Voice is currently the fastest-growing user interface in history, and so it’s no surprise that 2020 has seen brands rush to add it to their marketing mix. The Covid-19 pandemic only accelerated that trend as more consumers spent an increasing amount of time at home with captive attention driving an increase in use of home assistants such as Google Voice and Amazon Alexa. It offers brands a unique opportunity to diversify their media portfolio with a platform that is very unlike existing channels.
With that said, voice is a different beast than most marketing departments are currently accustomed to. Before undertaking the integration of voice into your media planning, there are a few elements every team should know.
Voice is both a channel and a user interface. Any brand that is looking to add voice to their portfolio needs to understand that they can build apps for Alexa or Google voice assistants to take advantage of the growth of those channels, but they can also leverage voice as a user interface to voice-control their owned channels, like mobile applications, websites, physical spaces, custom hardware, etc. When we look back in ten years, voice will be a pervasive touch point across a consumer journey, so brands need to learn how to build voice into both their product and marketing roadmaps.
Voice has been around for decades, and the “Alexa-era” has been around for over five years. In that time, voice has become the fastest-growing digital channel ever—faster than the smartphone. The channel has hundreds of millions of dedicated devices in homes, billions of voice activated devices when you count mobile phones, tens of billions of dollars forecasted in the next 12-24 months for voice-driven commerce, and the platforms have been working incredibly hard to release an onslaught of developer tools that allow a gifted community of voice professionals to build really exciting voice apps and integrations. This will allow brands and consumers to engage over voice in unprecedented ways.
The critical point for brands is to ensure they have a baseline of education on what these tools are so that they can create a real program to leverage voice. Simply running a pilot project is not enough anymore.
It sounds contradictory, but despite voice being the fastest-growing channel ever, it is still nascent in many ways. The tools mentioned above still have a long way to go before it’s easy to make a full voice-driven marketing campaign or voice commerce activation. Analytics, attribution tools, awareness and discovery are still limited. This boils down to committing to a marathon and not a sprint. Build in time for analysis, iteration, long term capital resourcing, and giving teams leeway to fail, learn and grow.
A brand seeking to build a successful voice program needs to first get educated on the nuances of voice and then focus on building a strategy around true consumer insights. It’s key to try to avoid as many errors as possible in the onset. Designing your user experience around a customer insight and then mapping that to the channel’s capabilities is key in developing a program strategy.
Begin with white-boarded concepts built off of what you know consumer needs are and where your brand is able to successfully meet those needs in other channels. Then adapt to where you believe voice can improve that experience or remove friction from it. Once you have a baseline of a few great program concepts, it will be time to run user surveys, in-depth interviews, and user tests to whittle down to the right use case.