How critical will voice technology be in the future of marketing? Just ask Alexa

28 April 2020 5 min read
Written by

Adam Tuckwell

The field of digital marketing continually evolves. As new technologies emerge, marketers must learn and adapt. But what makes digital marketing so challenging is that not every trend or technology will break through, meaning marketers need to take time to weigh up new platforms and technologies before taking the plunge. To some, voice technology seems poised to become the next great disruptor. Here Adam Tuckwell, Mobas’ Commercial Director, looks at whether now is the time for marketers to speak up and embrace voice technology. 

I’ve just asked Alexa to add Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to my Sainsbury’s shop like it’s the most natural thing in the world. A few spoken commands issued while simultaneously feeding the kids, loading the dishwasher and trying to focus on an email – and Amazon’s voice technology does its stuff. 

Voice assistants are everywhere. Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri from Apple: it appears every major technology firm is racing to own a share of the market. But while voice marketing continues to be championed as the next big thing, many marketers have yet to embrace the potential that voice technology might offer their businesses. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. 

Just when you think you’ve got the measure on the latest marketing channels, something new pops up and makes you question everything. With myriad tactics to choose from, marketing can be a complicated place to operate. 

Voice has a higher barrier to entry than other digital channels. Sure, if you sell voice-activated lightbulbs or can integrate voice commands into your home security systems, investing in voice technology will seem like a safe bet. But what about everyone else? Should markets continue to sit on the side-lines or is 2020 the year to look again at integrating voice into the marketing mix? 

The main driver for this growth is the vast number of new technology products launching with some form of integration with Alexa or Google Home. When Amazon launched Alexa six years ago, people questioned the security and privacy risks of having a device listening to them 24/7. Jump forward to 2020: most people are happy to use technology for hands-free tasks, like finding local businesses, making reservations, sending and receiving short messages, and adding items to their shopping lists with little concern for their privacy, as convenience outweighs their concerns.  

There are many great examples of businesses who are getting creative with their voice strategies. 
•    Domino’s allows pizza-lovers to order from the comfort of their couch without having to pick up the phone or even place an online order
•    PayPal users can engage Siri to send money to friends, family or businesses
•    Yale security allows users to enable or disarm their property by issuing a voice command
•    Campbell’s has a skill that helps hungry consumers to choose and cook recipes

By providing timesaving skills or informative content at the point of need, businesses can develop skills that will help raise brand loyalty and engagement.

But there are plenty of arguments against too. And in many cases, these will be insurmountable. The technology is still in its infancy – relatively speaking. Tracking metrics and demonstrating ROI can be challenging, and while the audience is growing, it’s skewed to a younger demographic – with users most likely to be 35 or younger. That said, the rate of adoption and trust placed in the technology means that the rate of growth is unlikely to wane. 

There are key traits shared by businesses who are using voice technology successfully. They all have a target market likely to engage and adopt voice technology. They have developed skills that are genuinely useful and informative. And critically, they will be used time and time again. 

If your business, service or offering doesn’t share these traits, then voice technology should join the long line of shiny trinkets you leave on the shelf next to those VR headsets you once thought would be the next big thing.

Its time may well come but, unless you have a compelling reason to invest based on your proposition, audience and offering, I’d stick to ordering your ice cream and asking Alexa how many days there are till Christmas – for now at least.