How Media & Brands Are Using Voice AI and Smart Speakers to Connect with Consumers: Advertising Week

By Zachary Freeman, Manager, Strategic Innovation, Life+, Mindshare NA

Voice Assistants are becoming more and more a part of the consumer’s everyday life. They can be found in the home, in the car, in appliances, on your mobile device, at retail stores—and this is only the beginning. In fact, according to Voicebot.ai, one of the companies on yesterday’s panel, smart speakers reach more than 50 million U.S. consumers today and this figure will likely grow by another 25% by the end of 2018. This wave of voice assistants and Internet of Things (IoT) has created a unique consumer vernacular to be used only with technology, adopting phrases like “Okay, Google”, “Hey, Alexa” and “Siri.” While many brands are already adopting voice via creating unique skills, it’s critical to understand the importance the space, the implications of not implementing a voice strategy, and best practices.

This session underlined the importance of Voice as a media channel – one that if brands don’t adopt soon, can lead to harsh implications, especially in Search. When a consumer performs a search on the web, they are bombarded with a wide range of results, in which brands compete to be the top result. Unlike web search, with Alexa or Google, there is only one result the devices will provide. A key and simple way to win in voice now, is for brands to optimize for voice search.

Given that voice is a new and exciting channel, brands in all industries are eager to play—but they must avoid doing so if their only motivation innovation. After all, no one wants to be in the next app graveyard. Brands must identify a way in that makes sense for both the brand and consumer. Before entering the space, it’s important to make sure that it drives something of purpose and value for the consumer. No longer are branded skills the only way to enter voice – other points of entry include Voice Landing Pages (VLP) and sponsorships. VLPs are essentially a skill within a skill in which a brand partners with an existing publisher skill to create a branded moment or content activated by voice command.

When launching a voice experience of any kind, the following are musts for brands and media agencies. First, you must ensure that it receives proper support to be heard and discovered by consumers. Repeat after me: the organic buzz around the launch is not enough for success. And just like they do with other product launches, brands must develop a holistic strategy and promote the experience with other types of media, outlining clear CTAs. Like other channels, once live, you should closely monitor, refine, and optimize voice experiences in order  to be a true success.

So what does the future look like for Voice for devices and brands? As we’ve seen already, voice assistants will continue to expand to new places and become smarter over time.  While the voice interaction is very intimate already, it will become more natural and conversational; voice assistants will begin to sound less robotic and more human. (And, there’s other implications there for the future of shopping)

At the moment,  visual voice devices are currently less popular than their solely-voice counterparts, so brands that never had a sonic identify will need to create one. Ultimately, while brands are already adopting their businesses to the voice landscape, it doesn’t stop here. When it comes to voice, we’re only at the beginning.