Over the past year there has been a tremendous amount of buzz revolving around voice-activated technology. From the largest tech companies’ products like Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, and Apple’s HomePod, to lesser-known third party Smart Speakers, the intrigue of allowing users to communicate directly with computers through natural speech is undoubtedly on the rise. But what is going to change as a result of these new voice-recognition devices? What is the value of voice tech as we move into the 2020s, and where are the opportunities to best use this new technology? Most importantly, how do we leverage this technology to reach our customers more seamlessly than ever before?
At Tango, we see two major pathways for voice technology to make a big impact, and they are definitely not mutually exclusive. The first and more obvious one we will discuss today, which is how voice will integrate into various technologies in order to reduce sales friction, thus increasing consumer purchases. The second major impact voice tech could have is through supplementary marketing. More specifically, consider all of the products out there with supplementary mobile applications – we believe the same will happen with voice, but we’ll discuss that further next time. In this article, we’ll elaborate on how voice technology has been integrated into hardware, and of course where it could lead to.
Today, the most common example of voice technology is Amazon’s Alexa, which not only appears in a variety of smart-speakers, but the technology is also available to the public through Amazon Web Services. This allows any developer with the know-how to integrate the power of Alexa into their own software or hardware. In fact, you can already see the integration of Alexa Voice Skills (AVS) into hardware across industries, such as Ford in the automobile industry where users can turn their cars on/off, lock and unlock the doors through the cloud, and play music from their favorite playlists.
Despite the novelty of this new technology however, Ford did not receive the best reviews partly because the utility is just not there yet, and also because people are still not comfortable operating that level of technology through voice. People are already ordering things by accident, can you imagine being able to start and stop your engine over the cloud by mistake? Pretty terrifying.
In spite of the general public’s hesitation to engage directly with computers through voice, there is still clearly some hype surrounding this technology, so where will it lead to?
I’m convinced that voice has the opportunity to spread into many different industries, however IoT, or “internet of things” is the first one that comes to mind. I believe that IoT is the most complementary example, which is essentially the connection of different parts of your house from appliances to furniture, to the internet. Combine this with E-commerce or “V-commerce” (voice commerce), and online-ordering will be entirely redefined.
Imagine your wifi-connected toothbrush keeping track of how often you brush your teeth, for how long and even the type of toothpaste you use. As you set your toothbrush down before going to bed – all of a sudden you hear a prompt. “You have used the same toothbrush for 3 months now and seem to be running low on toothpaste, would you like to reorder these items?” With a simple “Yes please,” response, there’s a new toothbrush and tube of toothpaste at your doorstep when you wake up the next morning.
Consider other household appliances that need to be replaced regularly, such as a lightbulb. There are already Hue Phillips lightbulbs that can connect to your Alexa device, but what if Alexa kept track of the energy remaining in those lightbulbs? When it reaches below 25%, Alexa asks you if you would like to purchase more of them. Another “Yes please,” and the credit card connected to your Amazon Prime profile purchases the bulbs for delivery within 24 hours. Lightbulb companies would kill to be that go-to, frictionless option. Maybe your voice assistant even notices that your bulbs weren’t connected properly, but do not fret, she can set an appointment for someone to come by and help you with that first thing in the morning – good thing your credit card is on file!
It may sound crazy, but if you are Colgate or Crest, Philips Hue or GE, fighting to be the toothbrush or lightbulb brand getting ordered as a result of that voice engagement is a massive sales opportunity that never existed in the past. This revised sales process completely eliminates much of the friction associated with online and mobile purchasing. This reduction of sales friction is where the true value of voice-integrated technology lies.
I only referenced a couple of examples, but apply that scenario to subscription products like razors, makeup, perishable food items – you name it. There will be robots who can talk to you, instantly have those items shipped to your house and even set an appointment up for you without doing anything beyond speaking. No more phone calls, no more quick runs to the store, not even more apps – who needs to look at another screen and tap when I can just say the word?
Perhaps that run to the convenience store won’t be so…convenient anymore? Next time we’ll dive into the supplementary marketing potential of voice technology and explore how businesses entirely outside of the tech industry can utilize this technology to promote and support their businesses more effectively.