Brand voice has long been a product of written copy, whether it be on websites, marketing materials or email newsletters. With the relatively recent advent of voice recognition tools like Amazon Echo and Google Home, however, brand voice is becoming decidedly more literal.
By 2019, the voice recognition market will be worth $601 million. And by the end of 2022, voice commerce will be a $40 billion industry, and 55 percent of American homes will include at least one smart speaker. Consumers are already integrating these devices into their everyday lives. During the 2017 holiday shopping period, 25 percent of shoppers utilized voice assistants, and 40 percent of adults use voice search every day.
Just as social media eliminated barriers between brands and consumers, voice recognition technology represents another watershed moment where brands can get closer to their target audiences than ever before. But the shift also presents a challenge: Without any visual clues to prompt consumers during discovery, brands may struggle to establish a voice that resonates—particularly if they’re tied to Google Home’s limited selection of four voices.
To meet the challenge, brands must step in to create their own voice to address consumers directly.
Most CMOs aren’t currently focused on brand voice as a strategic initiative, but voice is an avenue for increasing visibility and growing the brand, two key objectives of any CMO. Brands that want to remain relevant should invest in understanding the technical aspects of voice search as well as developing a holistic voice that encapsulates their brand, no matter the platform.
Here’s how to do both.
Keep an ear to the ground
Voice search is about convenience, so it stands to reason that brands hoping to use it well will anticipate customers’ needs. User-centric design will be necessary to stay competitive as smart speakers gain ground. To help discover how to put users first, focus on social listening.
Many of the tweets about your brand don’t include your handle, meaning you’re only seeing a portion of the conversations by default. Searching for these conversations will allow you to refine your keyword strategy and determine which search queries most often return results about your brand.
As you engage with your audience, keep track of how people react and what garners a positive response to gain a better understanding of how to treat individual comments.
Users aren’t going to learn a new language just to use voice search. They want to communicate naturally, which is not how people typically use text searches. Instead of speaking how they type (e.g., Thai restaurants, Chicago), they’re going to say, “Where are the closest Thai restaurants?”
Natural language queries make up 70 percent of queries received by Google Assistant, and voice searches are 30 times more likely to be action-based. Artificial intelligence tech, such as deep learning and natural language processing, offers brands unprecedented access to user habits and preferences—so use it. Leveraging AI to brand the conversation involves analyzing how you can transport your personality and values through a specific conversational style. Tone and wording are crucial in that endeavor.
Hear your audience out
Voice recognition technology is still maturing, but it comes with the promise of “decoding” user intent and understanding the words behind consumers’ searches. For instance, if a user asks Alexa to “search women’s Adidas UltraBOOST shoes,” is she looking for user reviews or is she ready to purchase?
Again, AI plays a key role here by augmenting basic search parameters and steeping them in key analytics. With AI’s help, brands can read contextual clues to refine their customer persona model by what stage of the buying journey someone is in. Armed with this information, brands will be better positioned to fine tune their voice in accordance with intent.
Voice is the future, and that shouldn’t be surprising: People can speak 150 words per minute compared to typing only 40, and speaking is a much more natural way for us to interact with our surroundings. As technology continues to advance, the CMOs who are prepared for this shift will be the ones whose brands win the biggest market share.