While it’s no surprise that voice continues to grow (just over one in five American households now has a smart speaker, according to eMarketer), brands are still figuring out the implications of the platform. That’s why Publicis Media conducted a study on “The Rise of Voice,” which attempts to help marketers wrap their head around the emerging tech.
“There has been a great deal of research shared about basic usage stats for voice, but we wanted to go deeper into the user experience and understand true human implications for marketers,” said Vanessa Evans, svp, director of analytics and insight at Publicis Media.
The company spent four months with 70 “highly engaged” voice assistant users in the U.S. and U.K. The company conducted biometrics on 152 U.S. participants, comparing the body response of voice experiences with visual ones to quantify brand impact. The study also analyzed more than 20,000 online reviews of smart speakers.
A catch-22 situation
The “Rise of Voice” study found that voice experiences boosted unaided recall twice as much as TV—similar to native mobile, which the study attributes to the hands-free aspect of the platform leading to an increase in “the value of contextual information about brands by stimulating a real-time connection that heightens relevance and memory.”
On the other hand, voice users have a very low awareness of brands skills and services, so Publicis Media suggests brands develop “discovery strategies to raise awareness” of the skills they offer.
Users are also wary about interacting with brands via smart speakers, due to both the newness of the platform and privacy concerns. At the same time, users want personalized experiences from their smart speaker devices.
“There’s an interesting parallel behind our research where smart speakers have the potential to provide a powerful uplift in brand recall … and thus a massive opportunity for marketers,” Evans said.
On the other hand, users are “bracing for a brand invasion and are skeptical about how brands might insert themselves in what has become a very personal and intimate device,” Evans added. It’s sort of a catch-22 situation, she explained: Users want “highly customized experiences” from voice, but they’re also “reluctant to share information that would enable deeper personalization.”
Voice’s biggest potential: family routine
Families appear to be the platform’s largest demographic of early adopters—and its greatest champions. Voice platforms create shared experiences and make daily routines more manageable and enjoyable. According to the study, voice experiences “are extending a parent’s potential and reach by streamlining the problem-solving process, enabling them to be more responsive and effective in answering the complex demands of children.”
As such, Publicis Media says parents should be “a priority audience for voice as needs and product benefits align perfectly.”
“When it comes to smart speakers, it’s families and parents who are driving early adoption and influencing the tech,” Evans said. “Our research has pointed to the importance of leveraging voice to create new family glue, find moments of togetherness and supercharge their routines.”
It’s not surprising, then, that the most popular smart speaker functions are those easily integrated into users’ daily routines. The study cites Amazon’s Alexa specifically as supplanting TV, smartphones and radio as a go-to source for news, weather, traffic information and calendar updates.
The flip-side of this is that many users don’t stray outside their routine. While they’re aware that there are smart speaker capabilities that they aren’t utilizing, they’re uninterested in devoting the time to discovering them, according to the report. Publicis Media recommends ensuring easy set-up and discovery while prioritizing experiences that easily integrate into or enhance users’ daily routines.
Shopping with a smart speaker
Voice commerce is among the voice applications still in its infancy. While more users are beginning to try ordering via voice, “lack of visual confirmation, high potential for mis-ordering and inability to easily compare prices and availability are key barriers” to more widespread adoption.
While the Echo Show mitigates some of these issues, it still leaves a lot to be desired.
“The truth is that shopping with a smart speaker—even with a screen—is currently not a better way to shop compared to mobile or a computer,” the study concludes.
As a result, “Voice commerce for the foreseeable future will continue to dominate the in-the-moment reordering space until it becomes more established.” In other words, “the importance of branding will never matter more as the voice shelf automatically becomes reduced to what you already know and love.”