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article imageQ&A: Why businesses should turn to brand voice apps Special

By Tim Sandle     Aug 29, 2018 in Business
Amazon’s Alexa business is projected to be worth $10 billion by 2020. Yet, with so many businesses rushing to adopt voice apps to keep up with the trend, many are missing the mark with brand voice.
This is the view of Tara Kelly, who is the CEO of SPLICE Software. Kelly refers to this rapid (but flawed) adoption as “blood in the streets.” Instead of crafting an Alexa skill to match the brand voice of the company, businesses are leaving it in the hands of the bot, creating a disconnect between the brand and the customer.
To find out what this approach means for businesses, Digital Journal spoke with Tara Kelly to gain an insight on how to implement an on-brand voice and messaging within voice-apps, to avoid further “bloodshed.”
Digital Journal: How important is digital transformation for businesses?
Tara Kelly: It’s becoming clear that digital transformation is critical to success for businesses in virtually any industry. Digital transformation represents a sea change because it’s not about using technology to support processes — it’s about using technology to fundamentally rethink the way products and services are delivered and how brands interact with customers. Companies that engage in digital transformation will be ready to meet customers where they are and on their own terms. Those that don’t will struggle to compete with their future-focused peers.
DJ: What part do chatbots and related apps play in this?
Kelly: Artificial intelligence in the form of chatbots, in-home personal assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home, etc., are already playing a significant role in digital transformation. The adoption rate of this technology is truly amazing — a report published earlier this year found that nearly 50 million adults in the U.S. have access to a smart speaker, which is comparable to the adoption rate of Facebook in its early days and much faster than the adoption rate of previous technologies like TV and the internet.
For businesses, this means the conversation is expanding to another platform, so it’s time to establish a presence so the business can carry on its dialog with customers. Additionally, if you have a chatbot that is active in the market today, you have already completed 80 percent of the effort required to deploy it as a voicebot, so why wait?
DJ: Why are many companies using voice apps?
Kelly: Companies are using voice apps because that’s where their customers are. The growth of available Alexa skills provides some indication of the shift to voice. In November 2016, there were a little more than 5,000 available. Now there are more than 30,000. And that’s for just one personal assistant platform. Google Home is also making a growing number of third-party apps available to users via Google Actions. Of course, not all of the skills in those totals are commercial voice apps created by companies, but many are, and it’s becoming more common to visit a major brand website and see a notice that voice-first assistance is available. The bottom line is, the use of voice apps is expanding exponentially.
DJ: How successful are companies at doing this?
Kelly: It’s helpful to think of it in the context of any other tectonic shift in technology — some companies adapt very quickly and gain a competitive advantage, while others struggle. That was true in the early days of the internet, when some companies realized the potential of the new medium right away and engaged designers and SEO experts to create sites that were easy to find and appealing to consumers, while others published a GeoCities page as an afterthought. There was a similar response to the mobile revolution; some companies embraced a mobile-first ethos while others still have old school websites that make smartphone readers scroll from side to side.
DJ: What do consumers think of voice apps, in general?
Kelly: The numbers tell us consumers are embracing voice apps. Like any new technology, there’s a learning curve. But according to a much-cited comScore prediction, by 2020, half of all searches will be conducted via voice rather than text. Voice searches are easier, and they are available virtually anywhere.
Another factor companies should be aware of is that voice interactions tend to yield more data — consumers use an average of three to five words for a voice search vs. one to three for text, and with voice, the search is more likely to be posed as a question rather than a keyword. That’s more data that AI-enabled voice apps can use to get smarter over time. And there’s evidence that voice searches are more intent-driven than text searches, so the stakes are higher.
DJ: How can voice apps be improved?
Kelly: Companies have an enormous opportunity right now to get in on the ground floor with voice apps and establish a unique presence. That means using the data they have on customers to provide relevant, compelling offers and deliver a great customer experience.
It also means taking control of the rich data generated by voice interactions to improve their overall marketing, sales and service efforts, i.e., integrating it into their CRM rather than allowing a third-party platform to control the data. Establishing a brand voice rather than allowing a third-party platform to read the brand’s content in a robotic voice is also a huge improvement.
DJ: What is ‘brand voice’?
Kelly: A brand voice is an element of the overall brand experience. It represents the company in the growing voice space, just as visual elements represent the company online or in marketing collateral. Successful brands spend a lot of time choosing the right logo and font and making sure their message is consistent across channels like the web, social media, print media and trade show presence. Voice is another channel, and brands will need to ensure their brand voice meets brand standards, connects with their audience, and is consistent with messaging on other channels.
DJ: What are the advantages of ‘brand voice’?
Kelly: The superpower of the brand voice is the inherent power of the human voice. It communicates emotion and conveys authenticity in a way that text and a robotic automated voice cannot match. But to create a brand voice that is effective, companies have to commit to using their data to its full potential, customizing the brand voice to their audience and continuously improving it. One great thing about AI-driven voice platforms is that the data they generate gives companies the power to improve interactions, which is a huge advantage for customers and the company.
DJ: How can ‘brand voice’ be made to work effectively?
Kelly: The first order of business is to take control of your brand voice. Alexa is a great brand voice for Amazon, but other companies need to establish a brand voice that works for their customers. Just as in any type of customer outreach, the key is to understand the audience. For example, companies that cater primarily to women may want to consider using a male voice to represent the brand since women tend to respond more positively to a male voice. Regional considerations are also important, with accents and speech patterns playing a role in communicating more effectively with specific audiences.
DJ: Will ‘brand voice’ be much bigger over the next few years?
Kelly: The rapid adoption of voice-first technologies suggests that having a brand voice will quickly become as essential as having a mobile-friendly web page is today. Not everyone will get it right — some companies will continue to allow a third-party to control their voice and data. But company leaders who embrace the possibilities of voice stand to gain a lasting advantage in the marketplace as they continue the conversation with customers on voice platforms and deliver a consistent experience across all channels.
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