The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges for brands across all industries. From shifting to digital formats instead of in-person events to ecommerce levels spiking, marketers have had to quickly pivot from their day-to-day operations in order to engage audiences and maintain market share. Despite these challenges, however, the pandemic has also presented new opportunities for brands to interact with audiences and create deeper relationships, such as leveraging voice technology.
While most consumers today are used to interacting with voice assistants, there is ample opportunity for marketers to go beyond creating a skill for Amazon Alexa or action for Google Echo to drive meaningful interactions with their target audiences.
Similar to how companies have shifted to adopt mobile-first strategies in the past, organizations today will begin to shift to a strategy where conversations come first, and for good reason – 60 million adults own at least one smart speaker, and 77% of those owners have used their speakers at least once daily in the last year.
In response, 91% of business decision makers reported that they are making significant investments in voice technology. The COVID-19 pandemic has also revealed a change in how consumers are interacting with technology.
Euromonitor International reported that due to COVID-19, consumers are becoming more comfortable with using AI-enabled home appliances and virtual assistants, in part because they don’t have to touch the surfaces to use them.
These changing habits are pushing us towards a “contactless” world, where the ability to interact with technology verbally replaces the need to physically interact with it. A
s such, marketers need to start thinking about how they can help brands leverage voice technology to interact with consumers across various touchpoints, from smart speakers in the home to voice-activated checkout in stores and beyond.
Due to the pandemic, some tech companies are working to update their offerings to incorporate expanded voice technology as more people continue to work from home.
For example, some platforms now allow employees to set up and confirm meetings by voice, which is helping consumers become comfortable using voice technology.
As more people use voice technology for work, marketers should expect that they’ll want to use voice technology in their personal lives, offering an opportunity for companies to fill the gaps in their home, and expand the technology into brick and mortar store locations as states continue to re-open.
For example, consumers can currently use voice assistants to add items to a shopping list, so companies may consider working on a strategy now that allows consumers to pay for items by voice as more people return to in-store shopping.
By anticipating consumers’ demands in a post-COVID world, marketers can ensure they set their companies up for success.
As tech companies continue making investments in voice technology, brands in other industries can replicate this for their offerings.
Retailers are currently leveraging voice technology to allow consumers to check on their order statuses remotely, but there’s an opportunity for them to take voice technology a step further when consumers return to brick and mortar stores.
As most stores adjust to the new normal, it’s likely that there will be fewer customer representatives directly to reduce person-to-person interactions. This offers retailers an opportunity to get creative with how they interact with consumers.
Retailers can leverage voice recognition technology to enhance the checkout process or create AI-powered conversational advisors which consumers can speak to if they have a question in store.
Additionally, marketers should expect that consumers will not want to use the touch-based technologies that have become popular in stores in recent years, such as inventory directory machines, or tablets that are used to browse menus in a restaurant.
However, consumers are still accustomed to the convenience that these tools have offered, and voice technology offers a way for companies to extend contactless convenience.
As applications continue to expand, marketers will need to innovate to differentiate their brand from the competition.
For example, KFC created a branded voice, where users hear Colonel Sanders’s voice instead of the designated robotic voice consumers are accustomed to when they interact with smart speakers.
This helps create deeper bonds with consumers and increases brand recognition across consumer touchpoints, which will become increasingly important as more people get comfortable using voice technology.
While many organizations are still looking to expand digital voice applications, some have already adopted new use cases in light of the ongoing pandemic. Senior care facilities are looking to adopt conversational technologies with which residents can interact to help loneliness issues.
As various industries look to incorporate voice technology, marketers will need to bring voice into their strategies and determine how it can be used to stand out from the competition.
Similar to how marketers helped develop a brand’s look and personality, they will need to be involved in developing how their brand’s voice sounds.
Everything from the tone (upbeat, bubbly) to the actual voice (a young male, or a female in her mid-30s) to the words the voice uses all need to be considered to ensure the voice matches the brand and its perception.
As consumers become savvier and adopt voice technology in their day-to-day lives, marketers need to ensure they are involved each step of the way in the creation of the voice so that it remains true to the brand and its perception.
The voice industry is at a critical tipping point. To be successful, marketers need to understand what the current market landscape looks like, where its headed and how they can incorporate the technology into their own applications for their target audiences.
Niclas Bergstrom is CEO of ReadSpeaker, a text-to-speech technology provider that helps customers develop custom branded voices.
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