Brands need a voice-first strategy
May 13, 2021
7 MIN READ

Why Your Business Needs a Voice-First Strategy

The voice-first trend has evolved from simply adding a skill or action to a third-party platform, such as Alexa or Google, to implementing omnichannel voice experiences with custom voice assistants. According to a recent survey by Opus Research, 46% of business leaders across industries are still unsure about the role and benefits of voice technology. However, consumers are less unsure and adoption of voice user interfaces continues to increase at an ever-expanding rate.

According to Statista, by 2024, the number of digital voice assistants will reach 8.4 billion units—a number higher than the world’s population. Given the rate of adoption and the growing customer demand for greater convenience, ease, and accessibility, now is the time for every brand in every industry to overcome their ambiguity and adopt a voice-first strategy.

If you’re not sure why a voice-first strategy is right for your brand, here are 6 reasons:

  1. Meet growing consumer demand
  2. Gain proven business value
  3. Prepare for the multimodal future
  4. Improve business efficiencies
  5. Meet growing demand for touchless interfaces
  6. Provide greater accessibility to all

1. Consumer demand for greater ease and convenience grows

According to a study by Capgemini, nearly 70% of consumers say they will progressively replace visits to a store or bank with their voice assistant by the end of 2022. Consumer appetite for touchless, convenient experiences is permeating every industry. For 84% of businesses in 8 key industries, voice-enabled mobile apps are the low-hanging fruit of a voice-first strategy, according to Opus Research. 

Nearly 70% of consumers say they will progressively replace visits to a store or bank with their voice assistant by the end of 2022.

Capgemini

The ubiquity of voice assistants and the growing consumer demand for the easy, hands-free, experiences of voice AI are together creating an environment of “haves” and “have nots” among businesses. Those that have already embarked on a voice-first strategy are well on their way to achieving more through rising customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Scores. These same companies are already considering how to use voice user interfaces to expand sonic branding efforts, deliver omnichannel voice experiences, and discover creative ways to monetize their investments in voice.

Those companies just now entering the arena will need to partner with a voice AI platform provider in order to accelerate time to market and catch up with market leaders already establishing their voice AI presence—or risk being left behind. 

2. Show ROI through customer satisfaction and monetization opportunities

One of the three greatest barriers to entry into voice AI adoption is the ability to show ROI on the investment. Those companies that haven’t yet adopted a voice AI strategy may be waiting for the voice technology industry to reach the level of maturity necessary to implement monetization strategies. Organizations already implementing voice assistants are looking for ways to recoup their investments. 

Some brands, such as Pandora, have unlocked the power of voice ads, but that path isn’t available for all companies or industries. Most business leaders are relying on the increase in customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) to show business value—as those metrics tend to reflect a positive impact on the bottom line over time.

Forward-thinking companies are putting creative monetization opportunities on the voice AI roadmap and looking for voice technology partners who can make it happen. Brands that haven’t embraced a voice AI strategy because of lack of monetization opportunities should now take heart knowing that monetization is the future of voice AI and get started implementing the first stages of voice AI adoption.

The challenge for companies not already developing a voice assistant is the time it takes to plan, design and implement a viable solution. Beginning now, knowing that more monetization opportunities will be available in the near future, safeguards organizations from falling behind the competition.

Forward-thinking companies are putting creative monetization opportunities on the voice AI roadmap and looking for voice technology partners who can make it happen.

3. Multimodal and omnichannel experiences are the future

Just over 45% of consumers said they would “very much” or that “it would be nice” to have voice assistant features within their favorite mobile apps, according to a national survey conducted by Voicebot.ai. Businesses buoyed by the positive response to their voice-enabled mobile apps are looking around the organization to see where else a voice assistant can provide better, faster, and more convenient customer service. 

Depending on the industry, self-serve kiosks, customer call centers, and phone ordering point of sale systems are all on the list of locations for the next iteration of branded voice assistants. Companies looking at multichannel and omnichannel voice experiences are considering many factors that will influence how voice is implemented across their offerings, including:

  • Delivering consistent customer experiences
  • Increasing the number of channels that are voice-enabled
  • Expanding the breadth of use cases for voice
  • Expanding multimodal experiences
  • Fit with the company roadmap

Solving the challenges of omnichannel customer experiences requires a shift from reliance on third parties and moving the voice experience under the control of individual brands. Partnering with an advanced voice AI technology platform partner reduces the time to market and ensures that the voice assistant delivers fast, accurate responses at every touchpoint.

Just over 45% of consumers said they would “very much” or that “it would be nice” to have voice assistant features within their favorite mobile apps.

Voicebot.ai

4. Improve operational efficiencies with voice AI

In some industries, like the IoT, operational efficiencies may refer to which consumers can use your product. In this market, operational efficiency is among the top 5 end-user benefits of voice AI. Operating home appliances, elevators, hotel rooms, and other devices with an embedded voice assistant improves convenience, increases hygiene and safety in public areas, and expands accessibility for users. 

As the voice assistant market matures, companies are realizing the business value of voice user interfaces for their customers through greater engagement and satisfaction. Now, those same organizations are realizing the benefits of using the same technology to improve internal operations and employee experiences. 

As the voice assistant market matures, companies are realizing the business value of voice user interfaces for their customers through greater engagement and satisfaction.

Voice assistants in the office can assume some of the mundane tasks, like setting meetings, providing read time transcriptions, arranging package pick up and delivery, and answering general knowledge questions, such as the weather or traffic information. 

Making products more accessible and convenient to use and increasing office productivity are two ways voice assistants increase efficiencies for customers and employees—and positively impact the bottom line.

5. The new touchless culture demands voice interfaces

The consumer demand for hands-free access to information and hardware device control has migrated from the in-car experience to every aspect of our lives. Post-pandemic, hands-free means more than convenience. Touchless interactions are now associated with hygiene, health, and safety. In the last year, the hospitality, restaurant, and healthcare industries have been most impacted by the demand for contactless interactions. But that focus may soon be changing.

As the economy begins to open up and people return to daily routines, more industries are going to begin to feel the pressure to provide voice user interfaces as a way to avoid touching public surfaces. 

In the 2020 Voice Survey published by Adobe in the midst of the pandemic, respondents identified four areas where they would like businesses to use voice tech to make their lives more sanitary:

  • To open a door – 56%
  • To choose a floor in an elevator – 55%
  • To use a vending machine – 49%
  • To guide them at a crosswalk – 33%

Command and control applications of a voice assistant to open doors and control machinery is the simplest form of voice AI and can be easily implemented in any of the ways identified in the survey. Smart offices, government buildings, and public spaces are already in planning and implementation stages along with smart homes and smart cities. 

As the economy begins to open up and people return to daily routines, more industries are going to begin to feel the pressure to provide voice user interfaces as a way to avoid touching public surfaces. 

Forward-thinking brands will begin to imagine themselves as part of the voice-first ecosystem and innovate to provide as much hands-free access to their products and services as possible.

6. Greater accessibility grows the customer base

Communicating with others and staying connected to the outside world has become somewhat dependent on the ability to access technology in the last few years. As our reliance on technology continues to grow, those with physical and mental differences risk being left behind. Voice AI technology is emerging as the great democratizer for technology and a way for businesses to grow their customer base while improving the lives of more than the 56 million people with disabilities in the U.S.—and more globally.

According to Pew Research, disabled Americans are about three times as likely as those without a disability to say they never go online. The study also found that the disabled population is disproportionately comprised of seniors. This is an age group that can be served well by voice-enabled products designed with their special needs in mind. Groups like Project Zilver are making it their mission to help companies design voice AI experiences targeted at removing accessibility barriers to technology and providing access through voice assistants that will help the older generation gain more independence.

According to Heidi Culbertson, Founder of Marvee and Sr. Product Manager, on the Amazon Alexa Product Team for Aging & Independence, “Approximately 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the US. The over-50 cohort is 113 million strong, controls over 70% of the wealth, and currently accounts for $7.6 trillion in direct consumer spending. Importantly, this is not just healthcare spend.”

These numbers represent opportunities for businesses to help improve lives while expanding their user base by designing for older adults and people with physical and mental differences.

Overcoming challenges to voice AI adoption

Even though voice assistants are becoming ubiquitous, many companies continue to struggle to overcome the challenges of implementing voice AI strategies. Admittedly, there are no viable turn-key solutions for long-term success. However, there are solutions for companies at all stages of voice AI development. Finding the right voice AI partner who will provide proven technology and expert advice can help your business accelerate the process, overcome obstacles, and land a voice-first strategy that drives adoption, delivers a competitive advantage, and grows market share. 

Even if you aren’t looking for an end-to-end solution, proven voice AI platform providers can supplement your internal teams with ASR, NLU, custom wake words, and other key technologies to move your voice assistant from development to adoption.

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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