Voice Technology

I challenge you to think back to how quickly mobile technology exploded. Companies that invested in mobile before it became mainstream got a huge jump on their competitors. If someone told you that a new technology would be exploding within the next nine months, is that something that you’d quickly invest in to get an edge on your competition? 

I recently interviewed Scott Westwater, a voice strategy expert and lead strategist for Pragmatic Digital to learn more about where we are in relation to voice technology and how digital marketers can use it effectively in their marketing strategies. 

Westwater predicts that 75% of Americans will have a voice device in their homes sometime by the end of 2020. 


Voice Technology- What do We Know About it?


During my conversation with Westwater, I learned that there’s a lot of interest in voice technology, but there aren’t a lot of practitioners out there on it and not a lot of information is forthcoming just yet. In fact, there aren’t even very many conferences available on it so far. To date, Amazon and Google are holding onto a lot of the information on voice technology and they’re not sharing it or selling it. 


How Does Voice Technology Work?


The lack of information about voice technology has left a lot of digital marketers scratching their heads to figure out how to include voice technology as part of their digital marketing strategies. Of course, the primary question is, “How can we use content to direct voice traffic to websites?”


The answer to that question lies in understanding four points:


  1. How to ask a question using the internet.
  2. The types of answers the internet will deliver to you.
  3. How to ask a voice device a question.
  4. How voice technology delivers the answer to your question. 


For example, let’s say you wanted to know more about how voice technology can assist seniors. If you were asking the question on the internet, you might type “voice technology seniors” or a similar phrase into an internet search box. What will the world wide web find for you? The internet will scrub the web for content and it will then pull up numerous pages of blog articles on how voice technology impacts the lives of seniors. You can then scroll down and select an article that will answer your specific question. 


If you were seeking information on the same topic using a voice device, rather than pick a few words, you’d put your request in the form of a question such as, “Siri (or Alexa), how can voice technology assist seniors?”  The device would answer you in a few complete sentences. 


Where would the content from the voice activation come from? According to Westwater, voice technology generally pulls it up from sites like Wikipedia, Yelp, or rich snippets. If your company isn’t in a place where Google or Alexa can find you and connect you to the kinds of questions that voice-activated users are asking, you’re off the radar completely.


voice search

How Can Digital Marketers Tap into Voice Technology?


Westwater was able to walk me through a strategy to get a website back into the radar range. 


The simple answer is that you need to provide relevant answers to the industry around your product. Before you get to that step, you need to take the time to do some research. Do a deep dive around social media and Quora to find out what consumers really want to know about your product or service. Try to find out how your product or service can be of use or help to consumers. 


Don’t just write down the ways your product is useful, say it out loud. Your spoken answers will sound different than your written answers. Then, take your answers and actively promote them using all your channels. 


The next step is to work on analysis and promotion. Are you asking the right questions? Can you improve your questions to steer them toward the answers they need? Did you miss anything? Start small and then scale your efforts. At this point, you’ll have a basis for adding in e-Commerce strategies. 


How Can Marketers Channel Their Content to Siri and Alexa?


With some valuable insight from Westwater, I was able to discover the magic behind marketing to voice technology. Think of it as a three-step process:


  1. Determine what your business objectives are.
  2. Find out what questions people are asking about your product or service and create a matrix of those questions.
  3. Use an app to build a voice experience.  


At this point, it should be fairly easy to see where your business objectives overlap with the answers your customers are looking for. You would then go through a development process to record the audio files using your own voice or the voice of a voice actor. Alternatively, you could invest in a custom development program. Next, you upload your audio files into Siri or Alexa’s platform, and it will push your content when someone asks about it using their voice. 


Sounds great! Right? Then, it occurred to me that this could be really expensive. I asked Westwater if this was something that only large, highly prosperous brands would be able to afford. I was pleasantly surprised by his answer. He said that it’s actually quite affordable for any size business especially when you consider the amazing return on investment. 


Westwater provided the example of how large banking institutions rely on call centers for customer service. The reality is that somewhere between 30 to 50 questions that customers ask are probably the same, which means that a voice assistant or chatbot could probably answer them in short order. Westwater explained, “…if that results in a 1% reduction, that’s like $200 million back in their pocket.” 


Consider these statistics:


  • Right now, between 80 to 130 million people already have voice technology in their homes.
  • The holiday season will add another 20 to 30 million people with voice technology.
  • That will make about 40% of Americans with voice technology in their homes.
  • The numbers are sure to increase rapidly in 2020. 


Let’s take a deeper look at how voice technology works in practice.


What Does the Future Hold for Voice Technology and Healthcare?


When I mentioned that I was very interested in the benefits of voice technology for the healthcare, senior care, and the disability industries, Westwater became quite excited. He foresees that voice technology will soon revolutionize disease prevention and education. 


At some point, voice technology could advance to a point where it could record a patient or senior’s symptoms and put them together over time in a way that offers an early diagnosis. Having the benefit of earlier detection will certainly lead to improved health outcomes. 


Physicians, as trusted sources of medical information, could also educate their patients by recording answers to common questions about diseases and their symptoms. Patients develop trust in the technology because the information gets delivered in a voice they recognize and trust. 


Why Is Voice Technology a Valuable Tool in the Senior Care Space?


When we think of the needs of seniors, it’s easy to connect the dots on how voice technology could be a game-changer in the quality of life for them. 


Many seniors have had trouble learning how to use all the bells and whistles on their cell phones. As a result, they don’t use their cell phones as much as they could. However, most seniors are able to speak. Voice-activated responses can help seniors with:


  • Socialization and connection
  • Medical care
  • Memory care
  • Safety 
  • Convenience 


Many seniors struggle with loneliness and isolation. Voice technology can keep them company by playing their favorite music, reading an enjoyable book, connecting them with family or even telling them a joke. 


Voice technology can remind them to take their medication or get some exercise. Seniors that have poor finger dexterity or poor eyesight merely need to speak their request to make a phone call or complete a task. They can tell Siri or Alexa where they put their keys and then ask the device where they put them later on if they forget. A senior could tell a voice device when they need to pay a bill and get a reminder. 


They can also use voice devices to call out for help, much like a medical alert system. From the standpoint of convenience, they can ask what the senior care facility’s activities are for the day or what is on the menu without having to look it up or find their reading glasses. If they have both hands on their walker, they can ask their voice device to turn up the temperature or turn down the volume on the music without moving their hands from the walker. The possibilities for how voice can help seniors are as numerous as they are valuable. 


Some Final Thoughts on Voice Technology


Voice technology is developing and evolving as we speak. It’s entering the mainstream at a rapid pace. The methodology behind using marketing content for the internet is vastly different than strategies for marketing content for voice technology. Digital marketers will have to learn how to incorporate voice technology into their digital marketing strategies. 


The full impact that voice technology will have in the near future is yet to be seen. What we know for certain is that voice technology will soon revolutionize the way that we work, live, and play.