Why businesses should incorporate voice into their growth strategy
2016 has been dubbed the year of “conversational commerce.” But voice recognition technology has been around for a long time, so why is it now starting to become a more usable human-technology interface?
To date, it's the leading technology companies that have most benefited from voice – Google, Apple, Microsoft – they’ve all been busy creating smart digital assistants powered by complex natural language processing software. But access to these formidable voice technology platforms has been very limited, so even though AI & voice recognition technology has seen huge advancements, human-computer interactions through voice haven’t quite made it to being mainstream. That is, until now.
Amazon was the first of the technology giants to make their digital assistant, Alexa, and the cloud-based platform she is built on, open source. Where companies previously would have needed to build their own platforms to innovate with voice, they can now just hook into Amazon’s Alexa software instead. Uber, Spotify, Domino’s Pizza, Capital One – the appetite for a voice channel is proven in the increasing number of big players creating Alexa "Skills," and the number of 3rd party Alexa Skills, on Amazon’s new voice app store, jumping from 135 to more than 1000 in just 6 months.
Wider than Amazon, the voice trend is gaining momentum. In the US, 65% of smartphone users were actually using their voice assistants in 2015, up from just 30% in 2013. In June this year, Apple announced they were making it possible for iOS developers to integrate Siri into their apps, the expectation is that the other tech companies will follow suit.
So why is adding a voice channel to your business so crucial? If we look back over the past ten years at how consumer focused businesses have evolved; the first big challenge was creating an online channel, or building a website customers could be reached from. Then along came smart phones and mobile apps. In the same way business turned to thinking “mobile first” five years ago, they now need to think “voice first.” As companies like Amazon and Apple continue to accelerate the voice trend, consumer behaviour is changing, and fast.
The primary gateway into our digital life is through a screen - looking, touching, scrolling, we're always connected. But as the number of things we do online grows, the amount of time we are having to spend on our smart devices can sometime be overwhelming. And this is where the value of a voice channel comes in. Booking a taxi, re-ordering a shop, following a recipe, looking something up, checking travel times, ordering takeout – consumers are recognising that interacting with technology through speech, rather than touch, is often a more efficient, easier way of getting things done.
Voice user interfaces are set to give millions more people a new found access to their favourite products, content and services. A shorter buying experience, a better, more personable customer journey, a wider customer base - once they are looked for, valuable voice-use cases pop up everywhere.
As conversing with rather than typing at technology moves from feeling new to being normal, businesses need to make sure they keep up with their changing consumer habits, and consider the value of incorporating a voice channel into their business.
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