91% of Brands are Investing in Voice: How to Make it Work

91% of Brands are Investing in Voice: How to Make it Work
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The last holiday season was an important litmus test for the staying power of smart speakers. Could these devices diverge from other emerging tech trends like VR and 3D TV, and become a part of everyday life? The answer appears to be yes. A recent study showed that 36% of consumers own a smart speaker (Feb. 2019), a 14 percent jump from just 6 months prior. 75% report using their smart speaker at least daily. Consumers have embraced this new platform, and brands are taking notice.

Many missed the boat when smartphones took off, and brands are trying to avoid a repeat. The Adobe Analytics team recently surveyed over 400 business decision makers, in a new report looking at voice strategy and investment. A whopping 91% are already making significant investments in voice; 94% plan to increase their investment in the coming year. Brands see incredible potential, with 66% strongly agreeing that voice can help drive conversion and increase revenue; 71% see it improving the user experience.

Voice has the potential to disrupt entire industries, just like smartphones have. Brands must move quickly but take a strategic approach. The Adobe Analytics team has been working with companies on their voice strategy, and we take some of those learnings to share how to make it work.

Early exploration and testing

Only around 22% of companies have a voice app released, meaning that many brands are in the exploration phase. When you begin to investigate the technology and identifying potential use cases, here are key considerations before deploying a proof of concept:

  • Think beyond standard tasks: Brands will be tempted to make voice a place for customers to ask simple questions or look for product information. This can be part of the feature set but consider that every company has a hero feature — unique to them — waiting to be uncovered. Airlines found it on the smartphone with a boarding pass, and more will exist on voice. Think about how you can make customers’ lives easier, either by refining a task or streamlining a process.
  • Design for voice: It is important to think about how a customer experiences your brand without visuals. How do you convey your brand message through sounds, types of voices used, or even the structure of responses? Navigation is also important to nail down — consumers can only remember so much, so avoid a menu of services.
  • What to measure: Once a proof of concept is ready for a small group of users to test, teams should track error rates (e.g., which verbal commands are not being understood?) and device capabilities across the different platforms. We have seen with some brands that qualitative feedback is helpful at this stage as well. With such a new medium, teams would benefit from direct user feedback on what is working and what is not. Lastly, brands must set clear goals for teams to rally around — what part of the customer journey is voice meant to impact, and what is considered successful engagement?

Launch day

Before a voice app is ready to be launched across the major platforms (e.g., Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple’s Siri), there is a long list of considerations. Here are some of the main ones:

  • Connect voice to other channels: This is the most common mistake we see brands making. When a new channel is introduced, there is a natural inclination to deploy the service and measure success in a silo. Understandably teams have time and resource constraints, but getting this right is important for long-term success. Voice is just one part of the customer journey, and brands need to understand how it supports engagement on other channels. Many retailers made this mistake in the early days of mobile commerce"> mobile commerce — expecting it to convert at the same level as other channels and failing to see the impact of smartphones in helping shoppers close the deal elsewhere. It inhibited retailers from delivering mobile features that optimized the overall shopping journey.
  • Bring other departments along: Getting buy-in from other areas of the organization is considered the number one barrier to deploying voice. Once a proof of concept has been validated and the team can prove the value to customers, it is important to engage teams such as marketing to get the word out and drive usage, as well as the greater leadership team. In many instances, voice implementation is being run out of the IT or product organizations and we have seen voice strategies falter because of a lack of marketing support.
  • What to measure: At this point, with a full feature set and a large-scale deployment, the main things to measure include top intents (e.g., what are people asking for?), the length of engagements/sessions, the frequency of use, and conversion metrics. This will help you understand what is working and allow you to make ongoing tweaks to the experience. Like with mobile, voice is not a one-and-done effort.

Personalization and on-going refinement

Once a voice app begins to gain traction and has a sizable audience, brands will need to think about how to evolve the experience and keep people coming back. A few considerations at this stage:

  • Nudge users to authenticate: We have seen several brands drive successful personalization by having users authenticate on the voice app and linking their profile to an existing account. By tapping into known preferences, the voice experience can start to feel more relevant and contextual to users. However, people are not going to willingly authenticate. Brands have to consider what carrot to dangle for people to make the effort.
  • Create revenue-generating opportunities: Although voice plays a role in the broader customer journey and does not always contribute directly to revenue, some users will be open to transacting through voice. An Adobe survey of over 1,000 U.S. consumers showed that 25% of people have placed one-time orders for delivery via their smart speaker. The lack of visuals means that voice is well-suited for less complex purchases, like reorders of frequently purchased items.
  • What to measure: At this stage, the most important task is to constantly measure, test and retest. The most successful smartphone apps were ones that went through constant iteration and aligned with features that resonated most with users; voice will be the same. In addition to some of the metrics noted above, brands need to connect voice to other channels where customers engage (e.g., desktop, mobile, in person). They should begin to conduct flow analysis, for instance (through Adobe Analytics), to see how users are moving between channels. Segment comparison is also useful here as well to get a sense of how groups of users are splintering and ensure their needs are met.

Adobe has a voice analytics tool to help brands measure and action voice-based experiences, while connecting it to the overall customer journey across areas like desktop, web, mobile, audio, and other channels. See here for step-by-step video tutorials. Learn more here about how data will empower brands to become leaders in customer experience management (CXM).

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