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Why isn't VOICE tech in your digital strategy..?


It's crazy that Amazon Alexa and Google Home still seem kinda new to many, the reality is though, voice technology dates back to the 1950s. However, it hasn’t been until the early part of the twenty-first century that we have really seen voice technology come into its own with huge leaps in computing power, vast amounts of data, advancements in AI and machine learning and investments from large enterprises. New innovative uses for voice-activated technology are seemingly ensuring a strong case for incorporating it in digital strategies. Being such a frictionless form of tech and improving all the time, it’s not hard to see why. 

What do we mean by voice marketing?

So, we know Alexa, Google Home, Siri, Cortana and their siblings have become everyday technology in the last few years, but voice marketing is about understanding how consumers use them. Currently, 50% of online searches are made via voice with almost 20% of browsing sessions being screenless! Businesses who want to remain competitive will simply have to consider voice within their digital strategy. As more voice-based gadgets come into the home and people become almost entirely reliant on their smartphone, understanding their behaviours as part of your marketing strategy is imperative.
“Voice marketing is a set of tactics and strategies designed for reaching audiences using voice-based devices” – Banfield 2018

Why is voice marketing different from any other digital marketing?

Voice is changing more than just the device we use. It’s changing where, when and how we interact with brands. One example that is often cited is when somebody is driving. Using a mobile phone is against the law and if you needed to find out information quickly (and legally), it would involve you finding somewhere safe to pull over and delaying your journey.

With a voice search, you can quickly ask Google where the nearest petrol station or restaurant and you would get near-instant results. It makes search possible without interrupting what you are currently doing. For the Gary V fans, this is the near-frictionless interaction that he talks about so much. You could yell out when cooking, in the shower/bathroom (massive opportunity here), cleaning or during exercise.

A good place for any brand to start is by asking “what can voice search offer our audience that they wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere?” I look at some case studies below where brands have clearly done very well at finding the answer to this question.

Case studies 

Examples of brands that have taken steps to improve customer experience through voice technology. 
  • Starbucks – you can order using voice via the Starbucks App. This has been very popular whilst people are on their way to the coffee shop, meaning their order is ready when they arrive, reducing waiting times. 
  • Kayak – the travel company has developed an Alexa skill that allows customers to research locations and make bookings. 
  •  KFC – in India, the fast-food restaurant has enabled voice-based ordering and customer service. Customers can ask about offers before they order. The brand is learning from this and adapting a marketing strategy based on what people are saying.
These three case studies are examples of how these brands understood why their customers needed voice search to improve their customer experience. The key to success was in delivering a unique experience. It’s important not to simply develop voice solutions because you think that is the right thing to do but instead, pay attention to what it is that motivates your customers.

The challenge for “classic” digital marketing

Most businesses will have digital teams who are very focused on search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Both processes are based on the keywords that users type into a search engine. The problem with voice is that the way we type is not the same as the way we speak. If you think about that for a few seconds, it would be pretty peculiar if we did.

What this means for content and keywords is that digital strategies need to prioritise long-tail phrases that are far more conversational. Many voice devices are still struggling to find the answers to everything users say so brands that start to adapt SEO and PPC now will have a competitive advantage further down the line.

Being part of the revolution


With over 50,000 Alexa skills and one million Google actions, one of the best ways to embrace voice marketing is to be a part of it. If your audience needs help, it puts you right in the firing line without the needing a laptop, looking at your smartphone or, God forbid, calling a human. If your brand can accommodate it, a digital strategy should include voice-activated devices.

Why isn’t everybody doing it?

The return on investment (ROI) for voice marketing is still quite ambiguous. If businesses are already successful, then what is the need for adding a new channel to their armoury?

Transactions using voice are still very small as consumers learn to understand and trust the technology better. However, a 2019 report from RetailMeNot says that 96% of retailers are investing in voice technology to allow consumers to shop for their products, from the comfort of their own home.


Even though ROI might be minimal now, planning could be key. If brands can be top-rated and recommended in voice searches now, they stand a solid chance of staying then when others join in. Optimising your website and its content for voice in the short-term looks set to provide long-term benefits. Not necessarily, first in best dressed, but the cost of entry right now is so low, why wouldn’t you at least explore the opportunity. Similar to email and sms marketing, AdWords and social media marketing 10+ years ago, the earlier you jump on, the bigger reach you’re likely to have both for paid and organic avenues.

THE MORAL

Whilst voice technology is still relatively new having only accelerated within the last few years, it is clearly something that consumers want. Therefore, it must be part of your digital strategy. The artificial intelligence (AI) landscape is changing so quickly that in the next decade, we could well be talking about a new innovation. However, for the here and now, voice technology is big and flourishing and it would be a mistake not to at least dip the toes in.


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