By Vixen Labs / September 24, 2021 / VCI
As revealed by our Voice Consumer Index 2021, 91% of voice consumers are already using voice search via a website, mobile app, or smart speaker. So, how can we as marketers use voice tech as a tool to better serve our audience and improve customer experience?
Episode 1

Listen to Talking Shop Episode 1

Listen to Episode 1 of Talking Shop: Making Voice Work for Marketers right here. Talking Shop is a brand new podcast series from Vixen Labs, taking you through the core findings and insights from the Voice Consumer Index 2021.

In this first episode of the 8-part series, Jon Stine, Chief Exec of the Open Voice Network, along with Scot and Susan Westwater, CCO and CEO of Pragmatic Digital, are joined by Vixen Labs CEO James Poulter, to discuss exactly how marketers can use voice tech as a tool to better serve our audience and improve customer experience.

 

Or read the transcript

James Poulter  00:00

Hello and welcome to the first episode of a new podcast from Vixen Labs, the Talking Shop Podcast, the making voice work for marketers show, that is what we’re all about here, making voice something that you can utilise in your day to day, whether you’re a marketing practitioner, working in r&d, technology, or innovation. This is where we’re going to help you get stuck into using voice. And when we say voice, we mean voice across the board, smart speakers, on mobile and on the web. 

James Poulter  00:25

And in this first series, one of the big things we’re going to be doing is unpacking the data that we have just finished compiling for something that we’ve just launched here at Vixen, in partnership with the Open Voice Network, which is called the Voice Consumer Index 2021. This is an in-depth study into the data around usage of voice, attitudes to voice in the UK, the US and Germany. And I’m very excited to say that in this first episode, we’re joined by my colleagues and friends who helped bring this together. So first up, we have Scot and Susan Westwater from Pragmatic Digital. Guys, welcome to the show. Thanks for being here. 

Scot & Susan Westwater  00:54

Thanks for having us. 

James Poulter  00:56

And we’re also joined by Jon Stine, who’s the Executive Director at Open Voice Network as well. Jon, thanks for joining us from on the road. 

Jon Stine  01:02

JP, thanks so much. 

James Poulter  01:03

Jon, can I start with you? Maybe just kind of introduce us a little bit to what the Open Voice Network is about, because it’s a relatively new thing anyway, and some people may not be so familiar. And also, why was it important for you guys to get involved in this research, as we get into it here on the show.

Jon Stine  01:17

You know, understanding the Open Voice Network has probably two perspectives. One, it’s an industry association. It’s neutral, it’s nonprofit, affiliated with the Linux Foundation, it’s dedicated to developing standards and other ethical use guidelines for this coming world of voice assistance and the world that we’re going to be studying here in this podcast. The second thing, I think, perhaps, in the better, more insightful understanding of the Open Voice Network, is that it’s dedicated to bringing about a world that makes voice assistance worthy of user trust. And with that, as the aspiration of the Open Voice Network, doing and supporting research. 

Jon Stine  01:17

And we played a role as a sponsor here, supporting research like this, where we understand usage — how are individuals using voice, where do they want to go with voice. Because standards and standards development, that’s a living, breathing, evergreen thing. And unless we understand where and how this technology is being used, we really can’t address the ethical, regulatory and standards-based issues that are in front of it. So, again, JP, we’d very much appreciate this opportunity to be involved and support this research. 

James Poulter  02:32

Well, Jon, thank you so much. And we appreciate the support of the Open Voice Network in bringing it to bear. And as part of that support, one of the big things has been to have some of the ambassadors involved in the creation of it, which is where Scot and Susan come in, not only in being, you know, ambassadors for OVN, but also being long-time friends and collaborators with us here at Vixen Labs on things like the Voice Masters programme, and now, more recently, this research. Susan, Scot, why don’t you just introduce yourselves for people that maybe don’t know you yet?

 Susan Westwater  02:56

Sure. We’re Susan and Scot Westwater, we are founders of Pragmatic Digital, authors of Voice Strategy, creating useful and usable experiences, and also moderators of the designer-strategist community for the Open Voice Network, in addition to being ambassadors. Our excitement with this research is that we, as former UXers or current users, depending on how you want to look at it, we came at this from a UX perspective. And so we’re excited to collaborate and help with understanding usage, helping with crafting questions and partnering with the great folks of Vixen and Delineate to come up with a questionnaire that helps us get at what people think about voice, what they do with voice now, and what they want to do in the future. 

Susan Westwater  03:38

And in our role of being able to look at it that way, we were able to create the white paper off of that data that helps put that into a summarisation of “here’s what the findings are, but also, here’s what you can do about it”, and be able to say this is the actionable pieces of this data.

James Poulter  03:54

That’s absolutely right, and we thank you for many hours labouring over lots of stats and facts. You mentioned Delineate, who are the partners in producing this piece of research. So for those of you listening, if you don’t know them, they’re a fantastic research company that helped us bring all of this together. And we’re very thankful for their support on that as well. And now, Scot and Susan mentioned something that’s really helpful. 

James Poulter  04:12

If you haven’t yet downloaded the executive summary or the white paper, you can find all of that information at vixenlabs.co/vci, standing for voice consumer index, and go get the executive summary document for free, you can sign up and download the white paper. And if you’ve not done that up until now, and you want to follow along with some of the stats that we’re going to be talking about in this rather voice-driven medium, you may want to pause the show, and go and do that now. So you can find all the links to that in the show notes wherever you’re listening, be that on iTunes, Spotify, or indeed on the web. So go and do that now. 

James Poulter  04:43

So in this episode, we’re going to be unpacking some of the key findings from the Voice Consumer Index 2021, going to be looking at some of the things that we found most surprising, some of the things that are a bit of a curveball, and then over the coming episodes, we’re going to be looking into the deep dive sector expertise of retail, of technology, of food and drink, of healthcare, banking and many others as well over the coming episodes, including upcoming guests, people such as the Retail Federation, both in the US, and also Europe, and also consultancies, like 11:FS here in London, who’ve been consulting some of the biggest financial institutions in the world on technology as well. So all of that’s more to come in upcoming episodes. But today, as I say, it’s unpacking the big stuff, the things that you guys really need to know in order to be able to take this into the actionable for your marketing and for your planning for 2021 and 22, and beyond. 

James Poulter  05:31

And so what I want to do is go around the table, and we just kind of get first thoughts, really, from each of you on what’s something that really struck you as we went through this research process. And what’s one of the big findings that you really want us to focus on. Jon, maybe I’ll come to you as he as we kind of kick this off, what’s something that stood out to you from the research, maybe something that you found surprising as we get into this?

Jon Stine  05:49

I don’t know, JP, that it was surprising. Maybe it was affirming or exciting, I think is the term, and that is voice becoming a tool, a marketing, enterprise, business development, value creation tool, as opposed to say, it being the consumer toy. From a smart speaker, tell jokes to my kids, play music on Spotify, tell me the weather, to consumers searching products, searching brands, using voice assistants, crossing the chasm. And you can see right now in this data:

 

“VOICE IS CROSSING THE CHASM FROM PERHAPS A TOY— INTERESTING, FUN, EXCITING, OOH, LOOK AT THIS — TO NOW A BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, VALUE CREATION TOOL...”

…I think a very exciting shift that we’re seeing in this data, long-promised, now is happening.

James Poulter  06:44

Absolutely, I think that that shift that we’ve been looking for, for a long time, you know, as you say, we’ve been looking for something that can confirm this as it has been hard to kind of come across to the right thing that would really make that clear. And I think we’ve got that, maybe the season? Scot, help us unpack some of this as well, you know, what is it that is confirming some of these trends that we’ve been looking for for a while? Where do you see that in the findings that we have so far? 

Scot Westwater  07:04

Well, first off, it’s the awareness. We have an incredibly high amount of awareness across all three areas that we studied. So US, UK and Germany, and 57, here in the United States, I think it’s around 60% in Germany, but right around that 57 to 60% or so of usage. And we see incredibly high amounts of weekly, daily, and multiple times a day. And when we first got the results back, we literally were like doing laps in our office and cheering because it was such an exciting confirmation that all the suspicions that we had had finally been confirmed.

Susan Westwater  07:40

And I think it’s also exciting to point out that it goes beyond the speaker. We saw a lot of data that showed that smartphones and speakers go hand in hand, but…

 

“PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY REALLY PUSHING TO SEE WHERE ELSE THEY CAN USE VOICE AND TAKE IT WITH THEM.”

Or even make it a more private experience when they’re sitting in their homes. And then again, using those assistants on those smartphones or other devices. That’s exciting, because that means they’re really starting to integrate voice into the fabric of their lives.

Scot Westwater  08:10

So I think the big takeaway for us is: we’re much further ahead than we thought, business is actually now playing from behind. I know there’s a lot of business stakeholders that think you know, another year or two, and I’ll start investing. Your consumers are using it right now. And they’re using it quite frequently. So now’s the time to actually start investing, now’s the time to actually get your content found as people are starting to use these experiences.

James Poulter  08:33

That’s absolutely right. I think the discoverability thing is something we’ve spoken about for a long time, right, is how do people find things via voice? And one of the things that comes out from the research that I think really struck me is that the diversity of the ways in which people will kind of go and find things with voice and interact with this system is actually pointing to a probably a much more advanced consumer than we really expected. So if you’re following along and looking at the data, if you’re looking into either on the executive summary or in the white paper, you’ll find this statistic, which I think is really telling, about what people do when it comes to using voice devices, and particularly, how do they learn what a voice device can do. And we found that in the top box across all three countries that we surveyed in the US, the UK and Germany, and in each market, we’ve surveyed over 2000 people in each country, we found that over 70% in all three of those territories are saying that they had trial and error, or I had a go as the top reason for how they learn things. 

James Poulter  09:26

And this tells me a couple of interesting things. One, obviously, it brings out the fact that this is something people are willing to play with. And they’re also willing to persist with playing with, but over time. But also what really highlights what they didn’t say in the top box is what’s in the bottom boxes. And that is things like reading consumer or tech news, or examples being shown in advertising. And I think that that to me is a really big indicator for the industry is that people aren’t discovering what they can do with their voice via the brands and businesses that we already know and are familiar with, that have established other journeys with us, they’re relying upon trial and error, and in most cases, also things like word of mouth. And I think that that, to me, was one of the most kind of striking things. So we’ve got an advanced consumer that wants to try stuff. And we learn from so many other steps, which we’ll get into in a minute around search, that they’re willing to search for things. But they’re not finding it from brands and advertisers and marketers. And I think that, if you’re listening, and that’s your role, this is something that we’ve got to jump on. Right? What? Did you find that equally surprising?

Susan Westwater  10:25

Absolutely. You know, when we think about how technology is adopted, there are very distinct phases beyond looking at the typical of average Rogers bell curve of adoption by volume, there’s an attitudinal thing that happens, where you go from sceptic to kind of an experimenter where it’s like, oh, this is a cool toy, into this whole exploration phase. And that’s solidly where we are. So when Scot was talking earlier about, we’re further along than we thought, a lot of folks have moved from that idea of experiment, of, you know, hey, what can this thing do and using those entry points, such as weather, timers, music, and they’re moving into more specific tasks of what they want. 

Susan Westwater  11:04

And that’s exciting to see, and seeing the attitudes showing into what they’re doing. And you know, we’ll obviously unpack a lot more in the white paper, and in upcoming episodes of the podcast, but the idea is that people are looking for those specific things. And there’s a need right now, just like we saw with mobile, just like we saw with the web, we have to, as creators and marketers, explain to them how to do it. There will come a time when it is natural and it’ll just be second-guessed, just as you never think about what a website address is, but right now, we have to be more specific and say we can get at those deeper tasks that help you engage with our brand and use our products.

Jon Stine  11:41

It’s very clear from the data that consumer behaviour is, broadly speaking, well ahead of the corporate marketing department. That voice has not, is not yet a line item in corporate marketing budgets. Well, you know, maybe it’s an experiment, maybe it’s something we try, you know, it’s still this kind of, I don’t know, but consumers are doing it. And as Scot and Susan said, as you pointed out, it’s there. It’s happening. It’s becoming normative. And so in turn, it’s time for voice to be normative in that corporate marketing budget. Because if they’re searching, if they’re doing all the things that you’re about to talk about, the research shows, if you can’t be heard, and if you’re not listening, they’re not going to find you.

James Poulter  12:28

That’s right. That’s absolutely right. Well, let me kind of take us back a little bit to some of the kind of cool findings that came out of the research. So just if you’ve not had a chance yet to digest the headlines, but let me just kind of refresh you on a couple of the things. So one of the first things that we found is that 31% of people across the markets that we surveyed, are using voice assistants on a daily basis, with almost half of them actually using it once a week. Now, up until now, I think I’m right in saying that most of the research that, Jon, you and the team at OVN have looked at has mostly looked at kind of this monthly usage figure we often cite as monthly usage. How important is it to know that this has now kind of actually trickled down into kind of daily and weekly usage versus that kind of more monthly pattern? What difference does that make for us?

Jon Stine  13:08

This is a clear indicator that this is normative, you know, monthly, you could say, well, I tried it and oh, it was interesting, it was at my brother in law’s house, so I tried it. And that was monthly usage that didn’t indicate a regular behaviour, a normative behaviour, a habit.

 

“AND NOW WE’RE TALKING ABOUT 31% FOR WHOM VOICE IS A HABIT.”

 If you want that 31%, you’ve got to be part of that.

James Poulter  13:31

Yeah. And it’s also I suppose, for me, that’s, it’s coming out of that kind of early adopter into kind of that early majority phase, right? 

Jon Stine  13:38

Yeah, absolutely. 

James Poulter  13:40

One of the things we also see across the markets here is that, you know, we found people were having very similar usage patterns, right? So it’s almost 60% in every single market or voice in this and users I mean, Scot and Susan, you know, we’ve looked at this in the UK last year with our previous piece of research, as you know, and now this is the first time we’re kind of getting this data back on the US. Were you interested to see that there wasn’t more kind of regional variation? Did that surprise you at all?

Scot Westwater  14:00

It doesn’t really surprise me. And as we looked at the data, and even as you overlay the charts on top of each other, the trends are clearly the same. It might be plus or minus a few percentage points one way or the other, depending on which market you’re talking about. But overall, consumers are behaving very similarly in the US, in the UK, and in Germany. There are some cultural nuances that we saw on the data when it comes to privacy and willingness to use it outside of the home or on people you don’t know. But generally speaking, we’re seeing the same types of trends. So this isn’t just a US phenomenon, or a UK phenomenon. This is truly a global phenomenon. And so, you know, for all of the enterprises out there that have a global presence, this is definitely something that you have to work into your omni-channel approach. And it’s not just region-specific. It’s something that will go across all of your markets.

James Poulter  14:51

I think what I was surprised by is that we’ve often known that the UK consumer can be sometimes more advanced in trying things. That’s not a big surprise. We’ve seen that in the past with mobile and things with social, which we’ve always found odd, I suppose, because you know, Silicon Valley being such a kind of heavy proponent of a lot of this technology, but the adoption isn’t always necessarily kind of unilateral across, across the US. So I think for me, it was really interesting to see that actually that kind of that difference that we were expected to see has actually caught up quite a lot as well. And that that kind of habit and behaviour use is very similar. 

James Poulter  15:23

Now, of course, when we dig into the device types, and the platforms, both by age and also by country, we do see some variance there. One of the things that we found, particularly, which I think is really interesting, is this age variability when it comes to where people are most likely to be using their devices. And, you know, one of the things we see in the data is that the under kind of 25-cohort, particularly the 18 to 25-year-old cohorts, they’re very much heavily more a mobile user and predominantly an iOS user when it comes to voice, which again, I don’t think we necessarily find surprising in that sense, kind of the, the dominance of Apple’s smartphone ecosystem in the US in particular is pretty, pretty hefty.

James Poulter  16:00

But what I was really interested to see from an accessibility perspective, and also, you know, kind of from the maybe the potential impacts of the pandemic is, when you look at the upper age brackets and how well adapted they are for things like smart speaker platforms like Amazon, Alexa, I think that that’s something we’ve seen a big effect on. Jon, what’s your takeaway from that kind of particular data point?

Jon Stine  16:21

I would just say this — that as you’re planning the future and you know that it takes 18 to 24 to 36 months to implement something important, you take a look at those smartphone users who are voice dependent, you take a look at the growth of voice across all age brackets, and you realise this is on a trend line that is identified today. But when those 18-year-olds are now 24-25-year-olds, they’re forming families, they’re buying homes, they’re doing all this, again, if you’re not in voice, you’re not there.

James Poulter  16:53

So it’s becoming the default in many ways, I think, for many people now. That’s all well and good. But one of the things that we also see in the data is some of the barriers to entry. Right? So whilst we’re, you know, it’s great, we’ve got this kind of 60% market share in each market of voice users across all devices and platforms, there’s still a significant minority there that are non-voice users. And Scot, Susan, can you just take us through a little bit about what some of the reasons are that people have cited for being a non user? What are the barriers for people kind of getting into using voice at the moment? And maybe how can we overcome some of those?

Susan Westwater  17:27

Sure, absolutely. So one thing I want to know is that privacy is a concern for users and non-users alike. What it comes down to is — is the value of the experience, is the value of the convenience, the value of those pieces, is it high enough that I am then willing to push through a little bit of my comfort zone and start using this new technology? I think it’s also important to realise that when it comes to privacy, we’re not just talking about data privacy, we’re talking about spatial privacy, because our voices do carry or it isn’t just us talking into or typing into something that no one else can see. It is something that we have to think about — who’s around, who’s around me in those pieces? 

Susan Westwater  18:07

That’s something that’s come up quite a bit in our work with the Open Voice Network. Regardless of who’s in the room when that happens. Because, as marketers, we do have to think about that — is our target audience in the room, or is someone who is outside of our target audience in the room? So it’s thinking through those things, it’s also the whole concern of safety that came up in Germany. So that is not just thinking then again, about privacy, but security. Is this secure, is this something that can make sure that whatever I put into it is mine and mine alone? And that’s not just privacy, it’s: it stays mine.

Susan Westwater  18:39

So those are some of the things and the way that we can get around that is by explaining and being clear and transparent. This is where open standards come into play of making that consistency. And those assurances that come with it. But then also creating really good experiences that build that trust of I am going to do what you say I’m doing, I am going to be able to do the thing I said and there are no hidden consequences, it is just that thing. And then understanding that, so that the comfort zone again builds, and then people feel more comfortable using it.

Scot Westwater  19:11

Yeah, the other thing to keep in mind is that it’s very much — in addition to creating these experiences, it’s just as much explaining the value proposition and why it makes your life easier, why it’s faster to do it through voice than typing or logging on to our website, and really trying to overcome some of those barriers by actually talking about the benefits. And that’s something as creators and as brands, you absolutely, you’re gonna have to do over the next 12 to 24 months to really illustrate to your consumer, here’s why you want to use these experiences.

James Poulter  19:41

So, we’ve got an interesting kind of dynamic going on here. Right? There’s, I think there’s almost three different separate things happening. One is, as you mentioned, Susan, it’s the privacy of my data. That was the main point. So people, particularly even existing users, and we know that that’s the majority of people but there’s still the thing that they cite the most is I’m concerned about the privacy of my data. So where is that data going? And who has it? That’s what I read from that. But you’re saying that there’s actually a separate component to that, which is — is this secure? So it’s not just about who has that data, but how is it getting there? Or where is it going in the future? And then the third thing about spatial privacy, and let’s just dig into that a little bit more, because that one is really interesting.

James Poulter  20:22

But you know that the difference between people willing to use voice out loud in their home, for example, a private space, but a public private action, right? They’re doing something out loud, but other people are around, versus a kind of fully public space, like in a retail environment, or college while studying or somewhere like that. Unpack that for us a little bit. What are these kind of core differences? And maybe why do we think that people are more hesitant, I suppose, in that kind of truly public space?

Susan Westwater  20:49

Sure. And I think this is again, where we see that the market maturities kind of shift a little bit. We also see those cultural mores in the UK when we were asking folks and we asked everyone the same questions, randomised, so that there was no preference — again, really excited to be able to get data like that — when we looked at that type of data, what we saw, what we asked them was, you know, comfortable using it in my home, comfortable using it around friends and family, comfortable using it outdoors, or in restaurants or things along those lines. And we saw differences and variances. And that’s what helped us suss out this idea of spatial privacy.

Susan Westwater  21:25

We also see it in the devices. That’s why someone basically uses that at home, they’re using the assistance at home on their smartphone. Well, part of that is because you’re not going to be having to speak more loudly and putting out your request straight across the room. I like to think of this as that whole feeling of, if someone could download your search browser, you know — clear my cache before something happens to me — very similar, and that feeling, that’s not an unusual feeling. That’s who you are, when we do look out while out shopping or in public transport and public transport. I will say, in the past 18 months. Those numbers might shift in the future, 18 months as we start to reopen, are able to use public transportation or be out and about as much. But what we’re kind of seeing throughout all of this is that there is that reluctance to I don’t know if I want to shout out into the void. I don’t know if I want to put that much of my personality or what it is my personal preference out where strangers can hear it. 

Susan Westwater  22:18

I think it depends, though, um, I have to admit, I’ve witnessed quite a few doctor calls  on my way to work when we lived in the city and I was on the train. So I think some of that comes into play. But that also comes into the idea of normalisation. There was a time where if you saw someone walking with earbuds and talking to the air, you weren’t sure if they were talking to you or someone else. Those are the types of normalisations that we again, as Jon was referring to, as time goes on, folks will become more comfortable just speaking out and saying those things and being able to do those social mores. Will all of those cultural boundaries be overcome? Probably not. But I think you know, there is some normalisation in the US. I think in Germany, we also see it. There’s a little bit more of a conservative bent on that from a UK perspective.

James Poulter  23:05

So let me talk now a little bit about where this might be going in terms of devices. Everyone who just wants to know about devices, let’s talk about devices. So one of the things that we see here that we probably weren’t necessarily thinking about or emphasising as much — certainly there isn’t as much discussion in the industry about it — is the difference between voice on the phone and voice on a smart speaker. I think that due to the kind of popularity of things like Alexa and Google Assistant in recent years, that has driven a massive attention around smart speakers. And you know, those are the devices that we see, they’re the ones that we refer a lot to, we talk a lot about building actions and skills, etc. But actually out in the real world, it would seem, the majority of voice users are predominantly mobile voices users in the main part. And that is spread quite broadly across Siri, Google Assistant, and obviously in, less so, Alexa. 

James Poulter  23:56

But the two major mobile platforms of iOS and Android definitely are driving the majority of voice usage and that’s where the most frequency is being seen as well. Jon, for you, you know, as we’re talking about standards and trying to kind of build the voice industry at large. Do you think we’ve become slightly over-reliant upon talking about smart speakers? Predominantly, is there enough focus being placed on mobile at the moment? 

Jon Stine  24:16

JP, I couldn’t agree more that there has been much, much too much emphasis upon smart speakers, much too little upon the device future. All we have to do is take a look at how just entertainment content is being consumed today. Is it on a fixed device in the home? Or is it on the mobile device, that smart device that is the remote control for your daily life, you know, it holds this and holds that and holds your payment, it holds all the things and you consume content on that, it will be your smart speaker too. 

Jon Stine  24:53

And so I think that as we see broadly and understand broadly the role of the smartphone, the smart personal device in people’s lives, it’s inevitable that in voice it’s gonna be much more about a smartphone than a fixed device now in the kitchen. Yeah, it makes sense. In a smart environment for manufacturing. Yes, it makes sense. But for daily, ongoing I want to search, I want to find, I want to consume, I want to do this, it’s going to be a smartphone. 

James Poulter  25:24

Absolutely. I think that’s what the data is telling us. And what’s interesting is, if you dig into the stats that we have, you know, you’ve got just take — I’ll just take the kind of the Google Assistant numbers across the board here — 75% of people on the phone,  26% of people on the smart speaker, 10% in the car, similar for headphones, smart displays and other devices. But to your point, Jon, actually, in the car, for the  majority of people, that’s their phone. There’s probably not a kind of independent smart head unit — on headphones and earphones while they’re using those devices — but it’s powered by their phone ultimately.

James Poulter  25:58

And, you know, in other cases, in other devices, most likely, it’s also kind of being powered by a smartphone or some kind of connectivity there. So I think you’re absolutely right. There has been an over-reliance upon this smart speaker platform, mostly because the familiarity — particularly in markets in the UK, and Germany, where Alexa is very, very dominant — has probably driven some of that. But I think what we’re seeing here is we need a more advanced strategy. Right, Scot? Susan, what does this mean? If you’re a marketer and you’re seeing this number? Yeah. How does that change how you approach your voice strategy if you know now that this mobile consumer is one that really needs to be looked at?

Scot Westwater  26:33

Well, it’s this and then something that we had intended on uncovering, but didn’t think we would find the results that we did, where people are incredibly interested in voice on websites, they’re incredibly interested in voice in mobile apps, existing mobile apps, because they’ve seen the benefit of search being faster. They want that feature built in, they don’t have to use navigation, they don’t have to dig for stuff, they can get quick access to information. So it’s this chart, and this data, plus some of those other things that we uncovered, that really says you have a tremendous opportunity to better serve your audience, improve your customer experience, improve the user experience of existing mobile apps and websites, by building this functionality into things that already exist. So it’s absolutely a multi-channel play. It’s an omni-channel play. 

 

“WE ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT SMART SPEAKERS WERE A STEPPING STONE INTO THIS GREATER ECOSYSTEM. THE DATA HAS NOW PROVEN THAT OUT.”

And so you really need to look at your different touch-points and figure out — does voice make it better for my consumer or my audience to get access to information? Does it make their task completion faster? If yes, then you should absolutely integrate it. If no, don’t do it, because it’s actually going to hamper your brand and actually give a negative impact upon what you’re already doing. But I think in a lot of cases, and a lot of things that we uncover through the data, we know that there’s a lot of opportunity to make things easier and faster for the consumer.

Susan Westwater  28:01

Yeah, and I think it’s also there is no killer app voice is the app, when you add voice you are making, you know, intelligently, you are able to add voice, make that experience better, take away friction. Think it through that way, as opposed to just thinking about silos, and then you are going to be able to unlock the power of making this way of engaging your consumers or in your audiences that much more powerful.

James Poulter  28:30

So what I’m hearing is that we need to think cross-device, we need to think across the whole age range. And we also need to think globally, right? Because that’s what we’ve seen from the numbers, right is that this is not an isolated thing by market. It’s not an isolated thing by device. And it’s not an isolated thing in terms of where people are using it. So they might be using their mobile device, but they might be using it in the home, out of the home, in the community, in many different contexts. What I want us to kind of shift gears now to is less about the where and the how, and more on the what. What is it that people are actually wanting to do with their voices when they are engaging with a virtual assistant, regardless of what device that is?

James Poulter  29:07

One of the things that we came into this research with was a hypothesis. Every good researcher has a good hypothesis. And in this case, we came into it with a hypothesis that we believe that the marketing funnel, that kind of awareness, consideration, engagement, purchase, loyalty funnel that many of us have known for many years — that that was still true in a voice context, that it was that that was the behaviour that we were expecting to see. And I suppose one of the most exciting and confirming things for me during this is to see that hypothesis proved out.

James Poulter  29:38

You know, I’m not gonna lie. I was pleased by that. I think we all are. And the reason that that was proved out is because we asked a series of questions about people, how they use their voice system, and what do they use it for? And when you begin to knock off the standard things, the kind of the first party experiences like weather, news and adding to do lists, etc, and look at the kind of more commercial activities that people do, we see a very interesting pattern that maps almost exactly to that kind of funnel structure. 

James Poulter  30:08

You can find more about this in the white paper and the exact summary. And again, just a reminder, if you’re listening, if you haven’t yet, check that out, go and find that at www.vixenlabs.co/vci. That’s a V for Victor, CI or voice consumer index, and you can get the slides for free. And in there, you’ll find one of the ones that is  titled Reasons for Using Voice Assistants. And in the top box, in terms of what people do, is ask a question to a search engine. Now, whether they know they’re asking a search engine or not, it’s an interesting point.

James Poulter  30:37

But what we do know is that people ask for a question. And then very quickly, they move into much more commercial activities, for example, searching for information about products and services, for local business information, finding information about specific brands, and then, for some of them, making a purchase, which actually, you know, is just pushing shy of 40% of people. So we see a very clear funnel here. Susan, Scot, what does this mean for us? When it comes into marketing planning, when we’ve got something like this in front of us, this clear funnel?

Susan Westwater  31:07

Well, there’s definitely, it’s not either-or when it comes to voice, it’s and voice. And that’s, again, as Jon was speaking to earlier, we need to, as marketers, think about how we are going to add voice into every face. It also allows us to pinpoint and look into —  is it an awareness problem, a consideration problem, purchase problem, or retention problem? And that gives us a place to start, because one of the things we do know about voice experiences — and we’ve talked about this a bit — iis that value proposition. It’s also very important to start small and iterate not try to do all the things all at once. So we have a very definitive way of looking at voice consult, across the funnel, you know, when put together thoughtfully, therefore, we can think through, look into that and add that into our roadmaps and our plans.

Scot Westwater  31:59

Yeah, and the big takeaway, it’s content. And so at a minimum, you need to start optimising your web content right now, for long-tail and voice search. If you’re not doing that, you’re basically ceding your position to your competition. Because that’s really the main thing right now. As you see, we have ‘ask a question to a search engine’ as a very highly utilised task. And so that basically means our consumers are looking for information. And a lot of times, they’re probably finding Wikipedia entries. And that’s because the content doesn’t really exist in this new format in this new medium. So you need to optimise your content, you need to be providing voice content, you need to rework the content you already have, that’s already answering a lot of these questions to be relevant in this new space. And so that’s really kind of that first part or that, you know, first phase into a much larger opportunity for brands.

Susan Westwater  32:54

Yeah, as we look at what people are doing with voice, how they’re finding those experiences, and what it is they want to do more, we’re realising really quickly, that: a.  our audience is mature enough to be exploring and looking into these things; but b.  there’s enough functionality, there’s enough trust to that, that there’s enough to be done; that as marketers we need to take this seriously. And start adding that in, because we moved from beyond that novelty into a potential workhorse.

James Poulter  33:22

So this is an interesting wild ride, because for many years, we’ve been looking at apps and content as the primary way of engaging consumers when it comes to voice — may that be building skills, building actions, you know, Bixby capsules, etc, for the platforms, or producing audio content, things like flash briefings, like podcasts, you know, kind of putting things out there into the ecosystem for these assistants to pick up. One of the things that seems to have been a bit of a black box for a long time is this kind of Voice Search Engine Optimisation side of things.

James Poulter  33:54

And obviously, when people are hitting these search engines, predominantly, we’re talking about Google Assistant here, you know, particularly with that mobile usage, as I mentioned, if we know that the volume is coming from mobile, and then obviously, you know, the other assistance, like the early days of search, there was this kind of black hat, white hat idea. There was the kind of the good ways of the bad ways and the ugly ways of getting things done. Yeah, how important is it? And Jon, maybe I’ll ask your perspective on this, how important is it that we find some standard ways of doing this? And actually, we get more transparency into how you can impact this stuff, because it does still feel a little bit like the Wild West out there at the moment.

Jon Stine  34:31

It is the wild Wild West, James, but what standards, what protocols, what just general guidelines will do is accelerate the paradigm shift that this data represents. When individuals can trust they can find what they’re looking for, they can connect with who they want to connect with, they understand their destinations. This all begins to expand, accelerate, amplify even more. You know, this is —this information that you’re showing, JP — is paradigm shattering. It takes us from voice as this kind of unique channel, voice equated with smart speaker, and simply sets voices in interface across the entire journey across all the touch points. Because the consumers want to interact with you with ease, convenience, speed. And that’s what voice represents. So as we work toward the standards, as we work toward the protocols, the guidelines, and in a sense, create a normative way to find, to be found, to connect, and we’re doing that right now. This is all going to accelerate even more. This just points to where the future is going. 

James Poulter  35:44

But I think to your point, yeah, the minute that you have standards in something like this, it does accelerate is that acceleration factor. So I think that is something we do need to kind of be aware of. But we also need to make sure that people know about those standards here, right, because the danger is that people are looking for backdoors into these things. Now, when you come out of that top box, we then go into some of this other more interesting information, you know, kind of search behaviour, as I mentioned, it follows this kind of funnel pattern.

James Poulter  36:11

The one at the bottom of that funnel is in between there, there’s variations, right, on products and services, local business, in brand new information, all of which are things that are important to be capitalising on, but the one that everyone wants to know about, it’s the one down that bottom box, which is making purchases. And, you know, seeing it be this high, when you normalise this across the three markets we surveyed, that comes out 41% of people being willing to make a voice purchase of voice users, which we know is more than half of all consumers.

James Poulter  36:40

So you know, you’ve got 40% or 50%, which basically puts you somewhere in the kind of quarter of the public, right? That’s a significant position to be in — that people are willing to make this purchase. And we’re going to unpack this more in upcoming episodes when it comes to the specific types of purchases, be those retail, be those consumer goods, you know, and food and drink and others. But just generally speaking, Susan, Scot, what’s your opinion at the moment on what this kind of 40% of people buying things represents? What might they actually be buying? And what might they be willing to do in the future?

Scot Westwater  37:13

Well, there’s actually a couple really interesting things that came out. So I like combining stats. And so I, you know, have a really good mental map of how all this data works together. But what we found is there’s a tremendous amount of people that do an initial voice search and then go to a website. And so there’s a handoff that’s actually happening right now between asking that initial question, asking the question about a brand or a product, and then the next step is actually them going to the product’s website. So right now, it’s kind of a siloed experience, there is a bit of a disconnect. So, that’s an opportunity. But we saw that 68%, somewhere in that neighbourhood of people were interested in continuing that experience within voice. 

Scot Westwater  37:55

And so it begs the brands to start considering how to support their consumer at every phase of the journey in both voice-only experiences and then also considering that handoff to their existing properties to actually facilitate the purchase there. So it could be something as simple as deep linking into a deeper page where I can hit Add to cart and then actually go on with my day. It could be things like that for the handoff, but also considering ways to actually build voice purchase experiences that go beyond what Amazon and Google and some of the other platforms are doing.

Scot Westwater  38:32

And actually creating direct-to-consumer voice-only purchase experiences on their own. And it could be something you know, in the entertainment space, there’s certainly a high amount of interest in retail when it comes to voice search and product lookup and purchase. We’re definitely seeing the smaller products, more consumer packaged goods being those things that people are purchasing right now. But there’s also you know, interest and making travel purchases and reservations and things like that — could be something as basic as transportation locally, or it could be actually booking international, or you know, across the country travel.

James Poulter  39:10

Absolutely. I think purchasing is going to be the one that people are really fascinated to dig into here. I want you guys to know that on the next episode of the show we’re gonna be unpacking retail specifically. And obviously, retail covers many different things. We’re going to be doing that with folks from both the global Retail Federation and also the National Retail Federation of the US and other Open Voice Network members. So do kind of tune in for that episode because we’re going to be really digging into kind of what the e-commerce impact is and also the in-store impact is. Jon, what’s your take on this from a retail perspective as well as also from another kind of purchasing perspective here?

Jon Stine  39:46

I think if you take these numbers and show them in the marketing funnel, and also then take a broader perspective and just use the internet as a comparison, more than half of all purchases in the United States in retail are influenced directly by the internet. And yet the sum total of purchasing on a revenue basis, directly through the internet, is probably right around or slightly below 20%. So the internet has a huge influence upon retail. But that’s not fully directly represented in the revenues. And so what we see here in the marketing funnel, voice as an entry door to the digital world, is going to be extremely influential — it’s already showing with the amount of voice search — extremely influential on the decision path of consumers. Is it available? Is it there? What’s the price? What are the features? And then maybe I go to the website, maybe I go to the store. But if you’re not in voice, and you’re not being heard, and you’re not listening to your consumer, you’re never going to be there at the final destination point of a credit card or a contactless payment going your way.

James Poulter  41:05

Well, I completely agree, I’ll quote yourself back to you, Jon, with the quote that we included from you in the, in the opening of the of all the materials, which you said voice will soon be a primary way to consumers connect with the digital world and a primary way with digital marketers, they’ll connect with consumers. I think that that meeting point, you know, whatever the next step is that people are taking — and we’ve got more data on that in the white paper, so I encourage people to go and go and download that in terms of what next steps people might take after first voice engagement — it definitely tells us that this is a point of opportunity. It’s a point of connection, it’s a point that you can actually intersect at an existing journey that we know people are already doing, and doing in big numbers. And I think that that’s one of the most compelling things that’s come out of the research. 

James Poulter  41:46

Well, we’re nearly at time. So I wanted to give a few final words and recommend to people where they can kind of go and dig into this more. So if you have not had a chance yet to download the executive summary or read the white paper that Susan and Scot most diligently wrote, that Jon is also quoted, as I just mentioned, you can find it at www.vixenlabs.co/VCI — for Voice Consumer Index 2021, brought to you proudly in partnership with the Open Voice Network. Jon, if people want to find out more about OVN, joining if they’re a practitioner, or kind of becoming either a partner or a sponsor, where can they do that? And what would your message be to people considering that?

Jon Stine  42:22

Look us up on www.openvoicenetwork.org, open voice network — all one word. And if you’re concerned, interested, excited by the future of voice, worthy organisation to be a part of, excellent. 

James Poulter  42:36

Oh, and we look forward to people doing that. And obviously Susan and Scot, you’ve been digging into these research findings in much detail in recent weeks. So if people want to connect with you and find out more about the topics at hand, where should they go and find you?

Susan Westwater  42:48

So you can find me at bit.ly/susanwestwater — all one word. 

Scot Westwater  42:55

And I’m bit.ly/scotwestwater — Scot with one t. And that has links to our email, our LinkedIn profiles, really all the ways you can get a hold of us. And that’s really the best way to do it. 

James Poulter  43:08

And if you are just about to set out on your journey of putting together a voice strategy, you can also go find these guys on Amazon, they are fantastically published authors of Voice Strategy, the book. So I thoroughly recommend that to you as well. So if you need to jumpstart into your strategy for 2022, that’s the place to go. 

James Poulter  43:25

Okay, well, in the coming weeks, we have got some fantastic content coming up for you. We’re going to be digging deep into each of the different industry sectors that we surveyed — data that you’re not going to find anywhere else publicly on the web, we had to keep a little bit of special sauce back for you. But we are going to leak it out slowly through these episodes coming up.

James Poulter  43:43

As I mentioned, we’ve got some fantastic content coming up in the next couple of weeks looking at retail, looking at consumer goods, looking at healthcare, looking at food and beverage and, you know, quick-service restaurants. So all of that is to come. So if you’re in one of those sectors, make sure that you’ve done the thing that everyone says on podcast, subscribe, leave a review, all of those things help. Thanks so much for joining us on this first inaugural episode of the Talking Shop podcast from Vixen Labs where we’re trying to make voice work for marketers. Thanks to all of my guests being here today and we’ll see you again very soon.

 

 

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