The digital landscape is changing. We’re looking ahead at a world where we stop talking about “channels” or “platforms”. Our day to day lives will still be structured by technology in exactly the same way, but we’ll interact with services and apps through just the one interface. And guess what? This time it’s a super retro return to the very oldest model in the book. The interface that predates the term interface. Voice.

Comstar predicts that half of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. We’ll turn to our old friends Google Home, Echo Dot or Echo Show to deliver information or entertainment, to perform an action. Powered by voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, brands will reach their consumers by building services or third party “skills”. We know the race to become the leading VUI has picked up pace over the past 5 years. And each of them have their own thing – Google with their knowledge of the search landscape, Amazon with their insight into shopping behaviours, Apple with their access to… well, people’s fingers.

Voice technology has the power to redefine the way that we experience the world around us, and that’s liberating. But this is also completely unknown territory. How exactly should brands navigate this new, complex relationship with both their user and the platform? Let’s take a look at the initial considerations for brands moving into the new world of meaningful conversations.

For more insight into voice technologies, dive into the Speak Easy 2017 research report. It’s really very interesting.

Prioritise service over shop

We know that, right now, users are not using voice assistants to shop. Although speech recognition error rates now match humans at 5%, there’s still some work to be done when it comes to home technologies correctly interpreting strong accents and other nuances. A purchase is a commitment, and it’s one that the user isn’t yet willing to make without the comfort and control that they’re used to with the screen as their interface. For the time being, think about ways that voice interaction could bring value to your user – whether that’s content or information – you can come to considerations around “conversational commerce” a little later on.

Embrace SEO for VUI

The paid social advertising model was disruptive – and it makes sense in the world of platforms and interfaces as we know it. In the world of the voice assistant, making sure that your content (or service, or app, or skill) is chosen over another brand will still be key. Although, it may be possible to make a “paid recommendation” (think: paid ads), there’s something that feels intrusive about paid advertising in this newly personal space. The new priority will be “algorithm optimization” for your app or service. Optimizing for search in the voice landscape will mean knowing your customer or audience in a much more personal context. To truly integrate your brand into their lives, your service will need to be able to respond to conversational search terms. They’re likely to be different to the terms used for search. Put simply, you’ll need to find out how your audience talk IRL.

Find your voice

TOV guidelines look a little different in the voice era. This isn’t just about finding the right message and the right tone. It’s about developing and designing a voice – defining intonation, pitch, accent, speed…even gender. You’ll need to take it up a notch when it comes to personalization, too. 96% of regular voice users like the idea of being able to customize their voice assistant’s personality to suit their own voice. As technologies develop, sentiment analysis will mean assistants being able to deliver a response based on signals they receive about the user’s emotional tone.

Be mindful of your power

Another quick stat from the Speak Easy report: a third of regular voice users in Singapore have admitted to having a sexual fantasy about their voice assistant… Bit of a weird one, but it highlights the personal spaces that voice assistants are entering into. Voice users, particularly in the lucrative Chinese market, want their voice assistants to feel human. This is a return to the most natural and intuitive form of interaction (the ability to communicate through conversation is very literally hardcoded in humans). So, there’s another layer here. We need to tread carefully when we’re establishing a commercial relationship that has the potential to feel like an emotional connection.

Looking for more insight into the future of technology and retail? There’s nothing we like to talk about more. Get in touch here to talk to us about the next steps for your brand.



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