Jun 20 '17

The World Isn’t Just at Your Fingertips, It’s Also in Your Vocal Cords

Just Google it.  Better yet, Alexa it.

According to ComScore, over 40% of adults search via voice at least once per day.  By the year 2020, the world will look much different:

  • 50% of all searches will be triggered by voice (source: Baidu)
  • 30% of web browsing will be screen-less (source: Gartner)

How are you preparing for this seismic shift in technology usage?

Here at Cronin, we have begun to work in this medium. One of the approaches we have taken is to start developing custom “skills” for Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa. A skill is similar to an Android or an iOS mobile application and the primary purpose of a skill is to provide an additional value (or a benefit) to the user’s experience with a brand. Examples of unlocking this type of value through a voice skill include:

  • Listening and interacting hands-free to a recipe while preparing a meal.
  • Ordering laundry detergent as you are folding laundry.
  • Finding a song faster (or skipping that song you can’t stand) while playing a card game.
  • Making sure you had enough cash in your checking account to fund an evening out on the town (as you race out the door to grab an Uber).
  • Turning on the lights as you enter a room.

We recently developed a custom Alexa skill that ties into Cronin’s proprietary analytics platform. To see the value our skill creates, please click below to see Alexa and Cronin in action.

As you may know, Alexa is not the only virtual assistant available today. The following is a quick overview of popular voice technologies and the assistants behind them:

  • Google: I am a bit partial to Google since I feel like they really understand how to leverage data. With Google Home making a push into homes first, they have established a category leadership position for the smart home. Google’s integration with music and other products they own will be critical to success. Google’s virtual assistant has been consistently ranked as the top performer in returning voice search results.
  • Amazon: I am a huge fan of Amazon; it is my de-facto shopping search engine. The brand’s assistant Alexa works terrific if you rely solely on Amazon prime for entertainment (music, movies, etc.). Given the penetration of Amazon Prime – 30% of families with children in the U.S. – there is tremendous potential to build skills that add value to the account holder.
  • Apple: Siri may be the most famous virtual assistant, but she has not had an easy life. I’m an iPhone user and I still feel like she only listens half the time. And in some cases, she is butting into conversations when I don’t want her to be involved. With the recent announcement of the Apple HomePod it will be interesting to see how she competes with Alexa and Google (too bad she does not make her appearance until the Winter of 2017).
  • Microsoft: They are also a bit of a late comer with the introduction of Cortana. However, they are making a huge push into this space with the Cortana-enabled Harman Kardon Invoke product (coming this Fall). I expect the brand to stress the simplicity of updating your current computing environment to seamlessly welcome her in. According to the Economist, she has a 5.9% voice recognition error rate; besting the industry average of 8%. In a professional setting, this slight advantage could be the brand’s silver bullet.
  • Samsung: The hardware manufacturer introduced one of the first male personalities, Bixby, last year. So far, his skills have been met with a mixed bag of reviews and given Samsung’s role as a second fiddle to iOS and Android it will be hard for Samsung to differentiate his value over the others.

As you contemplate where voice fits into your brand strategy, it’s important to recognize that Alexa is now correct 95% of the time. Previous virtual assistants had trouble deciphering a question asked. As these various technologies improve their listening, the user experience will improve and users will be more willing to turn to a voice technology as a primary way of life.

How might your brand make use of this information? Take the time to understand your target audience and document how voice might enhance the current customer experience. From there, you can develop the voice strategy that appeals to your customer using the right blend of voice technology.

Microsoft is already reporting local intent on voice searches is 300% higher than text queries. Given 20% of queries on Android devices are voice searches and 71% of millennials have smart phones with personal assistants, this is a trend brands can’t afford to ignore.

I encourage you to check your analytics platform to see how voice is tracked and start setting up triggers to identify how consumers coming from voice differ from other consumers. We already know that voice searches have a longer tail (i.e. more words said) compared to text searches. Should you run a voice optimization pilot test on a few of your website pages? Look for these mini growth hacks where voice can give you a competitive advantage.

As you contemplate your voice strategy, I’ll leave you with this one last perspective from Microsoft:

  • An average person can type 40 words per minute.
  • An average person can speak 150 words per minute.
  • An average person’s attention span is 8 seconds (less than a goldfish!).

These three truths pave the way for voice to become a critical component within your business strategy.

Looking for help with a voice strategy? Speak up.

We’re listening.

2 responses

  1. Michael Evans says:

    I believe the company that develops a bible and a bible scripture reading skill will do well. Can you imagine a Minister teaching a sermon and saying “Alexa, read Romans 10 verses 9 & 10 in the New King James bible” and having Alexa read it over the church’s PA system? Awesome!

  2. Jeff Mard says:

    Hello – given the popularity of this article, I wanted to share some relevant news in the comments section of this blog post.

    It looks like the virtual assistants (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, etc.) will ultimately start to talk with one another directly. I doubt Siri will talk to Google’s AI platform any time soon. However, this is still very compelling information to factor as you build out a voice strategy.


    Best of luck,

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