A PK Perspective: Conversational Voice Interfaces
“Hey Siri, how will voice search change my life?”
The proliferation of voice-activated devices has brought voice recognition technology into millions of homes. One in six people in the U.S. owned a smart speaker in early 2018 – representing 128 percent year-over-year growth — to say nothing of voice search on smartphones, computers and other connected devices.
The conversational voice interface refers to any user interface that can receive and respond to verbal communication — just like talking with a real person. Anyone who asks their smartphone for driving directions, uses voice search to find a restaurant or tells their smart speaker to play a song has already embraced the voice-search interface.
These kinds of voice-activated activities are just the beginning. The shift from keystroke to voice search will have significant impact on business across industries. Following are emerging trends in conversational voice interface — and how companies can position themselves to take advantage of this sea change.
A faster, cheaper way to go to market
A traditional Graphical User Interface (GUI) is expensive to create and maintain. Bypassing the visual element of a program saves time and money, creating opportunity for startups and other projects that don’t have large development resources.
Consider the go-to-market strategy of Digit, an early innovator in the fintech space. The simple app, designed to help customers build savings by transferring small amounts of money, was launched without a GUI. While Digit’s leaders certainly dedicated some spend to development, here’s the rest of their app budget:
- Visual design: $0
- Front-end development: $0
- App store revenue sharing $0
- All the other typical costs of launching a mobile app: $0
Additionally, as Cooper Journal points out, Digit can instantly make changes or push new versions. Testing is also quick and uncomplicated.
A new mobile experience
Industry watchers project that within the next two years, 50 percent of all web searches will be voice. In fact, 30 percent of all searches will be done without any screen at all, according to the technology research and advisory firm Gartner.
Digital marketers have been anticipating voice search through website optimization for several years already, but the impact of conversational voice interface should be a consideration for other departments as well. A voice-first strategy affects product development, financial models and product integration, just to name a few.
Take the example of a simple, frequent e-commerce voice search: “Alexa, order more laundry detergent.” The consumer may have brand loyalty toward a particular brand of laundry detergent that is built on years of engagement with the brand, but the conversational voice interface — Alexa, in this instance — does not. The brand that Alexa chooses for the consumer is likely the result of an algorithm that considers the variables of price, purchase history, advertising incentives and product integration, among others.
Companies must consider how voice search will change their customers’ journey — and ensure that their processes support that new journey, even in unfamiliar territory.
A more human experience
Humans aren’t hardwired to click around on a screen. Even swiping a touchscreen is an experience that is dictated by the GUI; type a search term that is formatted differently than the UI or misunderstand an icon, and the user experience is severely impacted. Medium.com sums it up with the following: “Voice UIs allow us to remain fully human in our interactions.”
Customer service is one business area that has seen a lot of focus in automation, and there’s significant opportunity for improved conversational voice interface. It’s relatively inexpensive, available 24/7 and will soon be able to take proactive measures.
In addition, for users who are visually, mobility or cognitively impaired, or otherwise unable to adapt to traditional computing environments, a conversational voice interface offers a new, person-first engagement opportunity.
The conversational voice interface is still nascent, but due to device proliferation and the rapid pace of consumer adoption, the field offers significant business development opportunities.
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