There’s a technological movement taking place that doesn’t seem to be garnering the attention of virtual reality (VR) or the other interactive communication channels that are developing at the moment – the rise of voice as a marketing channel.
Spoken language has the power to drive a response – not only in words, but also in the action of machines.
This all began innocently enough with Siri and other mobile voice command systems, and the early reviews were not entirely glowing.
Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant voice-powered technology that was actually designed for a different purpose, was also quickly lumped into this suddenly underwhelming category.
But, lost in the narrative of disillusionment over voice was the reality of what was happening every time someone used the system; the machines were listening, learning, and becoming smarter.
Now Google has launched a new app with its Meet the Google App campaign.
Did you notice how the search box is nowhere to be found in the ad? Instead of typing a query, people directly ask questions and make requests from Google for information.
Or, perhaps you have seen the Amazon Echo TV commercials where the IoT device does things like turn on the lights and tell people about the top news of the day.
Note how this ad doesn’t feature the one thing Amazon is known for – shopping.
We’ve seen this story before in the search space, as Google and others used billions of queries to become more intelligent and started to predict not only the answers, but the queries, before you even finished typing them. With a similar script playing out for voice driven technology, the space is becoming more interesting. Therefore, any questions pertaining to Google’s survival after people stop typing into a search box on their mobile devices are not only moot, they are comical.
Google will survive because the future has little to do with typing in a box and everything to do with simply speaking your mind – into your phone, at your watch or glasses, or as Echo begins to suggest uttering your thoughts out loud.
With voice emerging in a major way, there are two questions brands should consider. The first question has little to do with brands on the surface, but everything to do with the opportunity.
How soon will people become comfortable saying what they want and need out loud?
This may present little barrier in the secure environment of your home or even in your car, but will you make calls to your devices for information when in public social settings like a bar or even in a business meeting?
Will you feel comfortable walking down the grocery aisle asking the shelves for recipe ideas to go with the ingredient sitting on it?
Like most things, the answer will likely depend on the utility and value returned. For brands, the value is produced via its ability to align content with technology. This leads us to the second question.
What content should brands offer, and how should it be optimized so that it is relevant and discoverable in a spoken world?
So far, there seems to be one significant difference between voice-based discovery and the legacy systems of text searching. Whereas text search presents choices, voice search provides answers.
Answers are shared either in the form of a single response to the query made or with a direct connection to an action that people can take. Sometimes this is simply turning on the lights, while other times it is directly connecting to a third-party app. Brands have to start contemplating the most relevant and common questions consumers may have based on the service or products they provide. Then they must create applicable solutions that will appeal to their audience.
A good place to start would be to examine and learn from the technology that already exercises this kind of functionality such as the Waze app, In-Dash auto operations, and interactive displays from companies like Perch.
Also, brands can and should consult with Google and Microsoft about what types of voice queries and commands that are most commonly given.
The industry needs to educate both consumers and brands on how to use this functionality should be used. In the meantime, brands need to focus on the most important questions a would-be consumer could ask, and prepare their best responses.
Homepage and article images via Flickr.
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