Why Brands in These 3 Categories Need to Prepare for the Voice Era

Insights for travel, finance and healthcare

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Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook are investing in AI-enhanced devices that provide answers when we ask questions. We’re at the beginning of a big year for voice-based marketing as these companies double down on these investments and brands experiment with new customer experiences powered by voice.

According to our recent survey of 1,000 consumers, 73 percent of people with voice assistants have made a purchase directly through a device, and 39 percent of them said an interaction with a voice assistant influenced a purchase decision. Further, 24 percent of people say they call businesses more often now that they own voice devices.

We also asked consumers about their experience with specific verticals where purchases are often complicated, customized and relatively high in price. For these “considered purchase” categories, like travel, healthcare and financial services, voice presents a particularly big opportunity. Consumers typically want to have a conversation after researching online, and are thus more likely to buy. In fact, these conversations collectively generate more than $1 trillion in the U.S. alone.

Here’s how the rise of voice will impact marketing and how marketers in considered purchase categories can evolve their strategies in 2018:

1. Travel

Airlines, hotels and car rental companies are all well-suited for the voice era, as consumers have for years used the phone to book their travel. Human connection is valued as customers cautiously ruminate over their pricing and itinerary options, and a voice-based interaction model falls right into travel marketers’ wheelhouse.

Fifty-eight percent of consumers in our survey have used voice assistants to research hotels, while 48 percent have used voice to check their flight status. What’s more, 48 percent have used voice assistants to buy a plane ticket or book a room. Therefore, travel brands must begin experimenting with voice AI to create programs that delight the modern traveler.

Travel decisions—such as booking flights and hotels and renting cars—are considered purchases that take time, and AI can help unearth insights to better target folks with more relevant voice interactions during their customer journeys. Specifically, voice assistants can seamlessly connect travel consumers to a live person on the phone at smart/logical points in their interaction, and the rep can pick up the conversation with more data about the customer than ever before.

2. Healthcare

The healthcare sector may lend itself to voice better than any other category because health is both highly personal and highly complex. In our research, we learned that 48 percent of people used their voice device to connect to a hospital or doctor, and 41 percent used it to ask about health plans or insurance. Additionally, 70 percent of smart speaker owners asked about symptoms they are experiencing, while 59 percent wanted information about health or diet tips.

It’s not just Amazon who can leverage voice to become a power player in healthcare (if it does get into the pharmacy business, as has been reported). Here are a few possible scenarios:

“Alexa, are there any side effects to Lipitor?”

“Hey Google, is there a highly-rated gastroenterologist near me?”

Healthcare marketers have an enormous opportunity with this emerging technology to educate patients, strengthen doctor-patient relationships with remote monitoring and provide senior citizens with a new, easier way to access their healthcare.

3. Financial services

Executives at Charles Schwab, Santander, Chase and their competitors, all of whom have invested heavily in the digital customer experience, should find the following stats of particular interest. In our survey, we learned that 70 percent of consumers used voice assistants to check a balance, 59 percent used voice assistants to pay a bill and 48 percent used voice assistants to track spending.

Financial services brands should consider taking a page of out Bank of America’s digital playbook. The company recently launched Erica, a voice assistant for its mobile app; meanwhile, its machine-learning-based system continuously scans users’ finances to optimize banking functions with the goal of saving customers money and encouraging smarter investments.

Brands will need voice-based strategies because the space is here to stay—the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Google will make sure of it. While the implications will be greatest for brands in certain verticals, marketers of all stripes need to pay attention to this important trend. By doing so they can reach new audiences, create better customer experiences and use data to develop smarter campaigns that result in more revenue.