One vertical that has been able to integrate voice into customer service in a meaningful way is retail. National retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and REI Co-op have created skills or teamed up with technology providers to connect with customers through voice-controlled assistants. Some retailers are accepting orders via voice, and others are doling out product information and reviews. What the most successful of these companies have in common is a defined strategy and plans to measure ROI.
It’s important that companies can see who their customers are and what transactions are associated with each customer via voice assistants. This sort of knowledge is necessary for brands to make the channel a valuable part of an overarching loyalty strategy.
Given that voice is currently owned by just a few select companies, it’s important for brands to figure out how they will leverage voice differently from company to company or device to device. Will retail brands keep the same strategy with Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, or will they find unique ways to take advantage of these platforms across differences?
The trend of moving customer experience beyond the screen has been dubbed “conversational customer care.” It’s still unclear just how many channels are included under this umbrella or how the future of conversational customer care will look. Brands that are dealing with demanding customers can’t afford to sit back and wait for this to play out. Screen-free customer experiences could be the future. They could be just a single touchpoint in the broader context of customer experience strategy. Or, they could just be a passing fad.
But the chances that voice-first customer experiences are a fad seem to be shrinking.
Restaurant chains like Wingstop, Domino’s, Panera, and Round Table have created their own skills to make it easier for people to place orders through voice assistants like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home. But before voice ordering can truly disrupt the restaurant industry, restaurants have to find ways to reduce the friction and eliminate the kinds of errors that lead to the wrong orders being delivered.
Here’s how some of the country’s top restaurant chains are overcoming the challenges associated with voice ordering and developing more frictionless customer experiences.
The dawn of the clickless world might raise alarms for B2Bs companies, and that’s fair. This trend will likely pose a challenge for companies that rely heavily on Google for new business leads — especially small businesses that generate a majority of leads from search traffic.
However, the clickless world also presents an opportunity for B2B brands to streamline their online presence. In this new ecosystem, B2B brands can generate awareness and encourage customers to contact their business even before a customer actually sees their website.
Conversational AI is a broad term used to describe technologies that automate conversations and personalize customer experiences. With the right systems in place, brands are able to understand, process, and actually respond to voice inputs in a natural way. While voice assistants, chatbots, and messaging services like WhatsApp, Kik, and Facebook Messenger can all be harnessed in a conversational AI strategy, virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are the most popular tools adopted by brand marketers today.
Fueled by the growth of mobile and set to rocket even further north in coming years thanks to voice, unbranded searches like “burgers near me” or “Thai food” are growing as fast as 113% year over year, according to a fresh study by multi-location marketing firm MomentFeed. Unbranded search grew about 30% from 2016 to ’17 and 56% the following year before doubling pace in 2018-19, suggesting the slope of this trend’s adoption could get even steeper in coming years.
Within the hospitality industry, a growing number of hotels are using voice technology to improve personalization with experiences like virtual concierges. Virtual concierges use voice technology to personalize a guest’s stay by offering experiences based on past behavior. For example, virtual concierges can adjust thermostats or place room service orders based on a traveler’s previous preferences. When hotels and other hospitality brands take action based on the insights gathered about guests through their loyalty programs, they improve the overall guest experience.
But brands in a number of industries are exploring loyalty use cases for voice.
Spending on wearables is predicted to hit $52 billion this year, according to forecasts from the research firm Gartner, and spending on smartwatches specifically is expected to increase by 24%. Smartwatches represent the merging of physical and virtual worlds, and they provide marketers with a direct line for reaching consumers.
Here are five examples of how tech-savvy brands can put smartwatches to work and develop better strategies to take full advantage of the new opportunities that exist for reaching consumers through these wearable devices.
Consumer touchpoints continue to fragment and atomize, disrupting conventional approaches to media and tech. Drivers of this trend include devices from smart speakers to cars. Accordingly, as we roll into February, the Street Fight editorial team is thinking outside the box — that is, beyond the rectangles that frame our typical screen interfaces.
We will provide deep coverage of emerging technologies including voice search, visual search, augmented reality, and 5G. How are tech providers innovating with these modalities? How are users adopting them? And how are local marketers tackling the opportunity?
Partnerships between retailers and tech platforms will provide increasingly important benefits for local discovery as voice becomes a more established search channel. In the age of voice-driven local search, consumers looking for products and services will become accustomed to having only one option surfaced (as Assistant is unlikely to rattle off five choices), which means being a consumer’s first option will be paramount for brick-and-mortars.
Voice is not only booming as a search tool but also seems to be cannibalizing search volume from the medium that last revolutionized the practice of digital discovery: mobile. That’s the headline from Stone Temple Consulting’s third annual survey of consumers regarding their use of voice-enabled devices.
Mike Boland: A recent and relatively understated development from Google could portend the future of augmented reality. Its previously teased “VPS” was released into the wild for a small set of users. For those unfamiliar, VPS (visual positioning service) guides users with 3D overlays on upheld smartphone screens. Sort of a cousin of AR, this type of experience could represent the sector’s eventual killer apps. Though we’ve seen the most AR success so far in gaming (Pokemon Go) and social (Snapchat AR lenses), it could be more mundane utilities like navigation that engender high-frequency use cases.
Forty-eight percent of marketers surveyed by Uberall said they trust the e-commerce giant over its competition when it comes to marketing applications of voice technology in these early days of the medium. Google Assistant had the vote of 29% of the market, with Apple’s Siri scoring a surprisingly high 17% given the widespread consensus that voice is really a two-way race at the moment.
Several Superbowl ads touched on key themes in local such as multi-location brand advertisers (Burger King) and locally relevant technology like voice search (Amazon Alexa). And of course, there were lots of car commercials—an inherently local product category given the offline shopping component.
Consumer demand for voice technology has never been greater, and industry heavyweights like Google and Amazon are gearing up for a platform war as they work to integrate voice assistants into virtually every area of the connected consumer’s life. But behind the scenes, many brand marketers are struggling to connect the dots and design campaigns around a technology they don’t fully understand.
Last week, location technology company Foursquare announced its new Pinpoint audience segments product. Building from its large corpus of data on places, spatial movements and behavioral patterns, Pinpoint represents the latest in Foursquare’s evolution as the “location layer,” for the internet. We got the chance to sit down with Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck in San Francisco to find out more. Here is the full interview.
For brand marketers, addressing the expansion of local search into voice and visual contexts is really a matter of digging in and getting more involved with rich local context that appears to grow more expansive by the day. Google alone has introduced a vast array of opportunities for business to differentiate themselves from the competition, including photos, videos, 360° virtual tours, business descriptions, menus, Posts, reviews, and several other features.
We’ve been hearing a lot about “retailpocolypse,” which raises the question of what 2019 has in store for retail (excuse the pun). This question threaded the many topics we batted around with Perch Interactive CEO Trevor Sumner on the latest episode of Street Fight’s Heard on the Street podcast.
Mike Boland: Any entity competing for local commerce—publishers, brands, ad-tech players—has a looming platform choice for voice. Like the platform wars between iOS and Android, it’s a matter of deciding where to apply finite resources and development muscle. Maybe the answer is “both” Google and Amazon. But for now, Google appears to have the lead.