Voice assistants have been part of life since Apple introduced Siri on the iPhone. From there, Amazon gave us Amazon Echo and Alexa smart speakers followed by Google Assistant. There is also Samsung Bixby and Microsoft Cortana.
Voice assistants are the cloud services that receive voice commands from smart speakers and other devices, turn speech to text, interpret the resulting language, detect the intent of the command, and use “skills” to determine and execute appropriate actions; either through the smart speakers, or through actions of other devices in the home that are connected to the Internet.
According to eMarketer, 2019 saw 111.8 million people in the US using voice assistants at least once a month. With so many people expressing an obvious interest in them, voice assistants provide an opportunity for marketers to better reach, engage, and understand customers and prospects.
Generate personal conversations
Voice assistants are a chance for marketers to begin conversations in a much more personalized way than ever before. Users generally share exactly what they want and what they are thinking with voice assistants. Thus, the channel allows marketers to answer back with what they need and then continue reaching out for a personalized customer experience.
Reach multiple users at once
Voice assistants give marketers access to multiple users in a single household. These consumers all make unique purchase decisions because they have their own brand preferences, product interests, and music playlists. Marketers can achieve greater results through one voice assistant, as it is a hub to collect more insights and sell through one segmented campaign.
Go beyond the usual devices
Another advantage is that voice assistants are becoming more popular outside of our homes and cell phones. They are popping up in our cars, in smart TVs, wearable devices, fitness equipment and home appliances. These provide new opportunities to reach even more targets as well as provide additional value for existing customers.
Drive new purchases
Through voice assistants, marketers can reach customers at a point in the shopping journey where they are ready to buy. To entice customers that have used their voice assistants to ask about a particular product or service, marketers can deliver promotional campaigns like instant digital coupons. Instead of having to locate coupon codes, the discount ready for the customer to redeem, potentially pushing the customer to complete the purchase.
All new fitness experience
The smart integration of Alexa and Google Home lets you talk to your machines making your workouts even smarter. Use voice commands or simply chat, experience the whole new AI-enabled workouts that have changed the way we all look at workouts.
Cultural biases in tech aren’t just limited to facial recognition — they crop up in voice assistants as well. The studies show that Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant aren’t as accurate in understanding people with strong accents, no matter how fluent their English may be. People with Indian accents are at a relatively mild disadvantage in one study, but the overall accuracy went down by at least 2.6 percent for those with Chinese accents, and by as much as 4.2 percent for Spanish accents. The gap was particularly acute in media playback, where a Spanish accent might net a 79.9 accuracy rate versus 91.8 percent from an Eastern US accent.
Problems with accents and voice recognition are far from new — they’re the stuff of comedy routines. And it’s important to stress that the tests didn’t cover a full range of accents, or other assistants like Siri, Bixby and Cortana. The formal studies help quantify the problem with accents, though, and also suggest that a lack of diversity is a serious problem in voice assistant testing. That drop in accuracy for pronounced accents could effectively rule out smart speakers and other voice-aware devices for many people whose only ‘mistake’ was not growing up in the States (or even a particular region of the States). If voice assistants are going to become ubiquitous, they can’t just account for different languages — they have to account for different backgrounds.
Data security concerns
Although consumers are using voice assistants more often, there is still great concern over the data these devices collect and the companies behind the apps on those devices. Consumers are wary of how the data is stored, who looks at it, and what happens to that information. Marketers will have to address those data and privacy concerns, or they will not get access to these prospects and their information.
Another disadvantage is that voice assistants as a channel provide less enriching interactions than other platforms. The options are voice content only, which typically involves repurposing existing content, versus visual interactions. This may diminish some of the more meaningful engagements that marketers can have elsewhere.