Whether you like it or not, technology affects organizations disruptively, and this affects all aspects of your brand. The rise of 5G, AI / ML, the Internet of Things and VR / AR / MR enable brands to reach their target audience in new ways, but each innovation also brings its own challenges.
Similarly, the emergence of voice-controlled devices. What does the arrival of Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant mean for your marketing and perhaps even more important: your long-term brand strategy?
Focus on AI and voice-controlled devices
Computers can now lip read better than people. Consider the consequences of this. Devices with digital assistants such as Alexa, Cortana, and Siri now have the potential to listen to what we say next to 24/7. Since we started writing our book, there have been several successful devices on the market, such as Apple Home, Alexa, and Google Assistant. When Siri was launched for the first time in 2014, the technology was not yet optimal and at times even awkward, especially when Siri started talking to you out of nowhere. But like any technology, Siri, and other digital assistants have been improved and now voice control of devices is becoming increasingly important in our lives.
“The consumer no longer consciously chooses to buy your brand. The devices choose him or her. “
For a brand owner, the increase in voice-controlled devices can have significant consequences. The customer journey of every product or service that can be bought through this technology will radically change. Suppose your batteries or groceries are on, can your customers simply ask their device to order them for you? What consequences does this have for you as a brand owner? The consumer no longer consciously chooses to buy your brand. His devices choose him or her, probably based on previous purchases or preset preferences. This leads to fewer opportunities when it comes to competition between brands. As a brand owner, it is crucial to find new ways to express your brand in that customer journey.
My 4 recommendations for brand owners
But what exactly is the impact of voice-driven technology on the brand? And what do you as a brand owner have to do to be ready for these developments in the near future? Below are my thoughts about the consequences and a number of recommendations on how we, brand owners, should deal with this.
1. Assess how likely it is that voice control will have an impact on your products or services and their customer journey. Is it a danger or a chance?
If the probability is that voice control has an impact, it is time to take a close look at your customer journey and accept that you have to change things. Some of your major conversion and sales outlets are likely to disappear. I expect that only brands with a high (positive) brand awareness and preference will survive, all others will eventually disappear. Ultimately, branding will become even more important and the role of point-of-sale conversion will be a lot less. An interesting development is that Amazon has already launched more than 40 private label brands, this shows that the game has already begun.
“Only brands with a high (positive) brand awareness and preference will survive, all others will disappear.”
2. Identify whether it can be useful to develop your own brand voice
If having your own ‘brand voice’ can be an added value for your products or services, it is important to define the right voice for your brand. Use the values, characteristics, and goals of your brand to develop the right voice for your product or service. Keep in mind the style, tone and in which languages the voice should be developed, while also taking into account cultural differences.
Creating a brand voice (voice branding) is a completely new design challenge and finding the right party to develop your brand voice is essential. A traditional design or branding agency would be an obvious choice, but you could also opt for a digital or sound production agency. With the advent of voice control technology, I expect design desks to work hard to stay ahead of the trend, but I wonder if they will succeed at the international level. Most agencies still seem to be busy with the migration from print to screen, while the next big development – the brand voice – is already there.
3. Start by assessing and adjusting your SEO strategy
This is probably one of the biggest challenges. Only those who are able to appear at the top of the lists will survive. It looks like a ‘winner takes all’ game. Voice search is fast becoming a significant part of the total search volume online (it grew from 0 to 10% in 2016). Companies will have to adjust their organic and paid search strategy based on how consumers search online for information, products, and services.
“Voice search is fast becoming a significant part of the total search volume online.”
4. Focus on the right keywords and phrases and think about how consumers talk to devices
In theory, voice search works the same as typed search, but in reality, it is much more complex. It goes a lot further than just keywords, because you also have to understand the context and the meaning and the way people talk to their devices. We also look at the location of the user, previous searches, and preferences. On the basis of this, the search is answered with a customized, naturally sounding answer. This means that all content must contain important ‘natural’ sentences to emerge in voice search engines.
Do big tech companies change the rules of the game?
In recent years we have worked hard on understanding designs for websites and apps. This has led to more knowledge in the field of UX and UI, but all this knowledge is based on the use of a screen to interact with your target group. It is important now that we discover how voice-controlled technology works – and the race has begun. The big tech companies are already present in our homes, and their devices are becoming an increasingly larger part of our lives. How can brands make use of it and at the same time play along according to the ‘rules’ of the big tech companies to reach their intended consumers?
What does this mean?
There is no doubt that voice-controlled devices will change customer journeys drastically. As a brand owner, my advice would be to start mapping the possible impact of voice-controlled devices as quickly as possible. For some brand owners, it might even be too late. I expect that the following developments will take place:
- Branding becomes even more important in creating awareness influencing consumer preferences
- Less importance of point-of-sale conversion than before
- More focus on the delivery process, packaging and customer experience to create a memorable experience
Finally, I think that if my observations are correct, there is a promising future for both the well-burned products and services and the best-priced products and services. Every brand that falls outside of it will struggle to survive.
Apart from the major tech companies, I do not yet see many brand owners actively involved in voice and voice control. That is why I would like to hear your opinion on this subject. Leave your comment in the comments.