Unintrusive voice commerce
Aug 05, 2021
7 MIN READ

Does Voice Commerce Have to be Intrusive?

From interactive voice-enabled audio advertising on speakers, in-car, and mobile streaming systems, to banner ads that invite users of TVs and mobile devices to respond to a question, or ask for more information, voice ads are gaining popularity. But, voice commerce and revenue generation from a voice assistant is not confined to these conventional forms of advertising. In fact, done correctly, voice commerce could become a welcome feature to users of all types of devices.

Conversational voice AI—once an aspirational goal of voice assistants—is emerging as the preferred form of voice user interface for manufacturers and service providers. No longer satisfied with the keyword-dependent voice assistants of the past, companies are seeking natural, engaging digital voice experiences for their customers. 

Investments in custom voice assistants built on advancing technology have driven companies to look beyond the increased customer satisfaction scores and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) that are helping them prove ROI on their investments. Voice assistants equipped with large content libraries and the ability to understand intent and to follow a string of modifications in a single query have sparked the imaginations of developers and the C-Suite alike.

The question they are asking themselves today is, “How can we transform our digital voice assistants from purely functional interfaces to become truly personal assistants that can make suggestions and provide purchasing opportunities in a way that is pleasing to the user?”

Until recently, voice commerce opportunities have been limited to designing interactive voice ads that users can opt-in opt-out of. While less intrusive than unwanted advertising, these advertising models still take the user out of their voice experience—even if for just a few seconds.

Monetization models that are truly unintrusive have a few things in common. Let’s explore 5 key elements to voice AI monetization that delights the customer:

  1. Occur within the user journey 
  2. Based on user intent
  3. Personalization w/customer consent 
  4. Multilingual
  5. Payment infrastructure

Purchasing suggestions that happen naturally in conversation

If you’re having a conversation with a friend about things to do in a distant city and they suggest a great hotel in the area that they know routinely runs discounts, you wouldn’t find that suggestion intrusive. When we think about our interactions with voice assistants, we should be applying the same conversational parameters to our efforts to monetize.

In other words, if a voice assistant is truly a helpful companion, then they should be able to anticipate future needs based on the questions you’re asking and your possible intent. If your friend can assume that questions about activities and weather mean you’re considering travel, so should your conversational voice assistant.

If a voice assistant is truly a helpful companion, then they should be able to anticipate future needs based on the questions you’re asking and your possible intent.

When the voice assistant can be transformed into a personal assistant that understands your intent and can base responses on large libraries of content domains, users will come to rely on them for more than simply setting timers and playing music. These helpers can become trusted companions that generate trust and create brand loyalty. 

Creating scenarios where users feel cared for and understood will help to promote connection to the voice assistant and—by default—the brand. Customers who have a relationship with a helpful companion are less likely to choose a different brand when looking to replace their device or update their services.

Meeting user needs with relevant responses

Users are already using voice assistants to help fulfill their everyday needs. When someone asks for a restaurant nearby or looks for a dry cleaner, pharmacy, or grocery store, voice assistants can deliver relevant results from vendors who opt-in to sponsored results.

When someone asks for a restaurant nearby or looks for a dry cleaner, pharmacy, or grocery store, voice assistants can deliver relevant results from vendors who opt-in to sponsored results.

Anyone who has completed a search on the internet is familiar with this practice as Google routinely serves up sponsored content at the top of the page, followed by other content deemed most relevant through various algorithms designed to deliver the best user experience possible. 

Voice assistants have the same opportunity to serve up both sponsored and most relevant information when a user asks a question or requests information. Sponsored results can include specials, coupons, QR codes, and other perks that make the result more desirable for the user. 

When the user makes the purchase, the device manufacturer and the service entity share in the revenue while building customer loyalty and attracting new customers through service and opportunity.

The promise of helpful voice assistants is built on the assumption that companies can better understand the individual user and serve results and suggestions based on their location and the context of their queries. 

While some suggestion-based and interactive monetization opportunities still exist for customers who prefer to remain completely anonymous, getting their buy-in to collect enough information to improve their experiences is key to voice commerce opportunities that don’t disrupt the customer journey.

Gaining permission to gather and store user information requires sensitivity and careful communication for brands people already trust. Customized voice assistants with branded wake words helps to reassure customers that they are talking to a trusted company. These organizations have the benefit of owning their user data, being able to communicate the security of that data and how it will and will not be used by the company. 

Gaining permission to gather and store user information requires sensitivity and careful communication for brands people already trust. 

The public is already sensitized to voice assistants owned by large third-parties who gather their information for marketing and sales purposes. As part of the user education program, companies should be clearly defining their privacy policies and inviting their customers to opt-in or opt-out of personalized experiences. 

Opt-in experiences can include storing customer phone numbers, payment options, and basic information such as name, personal preferences, and contact information to make re-engagement with a business, or making purchases through the voice assistant owner, easier for the user.

Make it multilingual

It’s not conversational if it’s not in your native language. Asking people to interact with your voice assistant in a language that isn’t their first language may result in complete abandonment of your voice assistant. The biggest obstacle to adding more languages later is that users have already experienced frustration with the interface and may be reluctant to try again. In the worst case scenario, they’ve sought out a competitor who has figured out how to talk to them in their own language.

Multilingualism isn’t easy to achieve in most voice assistants. The voice AI technology platform must be designed with scalability and language translation in mind. Content domains that can’t be easily accessed, regardless of the language spoken by the voice assistant, render voice interfaces useless for everything except command and control of hardware devices—hardly a foundation for building conversations. 

The voice AI technology platform must be designed with scalability and language translation in mind. 

For global companies, developing a voice assistant that is multilingual and whose responses are not only grammatically correct, but localized to reflect geographic cultural expectations and norms is critical to realizing revenue and adopting any form of monetization. 

Local data combined with universal knowledge domains are essential elements in a global voice assistant that accurately respond to user questions and perform required tasks.

Provide a payment infrastructure

In 2020, PYMNTS identified a 25% year-over-year increase in purchases via voice-enabled speakers. The trend indicates a growing level of comfort and familiarity for using voice assistants throughout the buying cycle. 

In 2020, there was a 25% year-over-year increase in purchases via voice-enabled speakers.

PYMNTS

Financial institutions keen to provide touchless solutions to their business partners, and encourage shoppers to use their banking and credit products are innovating to provide voice-enabled payment solutions targeted at specific market segments. One such organization, Mastercard, is delivering secure and frictionless purchasing experiences via its AI Powered Drive Through and Shop Anywhere solutions.

The rise of the “bring-it-to-me” economy, spurred by a pandemic that continues to disrupt the flow of in-person transactions, is creating an urgency around innovating with voice AI to help people find what they need, pay for it, and have it delivered in a timely manner or prepared for pick up at a convenient drive-up location. 

Integrating safe, secure payment options into voice commerce opportunities that provide a service to the device user or service customer creates an environment of trust and opportunity between businesses and the consumer.

Bonus Tip: Get one thing right (don’t boil the ocean)

When designing and developing a voice user interface, companies often try to solve every problem in the first iteration. Organizations that have implemented their first iteration of a voice assistant understand that it’s never one and done. Instead, voice AI design is an interactive process that requires testing and applying user data to improve experiences over time.

The same best practices should be applied to voice commerce and monetization opportunities, according to voice AI influencer, Kane Simms.

“Voice AI isn’t a fad or something that is going to go away any time soon. Brands should be planning for the long term, and therefore in the short term, the real job is to build confidence and trust in users. You don’t need to hit the jackpot on day one. Incremental revenue that demonstrates and builds user confidence is good enough for now.”

Kane Simms, Co-Founder, VUX World, @kanesimms

Recently, we gathered thought leaders from a variety of industries to discuss “The New Age of Voice Commerce”. Watch the webinar on demand now to hear what they have to say about the potential of voice AI to generate real revenue. To take a deeper dive into why and how innovative monetization opportunities work for companies across industries, read our newest guide, “Voice Assistants Evolve to Become Revenue Generators”.

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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