Voice assistants are becoming the go-to research tool, and you may just lose some business if you don’t join the party.
Voice assistants are a new consumer touch point
Since the introduction of Amazon’s Alexa in late 2014, voice assistants have swept the digital research world like a tornado. As of January 2018, there were an estimated 1 billion voice searches performed per month — and the number is expected to grow steadily as voice-enabled devices’ market penetration increases. In 2020, 50% of all online searches will be done by voice, and 30% of queries will be done through a screen-less device.
The change does not only happen through voice assistants but is also affecting previously ‘dumb’ devices such as coffee machines, window curtains and even door locks, that can now be voice controlled.
Voice assistants are becoming hubs at home but are also being implemented in cars and even offices, opening up for even more opportunities to connect, interact with and gather information on individuals. Some businesses may even use voice assistants as a complement to their offering, thus creating a competitive advantage. One example is the hospitality industry. In November 2018, Amazon introduced Alexa for Hospitality, a customized version of its voice assistant that is distributed to hotels and vacation rental places. Customers are be able to order room service, request housekeeping or ask questions about the hotel facilities through the assistant. Hotels from the Marriott International group have already planned to implement it in selected locations.
In Sweden, a few players have already started to build voice assistant capabilities. One such is ICA. In early 2019, the company released its own voice-app on Google Home. The app can be activated by the user saying ‘Hej Google, jag vill prata med ICA’ [‘Hey Google, I want to speak with ICA’], who will then be connected to Monica, the voice personality developed by the supermarket chain. Consumers are able to create shopping lists that will be stored in the consumer’s ICA account for a handy order online afterwards. They can ask for recipes and cooking tips, as well as food information. A natural future development would be to allow for voice purchases — for instance what Walmart Voice Order in the US is currently doing – perhaps linked to purchase suggestions such as specific brands or complementary products.
The voice revolution comes with its own opportunities and challenges
The other day, I asked my Google Home for the perfect crepe recipe. After processing my voice query, the device came up with an answer. And that’s the key here: it was one answer. Not two. Not ten. One. This means a fundamental shift compared with a traditional search browser, when the user sends a request and may get thousands of alternatives to choose from (even if most of us don’t bother even going on the second search results page). Of course, one can actively ask your assistant for more options, but it is likely that the user wouldn’t bother to do so if the assistant gave a ‘good enough’ answer. Therefore, SEO and ranking first become more crucial than ever to lock in traffic and, potentially, sales.
SEO is not the only challenge at stake. In the way that voice assistants are designed today, brands can ensure presence in two ways: either by being available through a Google-like search or by developing their own voice-app, like ICA did. Voice-apps are activated through an explicit request from the user (‘Hey, I want to speak with ICA’) or suggested by the hub (voice assistant) after a more general request. The latter case is most interesting. Consider if you want to order a home-delivered pizza. The hub could make suggestions based on your location — and here the SEO comes in play —, or it could connect to a pizza delivery voice-app available on the platform. Domino’s has understood the potential and has launched its own voice app. According to Digiday, already one in five customers who can order a pizza with one click through the pizza chain’s Easy Orders option has asked Amazon Alexa instead. This leaves promising results for voice-apps.
How do you get going with the change?
Here’s a starting list.
- - Define who you want to be. The voice revolution is a formidable opportunity to connect more deeply and more personally with your customers. The soul of your company, of your service and/or products will be embodied in a speaking machine and will only be one request away from your customers. You have the opportunity to design your ‘voice persona’ and even give personality traits to it. Think of it like the reflection of your mission, vision and values.
- - Outline what value you want to deliver. What do you want to achieve with your presence on the voice assistant? Increasing awareness about your brand, creating a new sales point, complementing a service customers would get in store or on your web shop, delivering factual information? This is your purpose, your ‘why’, the direction you will take.
- - Think about SEO and consider building your own voice-app. Balance the cost vs. opportunity of developing your own app. Having your own platform will enable you to design your own content, carry a richer breadth of service and potentially give you more visibility if you are among the first movers in your branch.
Feeling passionate about voice assistants and the world of opportunities they offer? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can take the discussion further.