CMO Momentum panel: Get on the front foot of voice or miss out

CMO Momentum panel discussion

Brands that don’t get on the front foot with a voice strategy will be missing out on a significant share of the market.

This was the view of general manager marketing and sales at Village Entertainment, Mohit Bhargava; global business director of voice experience agency Versa, Guy Munro; and chief customer officer of hipages, Stuart Tucker, who were guests on a panel at CMO Momentum on the ‘potentials and pitfalls of voice’.

Both Bhargava and Tucker have implemented voice in Village and hipages respectively, and Munro has worked with numerous clients on their voice deployment.

Bhargava said Village is working on the Amazon Alexa platform and users can request session times, cross pollinate and compare cinema locations. The UX has evolved to the point where a customer who decides to see a particular film, will be sent a link via Amazon Alexa to their mobile device so they can purchase a ticket.

With the impact these voice devices have aready had in the US, it's crucial Australian brands assume this behaviour will cross over, he said.

“We have to assume much of that behaviour will transpire into Australia; entertainment behaviours certainly do carry over. Voice is real and it’s happening now," Bhargava said. "The share of the retail wallet and how much is going to voice is growing. In fact, ComScore said 50 per cent of all searches will be undertaken by voice by 2020, and in the US this is already at 10 per cent.”

Munro saw a massive opportunity for brands to get at the forefront of voice in Australia.

“Versa is centred around creating experience for brand when it comes to voice, looking at what the challenges are within a business and marketing context, what user cases might look like, working with technology, and what platform might best suit a user case, developing those solutions and getting them to market, generally in a rapid timeframe,” he explained.

“There is a massive opportunity for brands to get at the forefront of this. We have the luxury of being able to identify what those trends are coming out of the US, so it makes a lot of sense for brands to leap in and get involved. Not having it on your roadmap is a real opportunity lost. We can see voice eclipsing app uptake from a consumer perspective, as well as from a brand perspective.”

Tucker said voice was crucial for hipages, as its mission is to transform the tradie/client relationship from mutual endurance to effortless efficiency.

“It was logical for us to partner with Amazon six months ago and launch a skill for customers to be able to run a search and connect with a tradie through their Alexa device,” he said.

“Most humans can speak about 150 words per minute and maybe type 40, so when it comes down to functionality, there’s an inevitability about voice. We must look at security identification, however, if we really want to embed this in people’s lives.

“It was a bit of a punt for us, and we’re getting a handful of jobs per week out of it, but we’re trying to learn from it, because we want to know if that customer is a different type of customer. But we also had to change our product design, make sure the flows were OK, and pre-empt where consumers were going to go. It got our engineering and product design people really excited and it wasn’t too difficult to do, which was good.”

The pitfalls

There are, of course, challenges around implementing such a new technology, and each panellist had recommendations around this for brands to consider.

“The biggest issue is readiness,” Munro said. “You can have the appetite and interest, but the business may not be there. Where does the ownership lie in the business for voice? Where does the budget come from? Readiness is critical.

“It’s tricky to articulate what your brand should sound like, also. What is your brand personality? Some of the things we’ve worked on include behavioural hooks from a mnemonics point of view. There’s ways you can add brand flavouring or tonality to give your brand a voice. Consider this first:  if your brand did have a voice, what would it say?”

Bhargava agreed, saying before implementing voice, Village had to define the tone of its brand as well as the purpose of being in voice, and how to deliver on that.

"We’ve not historically delved into AI, so we didn’t know what our brand needed to sound like and what language we should use, or what the personality of the brand was," he said. "In voice, there are no visual cues, and we’re a visual business, so that was a real learning for us. There is also no such thing as linear voice design, there’s 50 ways to say hello, people can refer to the same thing in different ways.

“One of the things that was paramount for us was, what is the purpose of this? That helped us to define the tone it needed, and the delivery experience. In our business, voice is a sales channel with a service tonality. It is really about user-initiated interested and how do we service that query and softly lead to a sale. That was thepurpose we established, and that informed the user design. But we wanted to be in market with NVP and test and learn, and our intention is to carry our online transactions into voice.”

Key to ask before implementing voice is where you actually want AI to play out in your business, Tucker continued.

“You have to decide what you’re prepared to let go of, what you’re OK with AI handling, and where you want a human to jump in. That’s the biggest challenge, what to let go of, versus finding those moments of truth where you don’t want the customer to self-serve. And then giving customers a ripcord where they can jump out of one into the other. I think that’s the key, and then you can decide what voice looks like,” he said.

One of the biggest topics up for discussion is where voice will leave traditional SEO search and paid searches.

“It’s a profound change, if you think about visual paid and organic search, if it presents as a voice search, what is presented exactly? Is it the death of SEO? How many options do you get? It is one or three?" Tucker asked. "Search is the biggest consideration, in my view, and Google is holding the strings. Does it only present one option and charge the three times the price?”

Bhargava positioned voice as the new battleground, and said there’s good reason why Amazon and Google are aggressively trying to take market share.

In terms of tips for brands considering getting into voice, Munro said it must come back to use case.

“How can your brand best work with consumers to provide the best experience? There’s a lot of investment in brand and how they can make themselves useful to the consumer, and there’s a lot you can pull across to voice. Create a point of difference, and front foot that experience, be first to market and do it really well. Voice doesn’t have to do absolutely everything, pick a few simple things first, make it a great experience, and add to it.”

Bhargava advised starting small and just getting in market. “These technologies mature, and this is an environment where you can come in an own a category - this is greenfield," he said.

"Once you have an active user base you can grow sideways and out to new user experiences as well. A lot of opportunities exist; you just need to start small.

“It’s very similar to apps in terms of the data that’s coming out. But you do have to offer a utilitarian benefit to the consumer. If it’s just a gimmick, it will fade, the repeat use you get only comes through providing some value."

Munro agreed much like mobile and apps, you must provide utility.

“The brands that earned the right to live on the front screen on your phone are the ones that provide utility. And those are the types of use cases that will be validated and supported by voice as well,” he added.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu   

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