Conversational Nirvana – The Illusive Marketeers Dream

Advertising started in the pre-modern era with the Egyptians creating posters out of papyrus to hang on walls to deliver sales messages. How far have we really come to convey our messages to the masses?

Advances like the printing press, radio, TV and the internet all massively increased the addressable market. Recently though, we have focused on both segmenting the audience to deliver messaging with pinpoint accuracy to exactly the right person at exactly the right time. Platforms like Facebook and Google have been excellent at generating highly accurate profiles of us all to ensure the ad lands at the right person with the right message at the right time. But there’s an issue.

Humans don’t like being spoken at


Even if I was to be served an advert for the exact product I needed, the moment I needed to buy it there is only a small chance I would do that. 99.54% of people browse away[3]. This is due to core human behavior. One-way messaging is hard to land. We don’t like being spoken at. We are fundamentally social creatures and respond far better to a two-way dialogue. In a conversation more information is retained and we are more open to expressing our desires and receiving recommendations.


We are living in a time where the next communications revolution, akin to the printing press, radio, TV or internet is the ability to enable meaningful 2-way conversations, at scale. Welcome to the conversational era.

I’ve known this day has been coming since I was an 8 year old boy, science fiction taught me that the future allows us to talk to our technology, I grew up watching Quantum Leap, Knight Rider and Red Dwarf. I knew that in the future we’d all have some sort of ‘virtual assistant’ that we could delegate tasks to or ask any question of to help us on our quest through life. I just didn’t know I’d have to wait so long…

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However, we’re here at last, driven by a technology arms race for intelligent assistants being lead by the ‘Billion User Club’ Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft in the West. All these businesses have a billion or more users and are seeking to create their own assistant (e.g. Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana) and ensure their assistant is chosen above all others. Why do they want this? The assistant that you grow to use habitually will hold enormous sway over which products and services you use as it will be the first ‘person’ you ask. This is very similar to the type of power Google holds in web search. Intelligent assistants, manifesting through chatbots and voice bots have the opportunity to own this space themselves.

Progress has been astonishing, especially with smart speakers which reached more than half a billion homes by 2018 and are still very much on the rise. However, smart assistants are moving out of the home and recent reports show a steep rise in the number of people speaking to their voice assistant on their mobile, rising from 56.6% of US consumers who had used a voice assistant on their smartphone in January 2018 to 70.2% in January 2019[1]. It’s this growth of voice assistants that gives rise to predictions of the voice commerce market growing 20x to a $40bn opportunity by 2022[2].

It’s this huge opportunity that has given rise to companies like Say It Now who specifically focus in creating chat bots and voice bots for intelligent assistants. We help companies take advantage of this new operating paradigm with gateway products like:

·      Branded Voice Experiences

·      Conversational Advertising

·      Conversational Commerce

An example of a branded voice experience is our work with Diageo and their brand Talisker, a very tasty Scottish single malt whisky. We started working in November 2018 to build out the voice experience, Talisker Tasting, to help differentiation at point of sale and to deepen their customers relationship with the brand. As we built out the skill over the next 6 months we increased the average time people spend with the experience from about 3 minutes to over 8 minutes. The analytics we captured told us that people spent about 60% of their time with the tasting experience and the rest learning about the brand heritage and what cocktails could be made.

So is this ‘Conversational nirvana’ then?

Far from it, we’re now entering the second phase of voice, ‘voice everywhere’. We see that nearly 8% of people have experimented with using voice to control other devices in the home from microwaves to TV remotes (Apple TV and fire stick I’m looking at you). Many consumer electronics products you buy moving forward will have a voice assistant baked in, the de-facto manufacture setting then asks you to make the choice between Alexa and Google assistant…

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Amazon are ‘leaning in’ to a new generation of voice activated wearables dubbed ‘hearables’. They recently released Echo Frames (smart glasses frames), Echo Loop (a smart Ring) and Echo buds. All of these allowing you access outside the home. Their positioning is a range of devices that allow you to access your digital services without interrupting your human experience (like our smartphones do), which I find compelling.


The companies who are going to prosper from this type of technology approach have already taken their first steps. Any brand’s assistant will need to be trained over time (much like a small child learning how to talk) so if you put the effort in now you will create a hugely valuable, 24/7 asset that increasingly becomes the ambassador and charming access point to the range of products, services and knowledge your brand has to offer. We advocate creating one conversational model, launching on one assistant and then provisioning the service on a growing number of conversational channels over time. This allows a greater return on the technology investment.

If you want to learn more or explore how we can help you create, Branded Voice Experiences, Conversational Advertising or Conversational Commerce please get in touch on +44 (0) 20 7099 6277 or mail

About the author:

Charles Cadbury is CEO and Co-Founder of Say It Nowthe UK’s leading premium, award winning, developer of Voice Assistants and Messenger Bots and specialists in Natural Language Processing, the sub-field of Artificial Intelligence that enables computers to process and analyse large amounts of natural language data. Feel free to connect.

[1] Voicebot smart speaker consumer adoption report Jan 2019