The future of voice is already here

Southeast Asian Businesses must be prepared for the age of voice-first everything.

Would you buy a product or service from a company you have not heard of but was recommended by your voice-based personal assistant? Well, 46% of consumers in Southeast Asia recently surveyed said they would.

Moreover, millennials (49%) and Gen X (46%) consumers in the region are even more open to entrusting purchase decisions with their voice assistants. Every time these interfaces fulfil our needs efficiently and effectively, they take a further step in strengthening their relationship with us. It’s no wonder that voice-based shopping is expected to balloon from $2 billion in retail sales today, to $40 billion by 2022.

With the avalanche of wealth management chatbots, personal digital assistants, and voice-enabled smart devices, working with conversational AI interfaces will mean more than improving customer convenience — this will mean survival for brands. In particular, companies will need to adopt the following actions to survive and thrive in the age of voice-first everything.

Rethink the digital infrastructure for voice.

Manybusinesses believe that their existing digital infrastructure will work just fine for voice. Remember how many companies were caught off guard by the mobile shopping boom? They believed their original websites would work just fine in response to a smartphone query. By belatedly optimising their sites for mobile platforms, they risked losing a segment of their loyal customers.

Similarly, businesses will need to optimise their digital assets for voice search. According to a recent study, 58% of consumers have used voice search to find local business information in the last 12 months, while 46% of voice search users search for a local business on a daily basis.

Find your new customer experience voice before your competitors do.

A voice search strategy isn’t just for ensuring your customers can find you ― it’s about creating a unique and optimised customer experience that will foster relationships and build brand loyalty.Nearly 62% of Southeast Asian consumers surveyed connect with brands that help them save time and money, making their life incrementally easier and more enjoyable.

Voice technology can make interactions with brands more natural and seamless, which is exactly what consumers want. Voice-based assistants are always on the lookout for functionalities that impart their intelligence (such as Alexa Skills, Google Actions). Learn from brands that are already doing this successfully.

OCBC Bank, for example, has enabled voice-based commands for its mobile customers to check their bank account and credit card details, and make e-payments via Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant. The bank has further integrated an artificial intelligence-powered and voice command-driven virtual assistance with its mobile app. Developed and trained over more than a year, the app even understands Singlish, colloquial Singaporean English! As voice technology continues to grow, brand visibility will depend on voice assistants.

Create content that resonates with voice assistants.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for brands is how to get their content on the tip of voice-based personal assistants’ tongues. Humans use different language and phrases when conducting voice versus text searches; businesses need to fine-tune content that a voice algorithm can understand.

A good starting point is to ensure your website is optimised for voice. Collect feedback from sales, marketing and customer service teams on the kind of conversations they have with customers; prepare a comprehensive list of phrases and questions and sprinkle them throughout the website to gain the attention of smart assistants. 

Soon, voice interfaces will be embedded in many other consumer goods, from TVs to cars. These voice-based algorithms will create a walled garden around customers that will be impervious to businesses that don’t adjust their brand strategies for voice to blend smoothly into consumers’ lives. The future of voice is already here, and brands need a voice strategy to up their customer experience game.