The Next Disruption: Voice Tech and the Buyer Journey

The printing press changed the world. Then radio and TV did the same. Then the internet. Then mobile. You get the picture. Each of these innovations changed consumer behavior forever.

Voice technology is about to do the same.

Sure, there are skeptics who say we’re not as likely to buy things via voice alone. Right now, most voice technology lacks product comparison abilities. It also lacks reviews. It lacks easy browsing. It lacks so many other things that we think are key components of the buyer journey.

And, as in the past, many say voice technology is nice and all, but it won’t really change things because of its limitations.

However, that’s a very naïve point of view in my opinion. It assumes that voice tech will largely be confined to audio-only assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo, or Siri on our phones.

The reality is that these products were a first step on a very long road to making voice tech ubiquitous.

Soon (and very soon) voice tech will be the norm in our cars, TVs, radios and other IoT devices, and most will have multi-sensory inputs. These advances will more than overcome the UX challenges that voice-only devices have now. Moreover, they’ll add to the experience. They’ll make it richer and remove existing friction and UX barriers.

We’ll be able to order pizza after watching a commercial via simple voice commands to our TV. We’ll be able to buy movie tickets from our cars while we’re driving to the theater. From the comfort of our own homes, we’ll be able to ask our home assistant whether this tie matches this suit — and order a better one, if we want. And our voice commands will usher in machine-to-machine marketing, as algorithms will make buying decisions from other data sets and algorithms.

Just to get a sense of what’s coming, below are a few trends and stats that demonstrate the potential impact of voice technology:

  • Voice search is expected to pass traditional search queries within 3 years

  • 63 percent of American households will have a device like the Amazon Echo or Google Home by 2023

  • By then, it’s expected that Americans will speak rather than type more than half of their Google search queries, predicts Comscore

  • In 2019, the market for ads delivered in response to voice searches will be $12 billion

  • Today, spending via voice shopping is at $2 billion per year. By 2022, it’s expected to rise to $40 billion.

  • The tech industry is spending an estimated 10 percent of its annual research-and-development budget on voice innovation — over $5 billion combined

We’ve seen this before. This time, let’s be ready. Let’s be ahead of the game.

The first step is to understand what voice marketing is and how to approach creating a future-oriented strategy.

Voice is just content. But, it’ll usher in a new age of consumer discovery. It’s immediate and fleeting (at least right now). It’s a natural extension to what we’re doing with content already. It also has the advantage of being tied to an extraordinary amount of information. Think semantic search and the knowledge graph on steroids.

This means voice at its best it will have access to previous purchase behavior. It’ll have access to your digital behaviors (search, messaging, etc.). It’ll have access to your various networks (friends, families, work and more). It’ll have access to your demographics (geo, bio and current location). It’ll be partially powered by AI.

This represents a goldmine for marketers who approach it right. It also represents a huge potential to be annoying if brands and marketers use it the wrong way (which they will). Think retargeting, but 1000 times more powerful and irritating.

In summary, voice is about to disrupt marketing in a significant way, even if marketers don’t believe it yet.

We need to approach voice marketing in a humble, human-centered way. How can we educate, inspire, entertain and ultimately empower our customers? The targeting will be easy. The implementation will just be upping our content strategy and execution.

The hard part will be being disciplined, thoughtful and caring enough to actually build voice marketing strategies that aren’t about us or selling product, but rather about adding value to people’s lives. But that’s also the challenge we continue to struggle with today.

Written by Brian Easter on January 7, 2019


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