Which technological innovation could make the biggest difference to marketers’ lives in the next year?
Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post last year:
The last 10 years have been about building a world that is mobile-first, turning our phones into remote controls for our lives. But in the next 10 years, we will shift to a world that is AI-first, a world where computing becomes universally available — be it at home, at work, in the car, or on the go — and interacting with all of these surfaces becomes much more natural and intuitive, and above all, more intelligent.
Today, you can’t get away from voice recognition devices, whether it be Siri or Alexa. Lucky for you, there’s much evidence emerging to suggest that audio and voice recognition devices could become a marketer’s new best friend, finding the contexts where consumers are actively engaging in purchasing decisions.
Context is back in vogue
Context is nothing new, and brands have always been concerned about the company they keep. You only have to look at how luxury brands such as Gucci tightly control where they are seen, the partnerships they foster and how their message is conveyed.
In 2013, Robert Scoble and Shel Israel produced a book that proclaimed we are in the “Age of Context.”
I revisited their work recently to see how they assessed the capabilities of audio and voice-activated devices. Looking at their prophecies four years later, it’s remarkable how much has changed. Sure, the subjects of their subtitle — “Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy” — are as enticing today as they were back then — but what about their whole chapters on Google Glass, which was predicted to be the game-changer?
Spin forward four years, and Google Glass is no more and voice-activated devices are all the rage. Gartner is predicting 75 percent penetration in US households by 2020. The Radio Centre trade body in the UK has published extensive research that predicts the market will grow from 9 percent penetration in 2015 in UK households to 40 percent in 2018.
This is a global trend, growing as a marketing opportunity right before our eyes.
Getting vocal with audiences
For marketers, voice-activated devices present a fresh opportunity to communicate with audiences live, in the moment, contextually, when they are actively making product and brand choices.
The key to the adoption of this new technology is explained in Scoble and Israel’s book; unfortunately, they missed connecting the customer insights to voice-controlled devices. In the book, they discuss the value of “little data” in the era of big data. Little data is the lists and notes that many of us make when we’re about to do the weekly grocery shopping, the Post-it notes and the hastily prepared lists on scraps of paper. Access to these list provides live, in-the-moment insights into a customer’s future purchasing preferences.
Voice-controlled devices are a great source of little data. I ran a quick survey of all my colleagues with the Amazon Echo to find out if they use the device and what they liked about it.
I found that they are all using the devices more now than when they first got them. Of those surveyed, a minority were passionate about the vocal capabilities. Most were using them when cooking or when their hands were dirty.
Using your phone when you’re cooking is difficult — and not advised if you’re covered in oil from tinkering with your old motorcycle. Technology gets adopted when it replaces something and makes things easier, simpler or more entertaining.
Surprisingly, very few of my colleagues used their device to order things from Amazon. Some actively avoided it — one going so far as disabling the function, as they had ordered things by mistake in their sleep! My respondent neglected to say what exactly arrived in the post the next day, leaving much to the imagination.
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