Voice technology is the latest trend revolutionizing consumer behavior. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “the human voice is the organ of the soul”. Today, voice is becoming a vital part of the marketing process that every small business needs to survive and thrive. So, what exactly is voice technology and how can a small business leverage it?
The most common applications of voice technology that we see are home assist devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home’s Assistant and the systems of our smart phone devices. Industry experts predict that in 2021 almost 50% of US based internet users will use voice devices to conduct a voice search. Will these users be able to find your business?
Over the coming years that number will continue to grow as voice technology becomes a part of our automobile and smart appliance experience wherever we go. This means that the way people have searched online for products and services the last 20 years is rapidly changing. Businesses must now make it a priority to be found on voice search devices in addition to regular search engines.
This also places even more importance on a business’ brand to be “top of mind” with their end consumers. With voice search you do not have the luxury of someone searching for your category or competitor and you showing up on the page as a similar search result. The voice assistant will only serve the top choice and ask you if you want to call it directly.
Try it for yourself, I just asked my Alexa to call a pizza place for delivery. There are five pizza places within about a mile of my home. But Alexa did not list them off to me, she said she “found Pizza Hut on West 6th Street, would you like me to call it now?” If one of those four pizza places is not “top of mind” they won’t even be considered by the consumer using a voice search. I’ll just say “Yes” to Alexa and be ordering a pizza in less time than it would take me to search the category, visit websites, read reviews, look at menus, etc. Speed wins. Those four pizza places she didn’t give me need to build their brand recognition and get me to say their name first when I want a pizza. I need to ask Alexa specifically to order me a pizza from them and not just search generally for a pizza place. I cannot overstate the importance of this change in search. It’s likely already costing you money without your knowledge.
Voice technology is not only massively disrupting the way we search and purchase products and services. It is also changing the way we communicate and market. I’m sure you are all aware of the massive growth in podcasting over the last five or so years. This medium has exploded because it allows the audience to engage with content easily, passively, on the go, and on their own time. Also, during this time, Content Marketing has emerged as a more effective mechanism for marketing than traditional interruption marketing. Podcasting is an incredible platform for small businesses to engage their audience through content marketing by providing value-based content on a consistent basis in an easily digestible format.
One new emerging platform has caught our attention, and that is the new social media app called Clubhouse. It’s an all-audio format app that lets users connect with each other through live, interactive, town-hall style discussions in rooms and clubs on the platform. Although the app is still in beta and invite-only on IOS, it has garnered over 10 million users with the longest average screen time usage of any app in the history of the Apple app store. It is currently valued at $1 Billion. Tech giants like Facebook and Twitter are already scrambling to launch similar voice only apps as well. It is becoming clear that the voice technology revolution is only just beginning and will continue to cause massive disruption in the marketplace.
The last thing I’ll mention in regard to voice is that applications are currently being built on top of the home device platforms such as Alexa and Google Assistant. There are already almost 80,000 “Alexa skills” that have been developed. Several of these applications are designed to make small businesses more efficient and streamline communications. There is also an entire marketplace to explore and develop your own Alexa skills for internal use or to offer to customers. Every small business should be examining how they can utilize these emerging voice applications.
Finding your voice has never been more important in regards to your small business.