Greg Hedges, RAIN
Finding a Voice in the ‘Age of Ask’
“If you want something, just ask for it.” A time-agnostic adage — simple conversation to deliver that which we want or need. The power and ease of using the most human of our interfaces, our voices, to connect with someone, or something else.
That innate ability we have as humans to communicate via voice has struggled in being fully realized as we’ve integrated technology (see the early days of Apple’s Siri), but over the last few years with the launch and excitement around Amazon’s Alexa platform, the introduction of Google Home and new players like Samsung’s Viv, we’ve seen incredible advances in the usability, usefulness, adoption and credibility of technology-driven voice experiences. These new services have ushered us to the precipice of a powerful inflection point — a place where advances in speech recognition, language processing and machine learning converge to make tech-driven conversational experiences more human.
Welcome to the Age of Ask.
What this new era signals is a dynamic shift in how we access information. The advances over the last several years in the quality of voice recognition and the associated rise in demand and access has led to the proliferation and spread of voice technologies — specifically digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa. In my lifetime alone, I’ve gone from using the Dewey Decimal System to comb through libraries of information, to relying on Google to satisfy my queries, to now engaging with voice-driven experiences to get my daily coffee Kix, hear the weather, receive updates on my bank account and order my home to react to my every whim.
These advances have thrown consumers and brands into a new era of conversation — impactful, bottom-line affecting experiences that are poised to become a pivotal part of the marketing ecosystem.
So, what can brands do to tap into this river of potential? Here’s why they should care about voice right now, and how can they prepare themselves for a new age in conversing with their consumers.
Why Brands Need to Care About Voice
While some brands have devoted resources to establishing a presence on platforms like Amazon’s Alexa, there are still many brands considering if there is any “reason” to get into voice at all. Rest assured, Voice is not a passing fad. It’s a complete shift in how brands are going to connect with their consumers. Why should brands care? The better question is, what is going to happen to the brands that don’t?
We’ve seen this before. Players slow moving on ever-evolving platforms that were soon eclipsed out of relevancy. Anyone remember Nokia? Or heard the zombie walk of Blackberry?
Stay Ahead of The Evolutionary Curve
This is not unprecedented territory for brands. When social media hit, there were those sitting on the sidelines and those that acted early. However, if a brand were asked today if they had a social strategy, they’d likely be able to point you to the person or agency that covers that for them, and the analytics they use to measure its efficacy.
They understand the impact of social on their bottom line.
It’s not that far a stretch, then, to make a “Conversational Experience strategy” imperative. The data shows that Conversational UI isn’t going anywhere, it’s just getting started – and with revenue impact in the billions, it’s more important than ever to address it head on.
What’s our conversational strategy? As part of that, what’s our strategy for Voice? These are questions that need to be addressed within the cubicles and boardrooms at every brand. Those ready with an answer will not only be ahead of those slow to move, they’ll be positioning for the Age of Ask — revolutionizing how consumers Kind and interact with their brand, while tapping into a revenue stream with game-changing implications.
Consumers are going to be trained to ask their voice digital assistants to help them curate their lives, becoming a primary access point to information and the world of commerce around them…ask and you shall receive.
About the author:
Greg Hedges, RAIN’s Director of Strategy, sits at the crossroads of creative, technology and strategy helping RAIN’s clients address their business challenges and needs. Hedges has spent the past 17 years shaping, designing and developing interactive experiences for clients of all shapes and sizes. He also spent time teaching graphic design at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.