Voice Search

Charlie was interviewed on ‘Voice Search’ earlier this week by James Minter:

Can we put any figures on how many people are connected to voice activated devices, how many people use voice search, demographics, growth in people using voice search? There are now estimated to be over 1BN voice activated devices worldwide.  These encompass smart speakers such as Alexa and Google Home and embedded assistants on mobile devices like Google Assistant and Siri.  In the PwC 2018 Consumer Insights Survey they found that 10% of consumers globally own an AI device and 33% plan to get one.  Its reported that penetration of smart speakers with voice assistants will reach 47% of U.S. broadband households By 2022.

Adoption is being championed by the world’s major tech vendors who all have AI at the core of their strategy as they all see an assistant lead future as their way to maximise influence over the consumer.  E.g. Samsung has said that every product it ships by 2020 will be voice enabled.

I think of Alexa but what other devices are now voice activated – phones, watches, cars? Alexa and Google assistant are now available through their own branded devices and ever more 3rd party products, enabling access (e.g. bluetooth speakers, headsets, cars and microwaves) Samsung’s Bixby is getting its own speaker, however, the Chinese Market is driving 52% of global smart speaker growth.  I believe this shows that this is a high stakes rising global trend, not a niche new technology.  Brands that are not exploring how they will maintain relevance using these conversational platforms are invariably going to lose market share.

How different is voice search to old fashioned search?  Presumably strategy is broadly similar but techniques are different? The base is currently web search but that’s changing.  You will often ask a question and the response will be “here are some results from the web”. However, therein lies the opportunity.  Both Alexa and Assistant have opened up implied invocations this year. This means that if a brand creates a skill or action (Alexa’s or Google’s voice apps), when publishing it you can highlight specific phrases that skill can answer.  E.g. “OK Google, give me a 5 minute workout” currently takes you to the ‘fitstar’ action. There is a huge opportunity for brands who create compelling voice experiences to own the response to specific questions in their domain of expertise.

NLP? (Natural Language Processing not Neuro Linguistic Programming!) Having been in the voice space for 3 years now we learned early on that the innovation here is not voice but natural language processing.  This allows a conversation to be carried across channels like we do with human relationships. One moment on phone, the next on messenger. By understanding how to build a persistent conversation with your customer you can nurture a deep relationship and many channels of activation.

Have Amazon and Google got good tools we can use? Loads… and there is a large number of third party tools maturing or coming to the market to help in every aspect of conversational design.  For specifics I’d have to point you to my engineering team.

How would you advise a company to go about exploiting this new technology – train in-house staff/ agency? Get smart speakers in the office.  Explore how your customers could use these technologies in a 5 year horizon, build a simple bot and test engagement. Every board is looking for an answer of how the company can use “AI”.  Conversational interfaces are one example of an actionable strategy to land this buzzword and ensure your competition doesn’t get ahead.

Any good stories about low-hanging fruit? The SEO example above is clear, FAQ’s are an obvious place to start.  Look for repetitive customer service tasks that could be better for all parties if automated.  At the end of the day we want to stop humans being robots.

Original article published here