There was a time when humans made important decisions about other humans. Now we have artificial intelligence-driven machines influencing and making many decisions for us. It all started with the machine learning algorithms behind search engines, social networking platforms, and e-commerce sites – powerful intermediaries providing information and making recommendations. These algorithms have become smarter now and helping us control our lives with voice, “Hey Alexa, buy some milk for me.”
Would you buy a product or service from a company you have not heard of, recommended by your voice-based personal assistant? Well, 43% of consumers in the Asia Pacific recently surveyed said they would. Every time these interfaces fulfill our needs efficiently and effectively, they take a further step in strengthening their relationship with us. A vast majority of consumers would allow their voice-based personal assistants to automatically make certain purchases – like tickets or travel – or appointments on their behalf. It’s no wonder that voice-based shopping is expected to balloon from $2 billion in retail sales today, to $40 billion by 2022. Voice is the new interface between brands and consumers and trust is their fuel.
Soon, voice interfaces will be embedded in many other consumer goods, from TVs to cars. These voice-based algorithms will create a walled garden around customers that will be impervious to businesses that don’t adjust their content strategies to blend smoothly into consumers’ lives. The biggest challenge for brands is how to get their content on the tip of voice-based personal assistants’ tongues to stay visible in an invisible world. Alexa, can you hear me? Humans use different language and phrases when conducting voice vs. text searches; businesses need to fine-tune content that a voice algorithm can understand.
The content strategy for voice search isn’t just for ensuring your customers can find you – it’s about creating a unique and optimized customer experience that will foster relationships and build brand loyalty. Today, consumers connect with brands that help them save time and money, making their life incrementally easier and more enjoyable. Voice technology can make interactions with brands more natural and seamless, which is exactly what consumers want. A good starting point is to ensure your website is optimized for voice. Collect feedback from sales, marketing and customer service teams on the kind of conversations they have with customers; prepare a comprehensive list of phrases and questions and sprinkle them throughout the website to gain the attention of smart assistants.
Voice-based assistants are always on the lookout for functionalities that impart their intelligence (i.e., Alexa Skills, Google Actions). Learn from brands that are already doing this successfully. Diageo’s Johnnie Walker brand, for example, made a bid for visibility on Alexa with its Happy Hour Skill, which lets consumers enjoy guided whisky tastings at home by helping them make cocktails and even find a nearby bar. Whirlpool has created a line of intelligent and voice-activated appliances that can converse with customers, answer questions, and even provide guidance on what ingredients to buy. As voice technology continues to grow, your brand visibility will depend on voice assistants.
Although we are still in the early days of voice revolution, brands can’t ignore these assistants. More complex transactions – such as those related to healthcare, finances and insurance – are still outside the realm of machine decision-making autonomy. But with the avalanche of wealth management chatbots, personal digital assistants and voice-enabled smart devices, working with conversational AI interfaces will mean more than improving customer convenience; it will mean survival for brands. It’s time for businesses to find a new voice to influence customers.