Although we think of voice as the domain of the smart speakers, we actually have been talking to devices for over 8 years. We began speaking to Apple Siri in 2011, then to smart speakers with Amazon Alexa in 2014, and most recently to home appliances with Samsung's Bixby.
Voice adoption has surged due to the rise of the smart speaker, which in turn has become the fastest adopted consumer technology of all time - faster than the smartphone, television, or the internet.
Smart speakers, and therefore voice have invaded US households. Currently, 41% of US homes have a smart speaker, and those homes have an average of almost 2 devices. Alexa leads with over 100M devices, followed by Google with over 43M devices.
Maybe it is not so surprising that the Alexa Echo Dot was the biggest selling item on Amazon during the holiday season 2018.
“Alexa was very busy during her holiday season. Echo Dot was the best-selling item across all products on Amazon globally, and customers purchased millions more devices from the Echo family compared to last year,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO.
Still, smartphones and smart speakers are not the only platforms that are set to change how customers connect with information, services, and brands. Voice will become ubiquitous in many automobiles, household fixtures, and domestic appliances in the very near future.
What are consumers doing with their smart speakers? Asking questions, listening to music, and checking the weather are the top usage activities. Interestingly, brand apps and skills are in the middle and making a purchase is towards the bottom of the list, but I believe these will continue to move up the list as skills/apps get better and customers become more comfortable with voice.
So why are customers using voice devices? I believe it is their ease of use. We talk faster than we can type or swipe. There is no searching, opening, and clicking. You say what's on your mind and the system responds. It is the most natural form of communication for human beings.
What are brands doing to leverage this new channel? Let's review a few examples and see if any could be applied to your business.
Capital One was an early adopter of voice technology. Their app now can handle multiple intents across several product sets, and are grouped into 3 areas: check your balance, track your spending, and pay your bill. The diagram below shows the range of customer intents.
Voice applications are not just limited to financial services. You can order and track your pizza delivery with Dominos, control your hotel rooms and connect with housekeeping at JW Marriott, or order your favorite coffee for pick-up at the nearest Starbucks.
While not a smart speaker app, Bank of America's new Erica app incorporated voice into its experience. As with Capital One's voice application you can ask it about your balance, spending habits, and perform activities like sending a payment or freezing your card. Why did Bank of America add voice to their experience? According to Michelle Moore, Head of Digital Banking at the time, "it is about understanding what our customers want", and voice is a key part of the experience. If you watch the video below you can hear it for yourself.
Finally, how can you leverage the voice channel for your own brand? If you are responsible for any aspect of the customer experience journey, we would encourage you to ask the following questions.
- What is our strategy for voice channels?
- How should my brand present itself in a voice driven world?
- Where can voice reduce the friction in our current customer experience?
- Where can our experience benefit from being more conversational?
- How can voice make customer interactions more personalized?
- What effect could a voice experience have on customer satisfaction and loyalty?
If you would like to explore the opportunity for voice and the value it could generate for your business, let's start a conversation. Contact us at 404.554.4000 Ext. 2 or email us at email@example.com.