Voice is changing the way we interact with brands.
Photo by Anete Lusina
As 2020 finally came to an end, it is impossible not to mention the Covid-19 pandemic and how much it has shaped the way we live and work. We have all had to adapt rapidly to the new reality. Social interactions were disrupted, so we had to think of creative solutions to help us manage the transition from office job to work-at-home. To stay sane, stay connected, and to continue engaging in conversations, many turned their attention to digital assistants and smart speakers (1). Globally, smart speaker sales continued to increase in Q2 2020, defying the pandemic and growing 6% to reach 30 million units (2). The UK and the US market are at the forefront in terms of growth, with one in three people having access to a smart speaker in these markets (3). In fact, smart speakers were one of the most popular Christmas gifts of 2019, according to the conversation website (3).
In terms of the number of devices per household, it is estimated 22% of UK homes have a smart speaker now, up significantly from just 9% in 2017 (4); and these are much more than just music players. Smart speakers rely on a mix of technologies, including natural language processing and artificial intelligence, to answer questions, read the news and complete tasks accordingly, all hands-free. As the fourth generation of Amazon’s Alexa speakers becomes available in the UK, sales will continue to go up and a wider audience will incorporate smart speakers in their day to day lives. Experts predict smart speaker’s presence will increase exponentially year on year, and they are revolutionising the conversation between brands and consumers (5). It is important that businesses find ways to engage with this audience to remain relevant and connected with their customers. The potential is huge and there are four major brands who are already leading the way in the new year: Johnnie Walker, Nestlé, Domino’s pizza and Patrón Tequila have integrated voice in their business model (5). Others should think about doing it too.
It will soon be essential to have a marketing channel through voice. Brands who do it this year will position themselves at the forefront of an innovative experience for their smart speaker users, and this will make many people happy. Marketeers and brands need to continue thinking about creative voice experiences that facilitate the communication with their audience. It is important businesses focus their efforts to boost marketing activities, and meet the surge in demand of voice users. This is what consumers want. Think with Google reports 52% of those who own a voice-activated speaker would like to receive information about deals, sales, and promotions from brands (6), and that 11.5% of current consumers make a purchase via voice at least once a month (7). Voice is positioning itself as a fast rising e-commerce tool, and it has the potential to widely transform the experiences of users in a very near future. Juniper Research states that voice commerce will grow to reach over $80 billion per year by 2023 (8). This is a game changer for e-commerce. To ignore the demand for this technology will mean to miss out on opportunities to increase customer satisfaction. Businesses who want to engage personally and effectively with their customers need to join the race in 2021. Voice is the future and the future is now.
Voice assistant and smart speaker usage will continue to rise in upcoming years (4). In fact, Ovum predicted there would be more digital assistants than the world population back in 2017 (9). The number predicted was there would be 7.5 billion active devices in 2021 (9). We can’t stop but wondering if the rise in the number of smart speakers in households has not been in part, as a result of the human need to try and experience some meaningful interactions. As the pandemic hopefully comes to an end at some point this year, there is time to plan ahead and respond accordingly. Consumers want to stay vocal and want to interact in this way. Voice is a critical player of the connected e-commerce experience. Consumers and voice assistants go hand-in-hand and businesses can leverage this surge in interest to improve their customers’ experience and increase engagement.
As we all had to adapt to an ever changing world, and think of solutions to problems we had only seen in disaster films, it is important to stop and reflect while welcoming 2021. People’s needs and interests have evolved in 2020. Perhaps voice assistants make our lives easier, or perhaps they are fun to interact with. No matter the reason, they are here to stay. A significant number of us have adopted an Alexa in 2020 and many more will in 2021. Business strategists may want to consider the impact this has on them. There is an immense number of digital trend reports out there that highlight the importance of this growing market. The demand for smart speakers, in the UK and in the world, will continue to increase, and so should the popularity of the digital platforms that are able to integrate with these devices. Brands and businesses who join the voice revolution will certainly leave their customers in awe. Our advice for 2021? Meet your customers half way. Maximise your brand’s exposure and be part of the 2021 voice revolution.
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