What you need to know about voice-based marketing

We investigate why search marketing is still finding its voice and how voice-based customer engagement is evolving

When Google first demonstrated its Duplex service in mid-2018, it stunned the world by making relatively complex bookings over the telephone using a system that sounded very close to how a human might sound.

It also breathed new interest into a technology that has become both increasingly prevalent in consumer devices, and an increasing source of frustration – the voice-based user interface.

The launch of Apple’s voice-based assistant, Siri, in 2011 spawned a revolution that now sees similar technology embedded in almost every smartphone. While the installed base for smart speakers such as those connecting to Amazon Alexa or Google Home is expected to reach 100 million globally this year.

And yet the technology remains stubbornly unsophisticated in its application, being able to only respond to basic requests in a limited subset of services.

So, is voice poised to revolution human-to-machine communication or become the latest in a long line of technologies whose promise exceeded its capabilities?

Getting into voice early

It is a question some marketers have begun to ask for themselves. Many were present for the local launch of the Amazon Alexa service in early 2018, including Village Entertainment, which offers voice-based services via Alexa enabling customers to enquire about movie sessions, locations and other information and then receive a link to their phones to make a booking.

“We intuitively see voice playing a bigger role going forward with our service offering widening,” says Village Entertainment general manager for marketing and sales, Mohit Bhargava. “From fully voice-enabled ticketing services, where guests can make a transaction with us using voice, through to other applications such as customer service in venue. Our focus and investment in voice will evolve in line with overall market penetration of voice technologies.”

Chief marketing officer at Finder.com.au, Malini Sietaram, also believes integrating voice search into the customer experience is an absolute must for marketers who want to make a meaningful connection with their audience.

“There’s a big opportunity for marketers to monetise through voice search and to tap into localised or ‘near me’ searches, like if a customer is trying to find their nearest retailer, gym or supermarket,” Sietaram tells CMO. “According to Google, these localised searches are skyrocketing in volume and I definitely think this will be an exciting space for marketers to play.”

In January 2019, the company will launch its Finder assistant, which will connect users with the content and financial products they’re searching for and enable partners to quickly tap into voice.

There is certainly a strong potential audience of Australians waiting to tap into voice services. Along with smartphone penetration, Telsyte estimates 3 million Australian households will have a smart speaker by 2022, equating to 30 per cent household penetration.

And as a channel, it has some interesting attributes that could make it increasingly attractive to brands. A recent study by Publicis Media demonstrated a significant memory effect and heightened physiological responses when interacting with smart speakers. The study found voice delivered nearly twice the unaided brand recall of with television and on par with native mobile. Voice also stood out as one of the best experiences compared to TV and native mobile, having been found to be more engaging, fun, helpful, useful, informative and less boring.

But for most Australian brands, it remains a peripheral issue.

“It is till something on the periphery even though there is much higher prevalence of access to voice platforms,” says principal consultant at software consulting firm ThoughtWorks, Ian Kelsall. “It is identified as an add-on at the end, and not necessarily considered deeply.”

ThoughtWorks is, however, working with several clients to explore the long-term prospects for voice and where it might provide a contextual benefit, including US-based Sonic Restaurants.

“On the way to the drive-through, is voice an appropriate place to perform that interaction of making your order ahead of you getting there?” Kelsall asks.

He suspects the reason for tepid enthusiasm is that to date the reality of voice interaction has rarely matched the excitement of the demonstrations.

“One of the challenges of voice is when a user asks a question there isn’t a lot of context for that voice AI to draw on unless the consumer is being specific about their question,” Kelsall says. “Most voice interfaces at the moment, although they are framed as a conversational UI, are not really conversations - you ask for something and it tells you an answer.”

Up next: The implications for search, plus the back-end capability required to succeed

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

Conversations over a cuppa with CMO: Jeremy Nicholas, Telstra CMO

​The current global COVID-19 pandemic is resulting in unprecedented disruption to every aspect of our lives as marketing and brand professionals, from the ways we work, to how our organisations operate, and the way in which we acquire and engage customers. So we’ve drawn on our wonderful CMO50 alumni community to explore different aspects of the crisis facing all of us right now. In our first episode, we catch up with Telstra chief marketing officer, Jeremy Nicholas, on how he's helping the telco navigate the crisis and meet customer demand.

More Videos

Why these voice assistants are so popular nowadays? Maybe I should get one too? I am really curious.

Jill Kim

Aussie brands jump on voice-interaction bandwagon following Amazon Alexa's local launch

Read more

Your page is very helpful. Thank you for sharing with us

Eriona Ajvazi

10 brands making a positive difference to a world in crisis

Read more

Extremely insightful and well written. Thanks for the great article!

Nicole Brodie Nahum

Why COVID-19 makes it more important than ever to move at the speed of the consumer

Read more

Blockchain is one of the fastest growing technology in today's digital era. Industries like banking and finance are already using blockch...

Aniket Singh

Can blockchain deliver on its big advertising promises?

Read more

Great article Emma. So many gems in there. Awesome to have you in the team!

One Small Step Collective

Why COVID-19 makes it more important than ever to move at the speed of the consumer

Read more

Blog Posts

The gear change required for business during COVID-19

The current world pandemic, COVID-19, and its tragic effects has created different and challenging situations for nearly every business. Every business sector is affected differently, depending on the nature of what your place in the world, creating the most unique situation most of us have ever and will ever experience during our professional lives.

Katja Forbes

Managing director of Designit, Australia and New Zealand

How can organisations debias their decisions?

​People whose personal details and experiences signal they come from racially diverse backgrounds are less likely than anglo or Caucasian candidates to make it through the first cut in recruitment processes. Even if the organisation says it values diversity.

Dr Karen Morley

Author, commentator

Is your marketing team adapting quickly enough to the COVID-19 crisis?

The impact of coronavirus is far reaching with the true impact on the economy and businesses is unknown. While there are a few categories and brands experiencing growth, for the most part the crisis is wreaking havoc for large and small operators across many sectors including entertainment, tourism, retail, fitness, services and the list goes on.

Teresa Sperti

Founder, Arktic Fox

Sign in