Voice marketing is the next big thing in reaching audiences. This post looks at what marketers need to know before they can start building their voice marketing strategy.

The rise of voice activation: Five key questions for marketers

Voice activation is one of the biggest buzzwords in marketing these days.

But what does voice marketing actually mean?

As with any new marketing technology, separating hype from reality is frequently difficult.

In this post we’ll look at five essential questions brands will need to consider as voice marketing grows in popularity.

What is voice activation?

Voice activation is a technology trend that involves people choosing to complete tasks, search for information and live their lives by using their voices to interact with devices.

Before users used to complete everything from figuring out the weather forecast to writing blog post articles by looking at a computer or phone, typing in what they were looking for and then using a screen to gather information.

Now, thanks to advances in technology, users are completing these tasks by literally speaking into devices.

Consider an example I’m sure all of us are somewhat familiar with: Ordering a pizza.

In past years we would need to head to a computer and look up the number for the local pizza place. Then you’d need to speak to a real person on the phone and place your order.

Now, with the rise of voice activation technology, all you need to do is speak your order into a mobile device and – boom – a pizza arrives at your door.

No interaction with other humans required.

Or maybe you’re out driving around and are looking for the nearest sit-down pizza restaurant. All you’d need to do, if your car was equipped with a voice activation system like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, is speak your question and the results would pop up.

This is the sort of thing we mean when we talk about voice activation.

Why are we talking so much about voice activation now?

The popularity of voice activation in 2018 comes down to three factors: The rise in popularity of voice-controlled devices for the home, technological advances elsewhere and the growing reach of the Internet of Things.

The rise of voice-controlled devices for the home

The popularity of voice-controlled speakers is skyrocketing.

Over one million Canadian households will have a smart speaker by the end of 2018, according to IDC Canada.

eMarketer is forecasting a compound annual increase in home voice speakers of 47.9 per cent between 2016 and 2020 in the United States.

That would put 76.5 million in circulation in 2020.

And that’s before the release of Apple’s home voice product, the HomePod, which is slated for later this year.

Add it all up and devices that can be manipulated using voice are now more present in people’s homes than ever before.

Other technological changes

It’s not just the home that’s becoming friendlier for voice.

Other areas that were previously off-limits are now becoming places where audiences can quickly and easily gather information using voice.

Take the car, for example.

Technology like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is becoming increasingly standard in many new cars.

That’s made it easy for audiences to use voice while driving.

But it’s not just the car.

Conducting searches using voice is becoming socially acceptable in pretty much every area of our lives.

Which means that even riding the bus home from work is now a place where users can search for information using their voice.

The Internet of Things

In the old days, home thermostats used to be devices we operated by hand.

Not anymore.

Now thermostats are connected to the internet.

This is allowing audiences to quickly check and change the temperature from anywhere.

It’s not just thermostats either.

Everything from refrigerators to tampons – yes, tampons – will soon be internet-enabled.

That means that, soon, when all of these devices are connected, increasing the temperature in your house will only be a voice command away.

Why should marketers care about the rise in voice activation?

Voice activation is worthy of marketers’ attention because it represents an opportunity to connect with audiences in places where they previously couldn’t be reached.

People never used to be able to search for information when they had their hands stuck in a bowl of flour in the kitchen or were driving around in a car.

Now, they can.

And it represents a whole host of new opportunities for marketers to reach them.

A savvy marketer will be able to offer useful recipes and ingredients to audiences as they prepare dinner.

Or maybe a restaurant will be able to offer someone driving in their half-price on all appetizers when they happen to be in the neighbourhood.

The possibilities voice activation raises for marketers are nearly endless.

But it’s not just opportunities.

The rise of voice will also force a rethink of more traditional marketing strategies.

Take ads, for example.

For most of us, ads are the little boxes that surround the screens of web pages that we are using to consume content.

But what happens when users switch from screens to voice as a means of gather information?

The future of ads in the world of voice marketing is still unclear.

But there’s a good chance it will be a big change from what we know today.

Is voice marketing really “the future”?

Marketers love to get carried away with trends.

Virtual and augmented reality were supposed to take the world by storm.

But so far, at least in 2018, VR and AR are no more ubiquitous than they were a few years ago.

The facts on voice activation are these:

  • More searches are taking place using voice.
  • More voice activation devices – the Amazon and Google products for which we’ve all seen advertisements – are making their way into people’s homes.
  • Voice is more readily available in places like cars than they were before

Of course, just because something is growing in popularity doesn’t mean that trend will continue indefinitely.

Just ask any purveyor of prognostications about how the dung from horse-drawn carriages would be a public health calamity by the 1950s. How did all that turn out?

For every piece of technology that comes to dominate the market, there are about 10 that seem to be getting more popular but never actually take over.

For every DVD player, there is a Laserdisc. For every VHS tape, a Betamax.

It will be worth watching to see how voice adoption continues to grow – or recede – in the years to come.

Who should care about voice activation?

Voice activation is so new that a lot of its utility has yet to be defined.

At this stage voice activation isn’t ubiquitous enough that it makes sense for marketers to go “all-in” on voice.

Instead a best practice is probably this: Don’t think of voice activation as something you have to do.

Consider it as an opportunity to reach audiences in new and creative ways.

Where can you reach audiences using voice that previously wasn’t possible?

How can you better serve your customers using voice?

With these questions you can begin to articulate how voice marketing can help your organization.

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