Are consumers able to find your brand by voice? Gartner is predicting that nearly one-third of web browsing will be conducted without a screen by 2020. Don’t mistake this for other data points that focus on voice consuming a larger proportion of search on mobile. This statistic means that web browsing information traditionally conveyed through images and text will need to be delivered by voice. Gartner predicted in late 2016:
New audio-centric technologies, such as Google Home and Amazon’s Echo, are making access to dialogue-based information ubiquitous and spawning new platforms based on “voice-first” interactions. By eliminating the need to use ones’ hands and eyes for browsing, vocal interactions extend the utility of web sessions to contexts such as driving, cooking, walking, socializing, exercising and operating machinery. As a result, the share of waking hours devoid of instant access to online resources will approach zero.
Screenless Browsing By Voice is Happening Today
Gartner isn’t alone. eMarketer predicts, “This year, 60.5 million Americans will use Siri, Cortana or another virtual assistant at least once a month. That equates to 27.5% of smartphone users, or nearly one-fifth of the population.” The research firm predicts another 35 million will use smart speakers monthly. All of this data points in one direction. Screenless interfaces driven by voice and audio are rising quickly. Few brands are prepared to engage consumers in these environments.
Should We Believe the Predictions?
Predictions demands scrutiny. That evaluation should be driven by logic and subsequent events. The logic is reasonable. There are many times when voice is more convenient or consumers cannot access digital content by touch and sight. In this case, subsequent events have also exceeded most analyst predictions.
Analysts that previously suggested 5-7 million Amazon Echo devices were sold last year are readjusting their figures upwards by 50-100% for 2016 and forecasts for 2017. Strategy Analytics puts the 2017 estimate at 24 million smart speakers with 12 million selling in Q4 alone. Forrester says that Amazon Echo alone will sell 22 million units in 2017. That would suggest a total smart speaker shipment volume of 31 million devices this year.
It’s hard to know what technologies will capture the interest of consumers en masse. When it does happen, the numbers get big fast. The expectation is that over 20 million households in the U.S. alone will have a smart speaker in 2017 representing a total audience reach of over 50 million consumers. In addition, several hundred million people will access a voice assistant by smartphone worldwide this year with 60.5 million in the U.S. You can expect those numbers to double again in 2018.
Screenless Browsing Relies on Voice and Audio
When content is returned by a voice assistant, it defaults to available audio. Sometimes it will pull information from Wikipedia and use text-to-speech to deliver the output. If you don’t have a way to deliver audio, your brand is very likely silent in that consumer exchange and your chances of being on-brand are near zero. That means your brand will miss a consumer engagement opportunity that will likely go to a competitor instead.
How Should We Plan for Screenless Interactions?
Brands need to develop voice interactive content assets that can fulfill these consumer requests. Unfortunately, your content assets for web, print and video typically are not suitable for voice delivery. Even if you have audio assets, you still need to develop a method to deliver the audio through voice assistants and to enable conversational interactions with consumers. Building a voice presence for your brand is step number one. That will put you in the game for the 30% of screenless web browsing sessions and hundreds of millions of monthly consumer interactions.
The other considerations are your overall voice strategy, omnichannel harmonization, Voice Persona™, and roadmap. XAPP has already launched over 500 voice apps on Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana for over 50 companies. That experience has yielded insights around a number of best practices that we have packaged up into a new Voice App Accelerator program for Brands.
Fast or Slow, You Definitely Need a Voice Strategy and Presence
XAPP’s voice programs for brands involve a structured approach to fill the screenless content gap and plan for the future where voice assistants are going to play an increasing role in consumers’ lives. The Accelerator approach is designed to launch a voice app on Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant in as little as three weeks from start to finish. It can also be executed over a longer time period to take into account broader scope and additional objectives.
One thing is increasingly clear. Brands must start developing a voice presence. This isn’t like the shift from desktop to mobile. Many brands could get by without a mobile app because they still had a mobile web option. An app might have been better for consumer engagement, but brands could still reach consumers on mobile without one. Voice is different. You must have a voice app to be in the game at all. The good news is that the cost and complexity for launching voice apps is far less than the mobile predecessors. And, we already have a lot of experience in this space so you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
To learn more about XAPP’s Voice App Accelerator, voice strategy planning services, or custom voice app development, click the button below.