The Future of Voice Assistants
Mar 26, 2021
7 MIN READ

Top Companies Share Future Outlook for Voice Assistants

Delivering a consistent voice experience across all channels is the leading vision for the future of voice assistants, according to a recent survey conducted by Opus Research. Across all industries and up and down the corporate structure, consistency was rated the number one driver of business value (83%), the top descriptor of voice assistant strategies (62%), and the number one role for future voice assistants.

In the second and third spots, business leaders are prioritizing increasing the number of voice-enabled channels and the breadth of use cases. Depending on the industry,  expanding into multimodal experiences, using data to inform the company roadmap, and finding more ways to monetize made it into the top five ways in which companies plan to expand their voice assistant experiences.

Consistency was rated the number one driver of business value (83%), the top descriptor of voice assistant strategies (62%), and the number one role for future voice assistants.

In other words, business leaders in 8 key industries agree that voice assistants will become their omnichannel vehicle providing consistent answers and recommendations to customers, prospects, and employees.

While challenges remain, advances in technology and a greater understanding of the value of voice AI are propelling businesses to redefine their voice assistant strategies to include development of a custom, branded voice assistant complete with a branded wake word.

Let’s take a deeper dive into how top brands are planning for the future with voice AI strategies that will grow their current experiences beyond the mobile device.

Voice-enabled apps launch the voice experience

Up until now, the majority of companies have relied on their mobile apps to deliver their voice experience. With 84% of respondents indicating they have a voice assistant experience on their mobile apps, it’s clear that voice user interfaces are a valuable mode of user interaction.

Given what we know about the rate of voice assistant implementation, the high rate of voice-enabled mobile apps raises questions about how people are defining voice assistants on their own apps. Is it possible that because the mobile app can be found via the voice assistant native to the mobile phone, people consider their mobile apps voice-enabled?

While the resident voice assistant may provide an entry point to a mobile app, if the app itself isn’t voice-enabled the user faces immediate friction. Instead, we’d like to define a voice-enabled app as one that people can use to access, navigate, and transact directly with the company from the beginning of the interaction until the end. 

84% of respondents indicated they have a voice assistant experience on their mobile apps.

Whether they’ve already implemented their own voice assistant, or a voice-enabled app is on the roadmap, brands that seek consistent voice experiences across channels can only hope to get there with a custom, branded voice assistant.

For companies that have adopted a wait-and-see attitude and are now recognizing the business value of voice AI, beginning by voice-enabling a mobile app continues to be an easy entree into the voice-first era. 

Since the hardware exists and the voice capability is baked into the device, brands need only identify their unique voice and develop an app built for the unique needs and desires of their customers. From there, it’s easier to enter other channels with a voice experience that’s already designed with your users in mind.

Custom wake words for branded experiences

Creating a consistent user experience across all voice channels was cited as the top benefit of a custom wake word by survey respondents (30%). Other benefits included brand control over relationships (24%) and a way to boost brand differentiation (17%).

With 80% of respondents seriously considering custom wake words for their voice assistants, the future is clear. Instead of one voice assistant to rule them all—as some third-party voice assistant providers would prefer—brands are looking forward to a world populated by many, specialized voice assistants. 

Creating a consistent user experience across all voice channels was cited as the top benefit of a custom wake word by survey respondents (30%).

In the future, people will go to the voice assistant most qualified to answer their questions, much as they do with other people. They will ask their banking assistant to make a money transfer, pay a bill, or give them advice about the best loan—given their credit history and circumstances. 

People will ask a different voice assistant to order food or groceries for delivery or make a restaurant reservation or recommendation based on their personal preferences. Instead of expecting one voice assistant to have all the answers, people will rely on accurate, responsive, and knowledgeable voice AI systems to provide expert advice and information and to perform specific functions.

Each of these unique interactions will begin with a custom, branded wake word that will remind the user which company is behind the service—creating brand loyalty and affinity. Anthropomorphism—the human inclination to attribute human characteristics or behavior to objects—will lead people to befriend these voice entities and feel a kinship and attachment to their favorites.

Brands at the leading edge of innovation are already planning for the future by giving their custom voice assistants unique voices, personalities, and human-like traits. Advances in voice AI are making empathy and emotion detection possible, further advancing the human-to-machine connection and by extension—the brand connection.

Each of these unique interactions will begin with a custom, branded wake word that will remind the user which company is behind the service—creating brand loyalty and affinity.

Challenges become opportunities for voice AI

Business leaders in the recent survey understand the value of omnichannel voice experiences with custom, branded voice assistants. They also understand that the journey from an Alexa Skill or Google Action to a wholly-owned voice assistant isn’t easy. In fact, quickly starting and rapidly developing voice assistants with a third-party provider rose to the top as the biggest implementation challenge (43%) along with profitability and monetization opportunities (35%).

Despite the time and resources required to develop and deliver an exceptional voice user experience, survey respondents were clear that they are keen to find vendors who develop end-to-end solutions for custom voice assistants to fit their company’s long-term roadmap and meet overall goals.

These custom voice assistants are moving from mobile apps and into home appliances, contact centers, kiosks, and other customer service-focused channels. Interestingly, the companies in the survey are more focused on improving customer service, taking the friction out of transactions, and providing more opportunities for interactions than generating voice ads for immediate monetization—at least for the short term.

Survey respondents were clear that they are keen to find vendors who develop end-to-end solutions for custom voice assistants to fit their company’s long-term roadmap and meet overall goals.

Businesses recognize the business value that frictionless, convenient, and hands-free user interfaces deliver and are prioritizing that value by putting people first:

The 5 Greatest Drivers of Business Value for Voice Assistants:

  • 83%: Convenience and speed for end-users
  • 77%: Improved customer support
  • 74%: Control the brand identity and user experience
  • 73%: Operational efficiencies
  • 71%: Increase customer loyalty

How companies will solve for the length of time required to deploy a voice assistant isn’t immediately evident, as best practices still recommend thorough audience research, careful design and development and a series of iterative stages to create a useful voice assistant that will deliver on the brand promise. 

Advances in voice technology will most likely create economies of scale where a template created for one company could be used as a foundation to build a voice assistant for another. 

In the shorter term, solutions around the challenges of monetization are closer at hand, especially where custom voice assistants are concerned.

Proving ROI and finding more opportunities for monetization

One of the biggest surprises we found in the results of the Opus Research survey was the disconnect in future plans for monetization up and down the organizational structure inside companies. Those in technical roles, team leads and managers were much more sure about the prospect of using voice assistants for voice ads and voice shopping.

In the C-Suite, respondents were not as positive that adding advertising into their voice experiences was the right approach. However, everyone agreed that monetizing the voice experience is important.

Here’s how business leaders are thinking about monetizing voice AI:

  • 53% overall plan to invest in voice ads and voice shopping
    • 43% of C-level executives agree
    • 50% of team leads agree
    • 66% of engineering leads agree
  • 84% overall agree that monetization is important
    • 83% of C-level executives agree
    • 84% of team leads agree
    • 80% of engineering leads agree

These results suggest that while monetization of the voice experience is an important aspect of implementing a voice AI strategy, how monetization takes place is still in question. While the traditional voice ads may seem too intrusive to C-level execs concerned about customer loyalty and brand affinity, they are still looking for ways that voice assistants can impact the bottom line.

As expected, those in the hospitality, retail, and QSR sectors are more likely to see voice shopping as a primary function of the voice assistant and have more plans to invest in those experiences.

In the future, the voice AI technology sector will likely lead the way to new models for monetization. Opportunities will exist for those implementing voice assistants as well as for the content domain owners. The content domains will provide the information necessary to create experiences beyond the command and control of hardware devices and products as well as the opportunities to deliver more value.

“Once fully adopted and implemented, expect custom voice assistants across verticals to continue to increase business value through customer satisfaction, brand promotion, and move further into revenue generation through monetization opportunities.”

Opus Research Analysts

Recently, Opus Research published a research report based on a global survey of 320 business leaders in 8 industries conducted to get the pulse of the state of voice assistant implementation and the trends toward custom voice AI solutions. You can read the report in its entirety and see the on-demand webinar to learn, “The Business Value of Customized Voice Assistants”.

At SoundHound Inc., we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore Houndify’s independent voice AI platform at Houndify.com and register for a free account. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

Karen Scates is a storyteller with a passion for helping others through content. Argentine tango, good books and great wine round out Karen’s interests.

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