Insight Author
Patricia Herrero
Senior UX and Product Designer

Voice assistants: your customers are ready. Are you?

Don’t be left behind. Reach your customers through a new conversational voice

May 4, 2018
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In 2017 we started to see a shift towards voice interfaces —  as we pointed out in our Top Tech Trends review. Voice assistant devices, such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, are finally creeping into the mainstream as more people get them into their homes, and as their capabilities improve.

Voice assistants adoption is coming on strong —  they are on their way to becoming the new normal. “Nearly one in five US adults today have access to a smart speaker”, according to new research from Voicebot.ai. The President from PullString, a computer conversation company, also participated in the study and pointed out:

“With nearly 20% of American adults already adopting these platforms, organizations without a voice strategy are already being left behind”.

Voice assistants are increasingly going to be introduced into your consumers lives and your  brand needs to meet them where they are. You don’t want your brand to be left behind from the fastest growing technology platform.

Voice assistants can be integrated into our everyday

They can be integrated with products we use daily to help us get tasks done in a more convenient, hands-free way. We can already use our home assistants to add items to our shopping list while our hands are full, set a timer while we cook or get them to play our favourite tunes. They save us time so we can focus on something else. And this is only a start: their potential can be huge.

From left to right: Google Home, Amazon Echos and Apple’s HomePod

Voice devices are spreading fast

Amazon’s  ‘Alexa’ got a head start in the home assistants race with their first Echo device in 2014. 2016 saw the launch of Google Home, powered by the Google Assistant. Currently, Alexa is leading the way but given that Google owns the global search market, it surely won’t take them long to catch up.

So far, Google Assistant is spreading fast: it is now available on more than 400 million devices. It doesn’t only live in Google Home but on Android phones and tablets, iPhones, iPads, TVs and smart-watches. We can even find it in cars.

Alexa works through ‘skills’, while Google Home does it through ‘actions’. These are essentially ‘voice apps’ which enable voice assistants to connect to other devices or software to perform certain tasks. They come with a set of built-in capabilities, which could be added to with external services such as the ones your business could provide. 

Last to join the race has been Apple’s HomePod, whose smart-speaker just arrived to our homes this February. So far, Apple’s attempt might be more focused in sound quality and music recommendations than other more generic voice assistance tasks. Our first impressions are that the HomePod is still limited in ‘smart’ capabilities compared to Alexa or Google Home. 

From a developer perspective, we currently can do a lot more with Siri on iPhone than we can for the HomePod so we’ll have to wait and see. Who knows, we could see a similar growth coming from Apple as what we saw from Google Home in 2017. 

Not to forget about Microsoft’s attempt: Cortana, a digital assistant has largely limited to Windows 10 PCs, after originally launching on Windows Phones back in 2014.

Voice is more than a helpful feature

Gartner predicts that 30 percent of our interactions with technology in 2018 will happen through voice conversations

Voice interfaces are more than a helpful feature: they are the platform on which ‘actions’ will be performed.

Just as cars were more than carriages without horses, screen-less computers have the potential to be more useful and powerful than we can imagine.

It’s no surprise that Amazon, Google and Apple are heavily investing in voice. These are interesting times ahead for digital marketing.

Let’s get started — think how will your customers engage with your business through voice

Forward-thinking brands are already embracing voice technology, making voice skills a key element of their marketing strategy. It’s time to start planning for a future where voice will be a key part of how you engage with your customers. Start thinking about how to reach your audience on this new platform by asking yourself simple questions: 

How could my customers interact with my brand through voice? What could they ask my product? How can I improve their experience?

You can get started on this very easily. There is a good exercise we’d recommend to start putting yourself into this mindset:

Take a voice assistant of your choice, put it in the middle of the room and start asking questions. Assign a person to be the voice of the interface and a second person to represent your customers. 

Imagine that Google Home or Amazon Echo are the interface for your product, and all interactions are voice interactions. Don’t just assume that your customer is navigating your product with their voice, consider what could they ask you.

Role-playing voice interactions with Google Home at Marino Software

By performing this exercise, you will quickly realise that your current static content might not be good enough. Your consumers are going to interact with your brand in a conversational manner, and since it’s a two-way exchange, your content will need to be adapted to it.

Of course, this exercise is only a start. Getting in touch with real customers and further research on their needs will help you not to focus on assumptions but on their real needs.

It’s time for Irish brands to get up to speed with voice

Amazon just launched their Alexa’s Echo range in the Irish market this January. Voice-activated apps are increasing, but at the moment there is a limited range of Irish specific Alexa’s skills and Google’s actions

We will soon start to see the true impact and potential of optimised apps for Irish brands. 

In fact, we recently saw the launch of the RTÉ News and the Irish Radio Player’s skills, which allows Irish users to listen to their favourite local radio stations and get ‘flash briefings’ with the daily news. Or you can also check the weather with the Met Eireann’s RTÉ Weather.

RTÉ integration in Amazon’s Alexa

Paddy Power and Ryanair also got a head start building voice skills to complement their current offering. Paddy Power’s ‘skill’ offers you quirky daily sports updates and betting tips, as part of their morning briefing. Paddy Power’s Stephen McMeel said:

“Apple’s Siri has been around for more than five years — but people are generally too self-conscious to stroll around in public while barking orders into their smartphone. But Amazon is betting that people will feel more liberated using devices within the comfort of their own homes — where strangers and neighbours can’t witness”.

Ryanair’s ‘skill’ allows you check your flights status, routes, price information and accommodation options. Possibilities are endless.

Getting a head start exploring voice interactions

At Marino Software, we are very excited about designing and building voice interfaces that integrate with Google Home and Amazon Echo and wanted to get a head start. 

We got started with some explorations and so far it’s been fascinating to experiment with this new means of interaction. 

‍Kevin kindly volunteering to test our Marino assistant bot

Our Marino Software bot is still in testing mode but we hope you can soon get to know more about all things Marino and get in touch just by using your voice. The potential is huge and we are sure voice interactions are only going to keep growing. 

Think about it, what is more natural than using your voice to get information and quickly perform tasks?

Is your business ready for this shift?

We understand voice technology is still in its infancy and both brands and consumers are still figuring out how to use it in their daily lives.

We want to make sure that when your customers fall in love with their voice assistant, you’re there to offer them a great experience with your brand.

We would love to work with you to bring this experience to life. 

Talk to us.

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