Today, smart image and sound recognition and machine learning technologies are gradually becoming part of everyday life. They change our habits, the way we buy products or services and interact with brands and retailers: not just online but offline as well. Companies are starting to actively use these innovations for commercial purposes, with voice control being among the most popular of them. We have examined how smart assistants are changing marketing these days.
of Voice Assistants
The mass popularisation of voice assistants began with Apple’s acquisition of the start-up Siri Inc back in 2011, which resulted in the application of the same name getting installed on almost all iOS devices. A year later, Google introduced a similar piece of software for owners of gadgets running on the Android operating system.
Today, 71% of smart assistant owners prefer to use their voice when searching for information on the internet. But despite the growing technological capabilities, the most popular voice commands still include only the very basic functions: asking a question, getting updates on news or weather, playing music or starting a timer. At the same time, 50% of respondents in a study conducted by PWC said that from time to time they use voice commands to make purchases. The main advantage of voice control is saving your time.
For example, in the United States, the number of purchases made with the help of voice assistants will increase by several times: до 31 миллиона человек совершат покупки, используя такие устройстваup to 31 million people are expected to make purchases using this technology this year. 45% of millennials use voice assistants while shopping to find products products as well as information on goods and services.
of Online Retail
One of the pioneers in the field of voice assistants is Amazon. This American retail company introduced its product Echo in 2014. The device responds to various commands and helps its user set up reminders; it can find information and recipes, gets updates on news and weather as well as, of course, make orders on Amazon itself. Users can add new task scripts of their own, and, in total, Alexa can execute 25,000 different commands.
Other retailers utilise voice control capabilities as well: for example, today the Alice voice assistant developed by Yandex can work with dozens of very different companies. Upon your command, the assistant will order flowers at Flowwow and order food at Utkonos.
Listen and Talk
Brands can use voice assistants to further engage users in the activities or improvement of their products and services.
Adding new commands. Most assistants allow expanding the functions of the device and set up additional commands. For example, Purina has developed the Ask Purina skill for Amazon Echo, which allows users to ask Alexa for information on keeping pet animals. Zyrtec, a brand of allergy medicine, has developed commands that can be used to quickly find out the current weather and pollen content of the air.
Voice assistants are a channel for some of the most interesting activities. Reebok offers the users of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant a chance to win limited-edition Club C sneakers. By saying a special command ‘Open Reebok Sneaker Drop’ to their virtual assistant, пusers can enter the contest to win the exclusive pair of shoes.
Smart products. Some manufacturers integrate voice control technology even in usual household appliances. Samsung has announced a new generation of Family Hub refrigerators with a built-in Bixby voice assistant that allows you to find information, get news and make purchases right in your kitchen. The technology will be closely integrated into Samsung’s smart home ecosystem.
of voice assistants
Offline retailers recognise the growing popularity of voice assistants in digital purchases. For example, Google in collaboration with Walmart has added a shopping function to Google Assistant, which allows users to quickly order products with the help of new voice commands.
This technology can be implemented at physical sales and service outlets. Fast food chains also utilise machine learning and voice control technology to help their customers order faster. For example, McDonald’s is currently testing the implementation of voice assistants at their drive-throughs in the United States.
As for consumers themselves, they already use voice assistants as a secretary and teach it their habits: this way, your device can automatically remind you of something important or make purchases by itself. For example, Amazon Echo already collaborates with the start-up NowRX, which has developed the ‘pharmacist’ skill for Alexa. The assistant reminds its users that they need to take their medication and automatically purchases drugs based on the prescriptions uploaded into the system.
and the Future
of Digital Marketing
Voice assistants can not only be useful to consumers but also become an indispensable source of valuable marketing information about their users since they continuously record their needs and habits. However, this can create additional barriers associated with a user’s unwillingness to share their personal data. There are documented cases when Amazon Alexa accidentally sent recordings of private conversations to other users or kept endlessly repeating old requests of its owner: comparisons with HAL 9000 from Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey clearly does not help the trust of consumers in these devices.
People can get uncomfortable when communicating with machines. Developers seek to teach computers to synthesise speech that closer resembles human voice, but they inadvertently make technology even more intimidating. Last year, Google demonstrated its capabilities of synthesising a voice that sounds as close to real as possible: the smart assistant’s calls to the hairdresser and a restaurant sounded as if they were recorded with live actors on both sides.
Visual information is easier for people to perceive; furthermore, this way they can control the process of making a purchase or running a search through a visible interface. We are already accustomed to the fact that websites and companies collect a huge amount of data from their users. But allowing a voice assistant to constantly listen to you and make decisions for you requires a lot more trust. Perhaps the next stage in the development of this technology is to combine the voice with visualisation by displaying the information provided by the assistant on the screen of the user’s device.
For now, just like search engines, voice assistants are limited to working exclusively with information. But in the field of marketing, it is more important to have insight, which is more emotional and often impulsive. An assistant that is capable of predicting the mood, thoughts and needs of their owner would become incredibly popular; however, technology will need a lot of time before reaching such level of development.
What can retailers and brands do in today’s world where more and more consumers are using voice assistants?
- Take into account the growing popularity of technology when optimising search results and developing a marketing strategy for your company. Right now, smart speakers are popular in the countries where the use of such devices is being actively promoted (the US, Europe and the UK). However, major players keep adapting their gadgets and adding support for new languages, while similar devices and applications are being developed locally in other countries (an example of this is the Russian assistant Alice by Yandex). Such assistants will not appear in every house in the near future, but it is still important to keep in mind that this technology will become more popular and change the habits of people, especially reducing the time it takes to search for information and word a request and later speeding up the purchase process as well.
- Use the capabilities of assistants to solve business problems. Your brand’s presence in new channels expands the consumer experience, both online and offline. You should bear in mind that consumers are still not ready to use voice assistants for purchasing expensive goods and services. Smart assistants should be considered by the categories of businesses that provide simple services. Ordering food or calling for a cab, scheduling a haircut, buying household products-standard scripts and commands like these can be accomplished more easily and accurately.
- Use assistants to manage loyalty and create additional value. Brands don’t have to develop such technologies by themselves, but voice assistants have already become a channel of communication with companies. By collaborating with developers of voice assistants, you can create not only basic commands for ordering a service or making a purchase but also other useful functions and scripts. This creates additional brand value and strengthens customer loyalty. Voice assistants are becoming a new way to directly communicate with your audience—an easier and more human way than ever.