the forward-thinking target group of the smart speaker user in mind. In the world of speech assistants, your brand – and its representation in voice design – must be of service to the target group and ensure recognizability and trust. Do not make your voice design too obedient either: dare to be different, while ensuring an intelligent design with a human quality. That way, you also build a connection with your target audience via this channel.

4. Traditional channels are also getting smarter – and speech controlled
With the increasing number of chatbots, Conversational UI – the web design facilitating interaction between human users and robots – is implemented on different platforms: from Facebook Messenger to customer service pages. The next development, however, is already happening: Voice Conversational UI, in which speech is central.

Keep this in mind when (developing) your channel strategy: as people become increasingly accustomed to communicating with voice assistants, in the future they also expect your brand to facilitate them: via a chatbot, website or even at physical service points. Because of this change in user experience, it is becoming less important what you want to say as a marketeer and more important what the consumer wants to hear. This means that listening to your target groups – and that is a possibility that voice-driven platforms will offer – is also becoming increasingly important.

5. Measurability and Determining Your Tone
Because your brand’s success via smart speakers is determined by user experiences, measuring and optimizing these experiences is essential. This is likely to be another big challenge in 2021, especially for the modern marketeer who is used to testing, measuring and optimizing everything in detail.

Fortunately, there is hope, due to enough potential KPIs and metrics for voice marketing. For example, based on stored voice-activated messages, it should be possible to map the customer or service journey and identify any bottlenecks. By 2021, user statistics such as length of audio sessions and frequency of use should also be available to brands. The statistics from other channels, and possibly qualitative user research, form an excellent basis for measuring brand performance in this area and for optimizing communication, marketing and service programs.

In the coming years Dutch brands will also look at the possibilities to respond to the role voice assistants and smart speakers play in the way that the public changes their consumption of media. However, smart(er) brands are already laying the foundation for this by, among other things, making their media channels and search strategies futureproof. Pioneers will dare to experiment and – as soon as the first smart speakers in the Netherlands are available – use this innovation to reach and serve their target audiences.

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