How voice recognition is changing the game for content

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Hello, is anyone there?
By Darren Thackeray, contributor. 18 April, 2017
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With the introduction of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and OK Google, voice recognition is increasingly sophisticated and is already impacting how consumers interact with brands. We take a look at how.

If you’re doubtful about the popularity of voice recognition, it’s time to think again. Growth in this area is stronger than ever, with consumers in the UK and US leading the way. Research shows 55% of US teens use an utterance of “OK Google!” to find what they’re looking for at least once per day. Adults are lagging behind at 41% but that’s still a significant portion of the market dedicated to the idea of using voice commands.

It’s not confined to smartphones and tablets anymore either. Amazon Echo and Google Home can transform your living space into a voice recognition smart hub that, until recently, belonged exclusively to the realm of science fiction. Still not convinced? When Amazon Echo launched in early 2015, approximately 125,000 customers had ordered one. Jump ahead  to August 2016, and that figure skyrocketed to over 5.2 million. The appetite for voice recognition is strong among consumers, and brands are starting to realise it.

When Amazon Echo launched in early 2015, approximately 125,000 customers had ordered one. Jump ahead to August 2016, and that figure skyrocketed to over 5.2 million

Staying visible in a voice activated world

Let’s go back to voice search for a moment. When you say, “OK, Google!” and ask for a product or service, you don’t see a tidy list of search results to choose from. That would defeat the purpose. Instead, the ‘choosing’ is taken care of for you. You also won’t see the price or brand of what you’re ordering unless you make a conscious effort to find out. That’s the trade-off we’re seeing on a grand scale - convenience instead of choice.

What’s more, consumers are less likely to use brand names when searching by voice. You don’t ask Alexa to find you a Starbucks, you ask it to locate your nearest coffee shop. This presents brands with the unique challenge of staying visible in an invisible world. Like making television commercials work on the radio, content marketing strategies are going to need tweaking. To compete, brands need to embrace voice recognition and use it to improve their services. For a start, SEO needs to be tweaked. According to media monitoring and measurement agency, Glean.info, "incorporating keywords in natural language has become more important. Rather than writing “content marketing trends,” a user might ask, “What are the 2016 top content marketing trends?” Content formatted to mimic natural language questions that users ask will rise to the top of search results, experts predict."

Embracing voice recognition

Voice recognition is unique. Instead of tapping, swiping and poking your way from A to B, consumers can now feel a sense of agency and action. Giving consumers this feeling will make them feel good, and if they feel good they’re more likely to stick with a brand.

Online banking is the perfect example. For it to work, it needs to be accessible and easy, but also secure and reassuring. Most visitors to banking sites have an extremely short click path that sees them logging in, checking their account and leaving. It’s simple and happens regularly, making it ripe for voice recognition technology. Many brands, including Australian telcos Vodafone and iiNet, are already using voice recognition as a security check for people to gain access to their accounts, but some banks are taking it one step further.

Capital One recently announced integrating its accounts with a number of Amazon devices, allowing account holders to access accounts more seamlessly using voice technology. Transfers, bill payments and account checks can all be carried out using Amazon technology.

It’s an interesting partnership which will likely pave the way for more relationships like it in the future. It’s also an example of a brand changing the way it markets and delivers a core service to keep customers interested. Voice recognition does pose a challenge for content marketers, but where there’s a challenge there’s also an opportunity.

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A graduate of York University and the London School of Journalism, Darren has spent the last decade working with some of the world's biggest marketing agencies. Having had his fill of office life, he now works as a freelance copywriter from his home in Hertfordshire, UK, for big and small brands alike. Hobbies include gaming, jogging and canal side walks with his faithful Jack Russell, Eddie.