Cynics may fear that we’re heading towards a Black Mirror-style dystopia, with our interconnected smart devices all listening and learning from our every action. However, many households and mobile users are embracing voice respondent AI assistants. The fully-connected future is coming.
IoT, connectivity and embracing AI technology
Let's start with a simple question: Is the appeal of voice recognition, the handy, hands-off user experience that it provides? Or, is it the concept that’s more exciting than the resulting output? Perhaps it's a combination of the two.
When Siri first arrived on iPhone, it was more of a gimmick than a practical service – especially due to initial faults and limitations – but Apple won’t have worried too much. With many new innovations, it’s about a technology provider flexing its muscles and expanding our imagination of what is possible and achievable. That’s exciting for consumers.
Are people excited about the speed at which we can achieve tasks, thanks to technology such as Amazon Echo? Perhaps. Are users excited by the very fact that we can achieve everyday tasks without lifting a finger? Definitely. Think wireless earphones, hands-free phonecalls, Google Glass, etc. We’re becoming increasingly at one with our devices, whilst the growing possibilities of IoT mean our devices are becoming more interconnected.
Voice as part of the omnichannel consumer experience
By Christmas 2016, Alexa (Amazon) was in 4% of American homes, Siri (Apple) handles more than 2 billion voice queries each week, and around 20% of Google search queries on Android are via voice. (Source: Venture Beat)
More consumers are embracing voice recognition as a genuine channel for their day-to-day browsing activity. Modern consumer expectations are forcing brands to deliver omnichannel customer experiences, where browsing and buying can be achieved to the same degree across multiple channels and devices, both at home and on the go. And before long, voice will be a leading channel for beginning the route to purchase.
Ecommerce brands are already streamlining customer journeys, reducing the number of clicks required at checkout and payment stages, whilst creating more direct calls to action – especially via mobile apps – so it follows that voice is likely become the CTA of the future.
Bixby to rival Siri
So, we’ve got Siri for Apple devices, Alexa for Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, and now meet Bixby, Samsung’s new AI assistant. Samsung recently unveiled its new smartphone model, the Galaxy S8, and in doing so unleashed a voice recognition service it hopes can rival Siri – namely Bixby. And what has Bixby got to offer? Well, Bixby is the result of Samsung’s acquisition of AI technology company Viv in October 2016. Samsung announced that “the deal showcases Samsung’s commitment to virtual personal assistants and is part of the company’s broader vision to deliver an AI-based open ecosystem across all of its devices and services.”
Samsung aim to deliver a product with lessons learnt and customer needs at its heart, especially as Viv’s chief executive, Dag Kittlaus, was part of the team behind the roll out of Siri. Viv boasts cutting-edge technology where the AI can write its own code to fulfil new tasks and queries.
The key ambitions of Bixby are:
- The ability for voice to carry out any task on compatible apps
- Context awareness – recognising contextual phrases and applying them to specific assets
- Cognitive tolerance – understanding sentences rather than just keywords
- A frictionless experience
Here is a Bixby demo video below:
Amazon Echo and voice marketing
Echo has become an integral part of user homes, to the extent that most have forgotten it's called Echo – instead calling ‘her’ Alexa, the name used to get her attention and follow a command.
How marketing will play out on Amazon Echo is yet to be seen. However, one thing is certain: people will only stand for content that provides absolute value and interest. It's no good just marketing what your company wants to market through voice devices. You will have to put the customer first. Always. Voice marketing through Echo will finally mean that the customer is 100% in control of what they are exposed to. Which means that marketing as a service, through providing extremely high-interest and high-value content is likely to be where voice marketing points towards.
The other element that marketers need to consider, is the listening and learning element. If Echo is already so personally integrated into homes that we only know ‘her’ as Alexa, then perhaps users will be comfortable to allow their favourite brands to use the information and data that ‘she’ collects through always-on listening. Then, that data could be used to enable richer and more relevant relationships between brands and customers, because they’re powered by everything you say and do at home.
We mention these marketing opportunities in relation to Alexa, but Siri, Bixby and other voice recognition AI assistants will provide prime marketing opportunities in the very near future. In March 2017, Starbucks announced that it is heavily focused on enabling its customers to order coffee via voice recognition devices, as it sees voice ordering as the next big thing in retail.
Voice is a fast-growing channel, which aligns with consumer expectations for more instant task delivery and integrated connectivity with devices, apps and channels. The opportunity for marketers is exciting and the scope for brand engagement with customers is huge. Crucially, AI assistants have the potential become new sources of data capture and rich hubs for behavior-based customer insights. We will see the emergence of voice-related marketing from the most innovative and ambitious brands, so think about how your business can utilise the power of voice.
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Enchant is a customer lifecycle marketing agency, specialising in email marketing, CRM, paid social advertising and inbound marketing. We help brands create quick impact with customer-centric strategies. Do you need advice about how to take your marketing to the next level? Get in touch with our experts and see how we can help you improve performance fast!