What Is Voice Marketing?
Effective marketing is about delivering your message in a non-intrusive way, and this is something that voice marketing can offer.
In 2018, it was reported that 16% of Americans owned a smart speaker. A year later, it increased to over 25% of the population, and as prices continue to fall, that number keeps rising.
It’s not just smart speakers, either. Voice activation software is used on smartwatches, smartphones, tablets, and more. For many Americans, it’s second nature to order groceries through Alexa, ask Google to play music, and search for recipes using Siri.
It has been estimated that as many as 50% of all internet searches will soon be performed by voice, and this technology has helped to drive the recent increase in digital radio, podcast, and audiobook listeners, while also giving Amazon’s grocery division another shot in the arm.
Wherever there’s a mass of consumer activity and spending, you’ll find opportunities for marketing, and that’s why voice AI has become such a hot topic in recent years.
Who Is Using Voice?
Big companies realized very early on that voice would be the way forward, the way their customers would interact with their products and services.
And it only makes sense.
It might be easier for you to send text messages on your phone and use your computer for comparison shopping, but when you’re driving, cooking, or just in a rush, it’s much easier to shout a few voice commands.
Companies like Google and Amazon are getting the most out of this technology, using it to help customers shop, search, subscribe, and browse. But Pandora, Spotify, Facebook, and countless other multinational brands are currently investing huge sums of money into it.
As far as they’re concerned, the future will be one of voice, not text, and they’re making sure they’re prepared.
Heavy investments are also being made in the medical, auto, and hospitality sectors, as they understand just how valuable such a direct consumer-connection can be.
Voice reminders can tell you when to take your medication and when to change your oil. If you ask about the nearest gas station or hotel, you may receive a coupon to use a specific service or provider. If you ask about a specific symptom, you could be directed to an OTC medication.
The Potential Of Voice Marketing
How many apps have you deleted because of pop-up ads, how many Youtube videos have you ignored because of unskippable commercials?
We’re surrounded by advertising. It can turn simple tasks such as browsing, shopping, and chatting into a frustrating, blood-boiling experience. To the multi-national brands and the super-rich marketing platforms, ads are a necessary evil; to the average user, they’re an irritation they’d prefer to live without.
As many as 30% of all internet users have ad-blockers installed. In fact, subscription services like those offered by Youtube and Spotify are built off the contempt that users have for advertisements. Yes, they can ignore them, but they’d prefer it if they weren’t there at all.
Voice AI is a potential alternative that suits the publisher, the platform, and the end user.
For example, imagine that you’re driving across the country. You’re short on gas; you’re tired, hungry, and after scanning roadsides with an encroaching sense of dismay, you realize you’re lost.
In a world without voice assist, you would pull into the next suitable spot, open Google Maps, and find your location. You can search for nearby restaurants and gas stations, before googling reviews to make sure you’re not venturing head-first into a nightmarish Wrong Turn scenario.
With voice assist, you simply speak to your device while driving and it will tell you where the next gas station is, how to make your way home, and which of your favorite fast food chains you’ll encounter along the way.
You get the answer you’re looking for; the Voice AI can direct you to a gas station and restaurant, and in doing so it can serve ads from the providers of those locations.
It’s a win-win, one that doesn’t require you to pore through endless ads and won’t lead you into the arms of a cannibalistic family living in the hills.
Of course, we’re not quite at that level of technology just yet, but we’re getting there, and the potential for opportunities like this is what gets advertisers excited about voice AI.
Continuity is also key.
As Patrick noted during our interview, many voice apps operate as standalone devices and this creates a frustrating disconnect.
For example, let’s assume that you have a house full of servants. A nutritionist plans your diet, a chef cooks your food, a driver escorts you where you want to go, a cleaner organizes your house, and a secretary arranges your business appointments.
You’re living the life!
One day, a big client comes to town and you invite him to your home for lunch. You tell your secretary to rearrange your day and to make contact with your client, and you prepare accordingly.
But what about everyone else?
Your driver won’t know to pick you up at an earlier time, your nutritionist won’t get the memo to prepare for two, your cook definitely won’t cook for two, and your cleaner could be washing all your best cutlery just when you should be sitting down to eat.
Voice technology, in its current iteration, often works like this, but it’s rapidly moving towards a place of continuation and connectivity, one where every app and device is in perfect synchronicity.
This is when it begins to make sense.
This continuation isn’t just beneficial across multiple apps, users, and devices, it’s also important for one user on one device.
You can ask your Google or Amazon device where the nearest Italian restaurant is, before getting directions and then leaving a review. But all of these things are done independently of one another, and the device won’t remember that you’ve been to that location.
In the future, however, it’s likely that we’ll reach a point where not only will it remember, but it will also use your review to recommend similar restaurants and even to influence your future experiences, much like Amazon will recommend related products when you’re browsing its website.
Possible Future Uses Of Voice Marketing
The retail world has gone digital, with the vast majority of users preferring to buy items like books, games, music, toys, electronics, and household appliances online.
Demand has been increasing exponentially and it exploded in 2020, when everyone found themselves trapped in their own homes, with nothing better to do than shop online.
Shipping companies have been keeping pace with this increased demand for eCommerce and have introduced some amazing new innovations.
You can order a product online, choose a delivery slot, and track your order in real-time as it arrives at your front door.
It’s a far cry from the standard “4 to 6 weeks” snail-speed shipping services available at the turn of the century.
But there is still room for improvement, and that’s where voice comes in.
Instead of text message and email announcements, you can get updates on your package directly through your smart home system. It will tell you where your order is,what’s in the package, and could, potentially, connect you to a customer service rep if there is an issue.
Once the product arrives and you eagerly rip that box open, you can consult your device for setup and installation instructions.
Not only does this provide a more interactive and hands-off approach, but it also eliminates the need for bulky paper instruction manuals.
And let’s be honest, who even reads them?
The average customer flicks through half-heartedly, muses briefly at the confusing drawings and seemingly alien instructions, and then promptly ignores every word before spending the next few hours struggling to set things up.
Once that setup is complete and the customer is happy, voice will remain for incremental sales. If the customer purchased a new computer, it can direct them to additional software packages and hardware upgrades. If they purchased garden equipment, it can remind them about chargers, batteries, and replacement parts.
This is just one of the many ways that voice marketing can be used.
Unlike the ads that frustrate users of apps, Youtube, and countless websites, this process would be unassuming, helpful, and gentle, while at the same time pushing a product in a highly targeted and specific way.
In that sense, it’s the ultimate form of marketing, one that greatly benefits the publisher and doesn’t frustrate the user. The problem is, we’re not quite at that point yet and until we are, this is an industry with more uncertainty than guarantees; more possibilities than promises.
How To Get Started With Voice Marketing
During our conversation, Patrick Givens noted that there is currently no paid ad system for voice search. He also commented on how this sector may not be for everyone, saying, “I would not put money in this space right now if you need an immediate return on new user acquisition or volume.”
However, he added that voice can be the differentiator, the thing that separates your business from your competitor’s, in which case it can be a “cheap way” to get something new and unique out there.
If you have determined that voice marketing can serve your company, where do you start? What steps do you take to make it work for you?
The first step for many will be to consult a marketing agency, but as Given notes, he has yet to see a voice search strategy attain tangible results. Many agencies offer it, but when you dig into it, it’s merely a series of best practices that, while correct, are regurgitating much of the same info.
The answer lies not in search results but in how you use the technology within your business.
We can use a little bit of SEO philosophy here: Write for your customers first and Google placements will follow.
In other words, it’s less about how you can increase your rankings or get immediate conversions, and more about how you can improve the user experience.
In time, coupons, paid searches, and other opportunities may appear, but right now, voice marketing is all about driving customer engagement, encouraging subscriptions and repeat orders, and improving word-of-mouth conversions.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, no magic wand you can wave to make this technology work for you, but by thinking outside of the box, and discovering ways you can use voice to differentiate yourself from your competitors and improve the user experience, you can start benefiting from this tech.
The Year Of Voice Commerce: 2020, 2021, 2022?
Just like 3D printing, virtual reality, and countless technologies before it, “the year of voice” has been and gone dozens of time.
Experts have been predicting this industry’s big break since 2016, and the truth is that we just haven’t seen those big advancements yet.
Many predicted that this would be a multi-billion-dollar industry by now. But while we’re a long way off those figures, this industry is still growing.
Throughout our conversation, Patrick Givens remained cautiously optimistic with regards to this technology’s future, noting how much potential it had and how much work was being done behind the scenes, while conceding that it still had a long way to way.
Whether voice marketing will have its breakthrough year in 2021, 2022 or beyond remains to be seen, but whatever happens, we can be sure that its big year will come, and voice marketing will play a much bigger role in your company’s future marketing plans.
About Our Guest: Patrick Givens
Meet Patrick Givens. Patrick brings a “user-led, tech-enabled” approach to building transformative products, brands, and businesses for clients ranging from Fortune 500’s to new-to-world startups. For the past four years, he led VaynerSmart, VaynerMedia’s Innovations & Emerging Technologies division which he founded in 2016. There he spearheaded the extension of VaynerMedia’s pioneering social media and digital marketing into emerging channels such as Voice-first conversational A.I., connected retail and interactive packaging. He’s also had the opportunity to speak to audiences around the world about topics such as Conversational Marketing, Sonic Branding, and Ethical Innovation.
#ThisWeekWithSabir Episode 002 | Broadcast live on Wednesday, June 10, 2020, 10-11am ET on YouTube.
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