From Voice Wars to re:MARS: Exploring How Brands Find Value in Voice

How can brands use voice to strengthen customer engagement, improve the service experience and increase revenues? That’s a question I explore with clients on a daily basis. It’s a subject I addressed in the recent Voice Wars article in PM Network magazine. And it’s the topic of a breakout session I’m leading on June 6th at re:MARS in Las Vegas.

There’s no question that investment in voice is growing and evolving rapidly. As the PM Network article noted, the number of Alexa skills surpassed 50,000 last fall – doubling the number available at the beginning of 2018. By January 31, 2019, Amazon had announced 80,000 Alexa skills worldwide.

The quantity is massive – and growing. But how many of those skills are useful and interesting? How many are truly connecting with consumers and delivering measurable return on brands’ investments?

The truth is, not many. I believe the reason is akin to what happened in the early days of mobile apps – when many brands simply took their online sites and tried to turn them into mobile apps. For some, such as news sites, the approach worked. But for most, the resulting apps came up short in delivering the intended value. What was missing: a fuller rethink and redesign of what it means to be using a phone vs. sitting at a desk.

Like mobile apps, voice merits strategic thinking about how and where it should be deployed. Brands need to get serious about why customers and users would really use voice. In other words, if they’re in a place where they have a choice to use mobile or voice, what would compel them to use voice? And what type of voice experience makes the most sense – voice first or voice plus? A voice first experience should work in a “headless” device – that is, it works well without any screens. A voice plus approach incorporates a screen to complement or enrich a voice first experience.

Answering those questions requires cross-functional collaboration and strong reliance on data. IT and operations have the tooling and knowhow to examine existing channels and gather data on customer/user engagement patterns. Marketing and business stakeholders need to work with IT to gather deeper insights into when and why users interact with digital channels. Those insights will yield the essential understanding of where users engage with the brand, what else they’re doing at the same time – and how voice could enhance moments that matter.

Creating sought-after voice experiences doesn’t happen through guesswork. It takes a strategic commitment, effective collaboration and data-driven evidence to design and continually improve these experiences. If you’ll be at re:MARS, join me for the breakout session, From Turkeys to Movie Tickets: Increase Customer Reach, Self-service and Commerce with Amazon Alexa. I’ll be sharing real-world stories about two brands that have made the investment and begun to unleash the value in voice.