Voice assistants and personalized experiences
May 25, 2021
7 MIN READ

Personalization is the Key to Custom Voice Experiences

Since the first targeted email was launched in the early 2000s, consumers have been increasingly seeking personalized interactions with brands. Consumer data shows that customers want content and advertising tailored to their individual tastes and interests, instead of being “spammed” with irrelevant information and offers. According to a study by Instapage, 74% of customers feel frustrated when website content isn’t personalized, a trend that is likely to continue to grow as AI makes more personalization possible.

The growing usage of voice assistants has sparked a trend toward personalization for voice experiences as well. As early as 2019, Voicebot.ai reported that 18% of smart speaker owners thought personalization was very important. Hesitancy over sharing personal data initially created a gap between the demand for personalized content and the desire for personalization from voice assistants in smart speakers.

As more companies adopt customized voice assistants, own the data collected from those assistants, and communicate their corporate privacy policies, the gap will narrow and customers will come to expect the same personalized experiences they seek in other digital interactions.

Despite the balance of personalization and data, the benefits of personalizing voice assistants are still abundant as they can deliver fast, convenient, and hands-free experiences to their users while providing voice commerce opportunities for the brands that own them.

The evolution of voice AI personalization

Voice assistants first began offering personalized experiences through voice shopping and voice profiles, and personalized voice user interfaces that offer intuitive, custom experiences are becoming the holy grail of voice assistant strategies for brands. According to Instapage, 75% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand that makes recommendations based on past purchases. Through the power of AI, voice assistants can access past search histories and stored preferences to offer search results that grow in relevancy the more the user engages with the voice interface.  

Voice shopping

Although the first voice assistants were introduced in 2011 and smart speakers were released in 2013, voice shopping didn’t emerge until about three years ago and has since grown exponentially and is predicted to continue as a huge source of revenue. In fact, Juniper Research predicted that voice commerce will reach $80 billion per annum by 2023. 

For consumers, voice shopping provides convenience by allowing them to search for and purchase items quickly and efficiently at any time, anywhere, even while they are doing something else—an advantage that 20% of consumers considered a key benefit in a Voice Shopping Report by Voicebot.ai.

Providing a source of revenue to companies and a great experience to customers aren’t the only benefits of voice shopping. Through personalization, voice commerce can supply users with easy reordering, relevant results, and helpful suggestions to make their shopping experience easier and more convenient. 

Data shows that customers consider personalization an essential element when shopping. According to a study by Epsilon, 80% of customers are more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand that provides a personalized experience, proving the ROI and business value of incorporating personalization into voice shopping.

80% of customers are more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand that provides a personalized experience.

Epsilon

One of the ways voice assistants can provide personalized shopping experiences is by saving past order histories so reordering is a quick, easy experience. Users simply have to say they would like to place a reorder and it can be promptly purchased. Making purchasing effortless and eliminating the need to navigate through past order histories in a series of types and swipes builds product loyalty.

According to a study by Voicebot.ai, 35% of consumers believe voice is good for reordering products. By making additional orders a fast, easy, and convenient process, brands are increasing their number of return customers and growing their customer loyalty.

Another element of personalized voice shopping is setting specific preferences as filters. For example, allergies and dietary restrictions can be stored when browsing for groceries, saving time and energy and creating a streamlined shopping experience. Voice assistants can also provide users with recommendations based on their past order histories.

study by USA Today discovered that 83% of voice shoppers are confident in the recommendations given to them by their digital assistants. By incorporating personalization into voice assistants, brands can deliver a superior customer experience and prove the ROI of their voice technology with increased orders.

In addition, the growing trend of hands-free, fast shopping interactions has only increased due to the pandemic. Due to social distancing efforts, many shoppers have decided to forgo in-person shopping and make their purchases online for safer, more convenient buying experiences. According to Digital Commerce 360, online shopping rose 44% from 2019 to 2020, and the shift is expected to remain even as the world begins to reopen and people return to pre-pandemic routines.

Voice profiles

Following the success of voice shopping, voice profiles were developed to further personalize experiences. The ability to tailor services to a specific profile is an essential element of personalization. It creates a unique experience differentiated from the general public, giving users access to their own settings, and providing recommendations based on personal preferences. As consumers increasingly demand custom experiences, voice profiles are a way to offer them personalization anywhere and anytime, hands-free. 

Voice profiles were first introduced in 2017 with Alexa distinguishing between multiple speakers to provide individualized information, such as calendar, email, shopping, and music accounts. Google Home followed shortly after with the ability to recognize individual voices for specific routines, lighting, and other preferences. However, Amazon’s release of increased personalization was met with scrutiny over how they use personal data, who they share it with, and how it’s stored even after users delete it. Since then, more checks and balances have been put in place to protect sensitive data.

Individual brands, wary of customer concerns over privacy, began exploring the implementation of wholly-owned and branded custom voice assistants. These custom solutions provided companies with control over their user data and the ability to focus on sonic branding, more specific use cases, and personalization options that didn’t require sharing user data with other entities.

By implementing custom voice assistants, companies can be transparent with customers about their data sharing policies, thereby building more trust and setting the stage for greater personalization and more voice commerce opportunities. With the right user permissions, companies who own their data can create user profiles that deliver personalized responses. 

A good example of employing a custom voice assistant to deliver personalized experiences is when Pandora partnered with SoundHound to develop their custom, in-app voice assistant to create laid-back, hands-free music experiences for their listeners. Voice Mode, in combination with Pandora’s Music Genome Project, incorporates personalization through recommending songs and playlists specific to each person’s interests, moods, and requests

If a user asks Pandora to play new songs, something for their workout, or something for relaxing, the playlist would be unique to that person, based on their listening history and favorites. Chief Product Officer of Pandora, Chris Phillips, explains what makes personalization such a key element of voice assistants. He states, “Instead of just hitting our catalog with the fact that you searched for something and returning a response, we take your request and apply our recommendation science to it. That is really the most important, unique thing, the ability to deliver a personalized recommendation response to the voice ask.”

“That is really the most important, unique thing, the ability to deliver a personalized recommendation response to the voice ask.”

Chris Phillips, Chief Product Officer of Pandora

If you’re interested in learning more about how personalization can be incorporated into a custom voice assistant, check out our Partner Spotlight Video of how Pandora and SoundHound created an incredibly smart, personalized voice assistant. 

Balancing personalization and privacy in voice technology

When we talk about personalization, we often see it in the context of privacy concerns. How can companies create a balance between personalization and privacy without infringing on their consumers’ data and overstepping privacy laws? Studies reveal that while consumers are cautious about sharing their data, they are willing to give trusted companies access to enough data to create personalized experiences.

According to Accenture Interactive, 83% of consumers are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience, as long as businesses are transparent about how they will use it. The advantages of a personalized voice experience, such as custom recommendations and access to personal settings, can outweigh consumers’ hesitancy about data collection when trust has been established between the company and the user.

83% of consumers are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience, as long as businesses are transparent about how they will use it.

Accenture Interactive

However, when the collection of data is shared with a third-party company, the incentive of a personalized experience begins to lose its appeal for most consumers. A study by Voicebot.ai discovered that 66% of smart speaker owners do not want personalization if it means an increase in personal data collection. Companies need to carefully evaluate users’ privacy levels and ensure that the risks don’t outweigh the benefits when creating a personalized experience. By owning the data, not sharing the data, and communicating privacy policies, brands can build trust with their customers. 

Recently, Spotify submitted and was approved for a technology patent that could “monitor and record users’ speech and background noise to help curate and recommend music,” by recognizing emotional states, gender, age, and accent, according to Pitchfork. Over 180 musicians thought Spotify was taking data collection too far and signed a letter calling for the company to never use, license, or sell the patent. In this case, the idea of custom recommendations wasn’t greater than the infringement on personal data.

While the benefits of personalization in voice assistants include improved customer experiences and increased ROI, companies should be transparent with data collection and cautiously assess what users are willing to share and what privacy laws allow. While Spotify offers a cautionary tale to companies, it has also opened the door to more conversation about our desire for greater personalization and the need for data to deliver those experiences.

Personalization opens the door to voice commerce

Brands with a strong foundation of personalization can further incorporate voice commerce into their voice assistants as it becomes an everyday way of shopping. eTrend discovered that 62% of voice-enabled speaker owners have bought items via voice commerce, and Opus Research revealed that 53% of business leaders show an interest in investing in voice ads. With the expanding interest by both consumers and companies in voice commerce, brands are realizing they can incorporate even more relevant and helpful recommendations into their voice-enabled technology and increase their ROI along the way.

53% of business leaders show an interest in investing in voice ads.

Opus Research Survey

Without a custom voice assistant that allows for personalization already, voice commerce will be difficult for brands to achieve. They need the framework of being able to identify specific users’ interests and preferences and mold them into insightful recommendations. The Opus Research Survey reveals that while 78% of business leaders believe increased revenue is an important success metric, 35% of them also see profitability as the second biggest challenge of voice assistant implementation. By having a solid structure of personalization in place, brands can more seamlessly incorporate voice commerce into their voice assistant, paving the way for even more customized user experiences and increased revenue. 

Companies are increasingly integrating personalization into their voice assistants as a way to offer customized, helpful, and intuitive experiences to their users. What once was a niche technology is becoming a popular investment for companies and a demanded experience from users. While there are challenges with user privacy and data collection, the benefits of a superior customer experience and increased ROI are worth the effort of finding a balance of what users are willing to share for a personalized experience and protecting sensitive information 

With voice shopping and voice profiles already a growing trend and monetization an investment to look forward to, personalization will be a crucial element of voice AI. Now is the time to evaluate your voice technology and start investing in personalization before users turn to a customized competitor. 

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.

Kristen is a content writer with a passion for storytelling and marketing. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking, reading, and spending time with her nieces and nephew.

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