“Alexa, what is content off the screen?” Moving from a Mobile-first to an AI-first World

12 October 2018

Content is no longer confined to being onscreen. We’re now seeing explosive growth in voice interfaces—moving us toward a post-mobile world with voice-controlled devices. Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are impressive examples of this hot technology trend.

While we can still get answers by typing into a search box, voice is proving to be a more powerful tool. Voice-activated assistants are helping us write, shop, find answers, and provide suggestions. And they can even (quite literally) save our lives—as evidenced in how the American Heart Association is taking advantage of voice-activated services to help reduce delays in medical care response for heart attack and stroke patients.

Think voice search won’t impact your business? Think again. The adoption of this new connected lifestyle with smart home technology and device pairing is making it possible for B2B and B2C brands to interact with their customers both hands-free and eyes-free.

According to estimates by Voicebot.ai last October 2017, Amazon has sold more than 20 million Alexa devices. Steve Rabuchin, VP of Amazon Alexa, was quoted as saying, “Our vision is that customers will be able to access Alexa whenever and wherever they want. That means customers may be able to talk to their cars, refrigerators, thermostats, lamps, and all kinds of devices in and outside their homes.”

In this new frontier of branded marketing, marketers are asking themselves, “How can we ensure a presence on voice assistants and drive outcomes at scale?” Here are a few considerations marketers will need to keep in mind to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into their content efforts.

Getting Started with AI
With the advance of AI, innovative decision makers are beginning to investigate developing their own voice AI integration plan. As with any emerging technology, there are obstacles to overcome, but business supply chains and device support sites are making it easier to start with step-by-step tutorials and marketing and branding guidelines to build these AI-anchored apps. A couple of industry leader examples include Amazon and Microsoft, who are forming a close partnership focused on cross-platform integration of these digital assistants.

Connect with your Audience
With this growing battle for space on the kitchen counter and a world where ad-blocking has become a significant issue, marketers need to understand voice AI mechanisms and how voice-activated companions are driving a host of new behaviors. Too often, marketers don’t spend enough time trying to understand their audience and if the content will resonate with the interests of the target market. Make sure you understand your consumers—their intent, interests, and interactions—so that you can provide the best customer experience.

The Voice Strategy
In a voice-response environment, consider how consumers will pose their questions. You’ll need to think beyond scripts and how to convey your message with a natural form of conversational language and dialogue. Examine the touch points your customers have with your business and deliver memorable answers and effective language that will attract listeners to generate a response. This includes investing in quality human voices (not robots), music, and other sound effects that enhance the listening experience. Without product visuals to entice the listener, you need to set the stage through language. Audio marketing needs to work harder to build the story and emphasize brand messaging that can be aurally conveyed and promote continued interactions.

Windows of Opportunity
Deliver the right messages to the right customers at the right time along the decision journey. Keep your branded content anchored in delivering value that helps educate and empower customers. Provide expert tips and support with practical information to help them make decisions. Structure your content to ensure that the voice engine recognizes and understands the content’s context and meaning.

Don’t Forget Video
The release of Amazon Echo Show and Amazon Echo Lookdemonstrates how quickly this platform is evolving the customer experience. Marketers have yet another content avenue to explore: voice-enabled video and cameras. So, before you go all-in on developing just audio content, consider visual display, cloud-based voice servicing, and text response to complement the voice experience.

Incorporate a Call-to Action (CTA)
Voice purchasing is still in its early stages, but as the trend grows, brands will need to revise their omnichannel approach to accommodate this new touchpoint. An example of incorporating a CTA is Tide's app, Stain Remover, which doles out advice for more than 200 types of stains. You’ll get step-by-step instructions, product recommendations, and the ability to purchase. Other companies are also offering ways for you to obtain additional answers by visiting their website, sending an email or text, or following their social media channels.

The Rise of the AI-world vs. Westworld
If you’ve watched HBO’s Westworld series (or almost any science fiction movie, where robots overpower humans), you can see that the “machines” are quick learners. The hosts (or personal assistants) are extremely human-like but don’t feel exactly like we do. However, they are capable of understanding our emotions, reacting to expressive cues, solving our problems, and personalizing responses. One interaction between Bernard and Dolores demonstrates that science fiction can imitate real life, with the statement: “You're growing and learning so quickly. I'm frightened of what you might become — what path you might take.” Of course, there is nothing to fear on this course to this new AI-first world (yet), except to be left behind on this journey.