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The voice market is essentially split in two; voice devices (Google Home, Amazon Echo) and smartphone capability (Bixby, Siri). While the total number of devices in use is sketchy, the rough amount of devices in homes is well over 200 million. Amazon Alexa devices alone account for +100 million with a high percentage in the US and UK. Google and Amazon both sold over 10 million each in Q4 of 2018 alone.
Around 50% of all smartphones can now be controlled by voice and a virtual assistant. By 2023 this figure will look more like 90% because voice input is quicker and its accuracy is improving all the time. Juniper Research recently surmised that by 2023, there would be 8 billion devices with voice assistants installed.
While increasingly popular, the utility of these devices continues to be felt out by developers, many of whom have admitted to running before they can walk. Similarly, the media has a hard time with these devices being anything other than ‘privacy invaders’.
Here are five things you should probably think about before you delve into the world of voice technology for business…
1) Know your audience: Voice technology isn’t just for the affluent thanks to the offerings of Google and Amazon who have got these devices into the homes of hundreds of millions. Plan any messaging and roll-out accordingly.
2) A multi-pronged strategy is needed to get the word out: How you get people to know about your voice product isn’t clear cut. Based on data from The Smart Audio Report from Edison Research, people primarily find out about the functions of their voice tech from friends and family (±25%), followed by emails from platforms and general advertising (approx. 18%).
Look for paths that could increase your likelihood to activate (in subscription boxes, newsletters that aren’t yours). There are first-mover advantages to be had right now so think big to create the right strategy – the old methods won’t work so well for voice.
3) Focus on the job to be done. While trite to say, most of the current functionality on voice-enabled devices is low-level and often just data grabbing disguised as a utility. Think long and hard about the job you want your voice app to do, or the service you wish to provide to the end-user. Then test that assumption as far as you can.
4) Think about using voice to sample your products: Services like ‘Send Me A Sample’ are gaining popularity with brands of all sizes. While not cheap, the data you can tap into is impressive, and with the right strategy, you can build a loyal army of testers and new customers.
5) If you want direct sales, think about the journey and plan now: While it’s easy to think about ordering goods via voice, the reality of this action is still time-consuming. Adding things to a shopping list, however, is more natural. Thinking about training consumers to ask for your product might seem silly, but it’s your next marketing challenge. Why? Skip to 1:00 of this video.
Voice technology is undoubtedly a big part of our future. It’s easy to use, simple to understand and already pretty much ubiquitous. While a real game-changer for people with certain disabilities, the general population has yet to take voice to their hearts (the use case data shows this).
Over the next 12-24 months, big tech companies will push developers to make these devices more integral to our lives so that they can glean more data and money from us. Now is the time to figure out your voice strategy and define what your consumers want from you when it comes to voice technology.
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Paul Armstrong runs HERE/FORTH, an emerging technology advisory, is the author of ‘Disruptive Technologies’ and regularly writes about technology and society for Forbes, Reuters and Cool Hunting. He is also the creator of TBD the conference which attendees described as ‘TED… without the bullsh!t’.