Jan 21, 2020

Driving Real Value From Your Investment in Voice AI

By Karen Scates

This blog is the final in a series about the top challenges of voice AI adoption. Our first three blogs were:  The Impact of Voice Assistants on Customer Loyalty,” The Mission to Find Your Brand’s Voice and Make Your Voice Assistant Discoverable and Increase Adoption.” Now, let’s look at the prospects and predictions for monetizing on your investment in voice AI.

What does it mean to monetize on an investment in voice AI? It depends. There are so many ways to approach the challenge of seeing return on investment in a voice-first world. The greatest hurdle is that there really are no answers and no one has fully figured it out yet. However, the outlook for the future is bright and the opportunities are endless—given that it’s a market that hasn’t been fully explored yet.

That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of companies out there successfully integrating a voice assistant into their products, services, and apps. In fact, in some industries—such as automotive and banking—a voice assistant is becoming a standard feature. Retail, insurance and telecom are not far behind and some companies, like Nike and Mercedes-Benz are innovating in ways no one ever dreamed possible before. 

While product teams and customer experience executives are busy putting voice user interfaces  into their product roadmaps, marketers have been put on notice: Make voice a part of your content and promotional efforts. 

The emergence of voice AI technologies has captured our imaginations while simultaneously making a voice-first strategy mission-critical for every company in nearly every industry across the globe. The question remains, how do we show ROI on an investment in voice and where do we put our focus and our dollars? At the same time, companies are asking themselves what it will cost them if they don’t implement a voice solution or wait too long? 

Some monetization goals

Before we decide on the value of a voice-first strategy, let’s break it down. If adding a voice assistant into your product, service, or device is on your product roadmap, gauging the return on investment may be simplified by employing a few established measurements, such as:

  • Increased product sales once a voice interface is employed 
  • Rising customer satisfaction ratings based on convenience and relevancy
  • Remaining viable and relevant as your competitors adopt a voice-first strategy 
  • Beating the competition and future-proofing your brand

Other avenues for revenue generation are not as cut and dry. While some brands are leading the charge with voice marketing strategies that employ utterance marketing techniques, most companies are looking on with skeptical interest. Although some anecdotal data is available from agencies and companies pioneering the voice marketing space, there are few KPIs that advertising and marketing teams have come to rely on to prove the success of voice campaigns.

Adding to those challenges is the fact that there are no clear channels for voice advertising, even though the promise of it is already a hot topic of discussion among practitioners. Those brands without plans to optimize content for a future voice-first marketing program may find themselves running to catch-up to competitors who have already begun developing utterance marketing plans.

It’s not hard to see how voice ads and voice-enabled content will lead to increased revenue as the goal of adding voice to any program is added convenience and customer engagement.

“The voice success formula: More content = more engagement. Engagement + retention = monetisation.” – Peter Stewart, author/consultant/speaker and host of The Smart Speakers Podcast.

What’s needed to prove ROI on an investment in voice

The greatest gap that exists between monetizing for voice today and all the ways brands will monetize tomorrow is in the user research data. Finding ways to record, collect and share some of the more common monetization metrics should be fairly easy. Measuring the gap between sales before and after implementing a voice assistant into a product is a fairly simple way to determine if the addition of a voice assistant creates greater demand for the product.

Of course, you can’t measure the benefit of having a voice-enabled product if your users don’t know you have a voice assistant and aren’t encouraged to use it. The first rule of engagement for a voice-enabled product is customer discovery and the second is user education.

In a world where most people spend considerable amounts of time researching purchases on the internet, positive customer reviews and industry reviewer recommendations are key to future sales. When your product is under review, and compared to other similar products in your market, a responsive voice assistant that understands context and can retain certain information about the user and the user’s preferences is more likely to garner the positive attention that will positively impact sales. 

Conducting sentiment analysis will help your voice teams to determine the efficacy of your voice assistant and areas where the voice user interface needs to be improved. Customer sentiment data can also be gleaned from the information gathered by the device itself. 

A powerful metric for determining the true value of a voice-enabled product may be your ability to sustain market growth over time. Of course, if your company decides to forgo an investment in voice AI, the lost market share may not be immediately evident. If you don’t already have a voice-first strategy in place, by the time your product becomes obsolete, it will be too late.

Emerging opportunities for revenue generation

Strategic partnerships are emerging as one of the most powerful ways to monetize in a voice-first world. Automakers have already started creating opportunities for companies to capitalize on their in-car voice assistants through partnerships that recommend specific gas station brands or fast food restaurants when drivers ask for those types of destinations.

The challenge for brands offering partnership opportunities is to ensure that partner-influenced suggestions enhance the voice experience without becoming intrusive, unwanted interruptions. Since the principal goals of voice assistants are to increase convenience, build brand loyalty, and improve customer relationships, damaging those relationships in order to increase paid revenue would be counter to primary voice-first objectives and must be weighed carefully.

Brands that have already introduced voice control into their apps and devices are beginning to offer their air space for paid advertising. Although this new advertising channel is still in its infancy, it may soon become a “must-have” strategy for every brand. 

Adobe’s 2019 Voice Report reported that 38% of consumers find voice ads to be less intrusive than ads on television, in print, online, and on social media. Among those surveyed, 39% felt voice ads were more engaging and while only 25% of consumers have heard an ad on a smart speaker, that number is likely to grow and will soon include hearing ads on mobile apps.

In fact, Voicebot.AI recently reported that Pandora has begun running ads on its Voice Mode voice assistant—powered bythe Houndify Voice AI platform. According to the article, “The new ads on Pandora will start with a brief explanation of how the interactive aspect works. Once the ad is over, the listener will be asked if they want to know more. They can then respond affirmatively in order to receive more information about the brand behind the ad. If they aren’t interested, they can say no or be silent for a couple of seconds and the ad will end.”

Voice ads and paid partnerships promise great potential for both the company that has developed the voice-enabled app or device, and brands hoping to replace TV ads and other disappearing modes of advertising. As voice AI technology continues to develop and become more natural, consumers will be looking for more opportunities to interact with everything in every context. 

This growing trends in voice AI promise to open up ways to monetize that haven’t been envisaged yet. The advancement of voice tech will continue to provide opportunities to grow market share and increase customer loyalty. In the near future, either brands will be voice-first or in last place.

In a recent guide, “Overcoming the Top 3 Challenges of Voice AI Adoption,” top industry experts add their thoughts, insights, and suggestions to our exploration of the world of voice assistants and voice AI tech. Read the guide to take a deeper dive and to see what the industry is saying about realizing business value and growing market share in a voice-first world.

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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