Starcom CEO Toby Barbour: Voice Is The Most Human Technology We’ve Ever Seen

Starcom CEO Toby Barbour: Voice Is The Most Human Technology We’ve Ever Seen
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In this guest post, Starcom Australia CEO Toby Barbour argues why brands should be prioritising a voice-first future.

The arrival of voice as a consumer engagement platform heralds an exciting yet daunting new era for marketers – a voice-first future.

Consumers and marketers alike love their screens, but the noise around voice is getting louder, for good reason.

Telsyte predicts that three million Australian households will have a smart speaker by 2022, equating to 30 per cent household penetration.

According to projections detailed by ComScore last year, 50 per cent of all searches globally will be voice searches by 2020.

Furthermore, recent research by OC&C Strategy Consultants found that US/UK voice commerce will grow from $2 billion to $40 billion-plus by 2022.

With figures like that, it’s no surprise that brands are taking a keen interest in voice. A survey conducted by Digiday earlier this year found that 43 per cent of marketers are investing in voice technology. Curiously, only 26 per cent stated that voice marketing is a priority.

How will your brand be heard?

Many marketers will recall ill-fated leaps into the creation of brand-led mobile apps, that quickly became so many digital tumbleweeds. It became clear that brand engagement was a by-product of utility and entertainment, often via native mobile apps – not brand-led platforms.

But it seems we may be in danger of repeating the mistakes of recent history. When a voice application acquires a user, there’s only a three per cent chance that user will be active in the second week, according to Voicelabs.

Creating ‘skills’ (the actions that serve as applications for smart speakers) is showing early wins for brands in the US, including Domino’s, Tide and Campbells. It’s not overly sexy yet, but ordering pizza and receiving useful tips for household chores (such as cleaning and cooking) have utility for consumers.

What should make brands sit up and take notice is that voice punches above its weight when it comes to recall and impact.

A major study published by Publicis Media in February found that voice lifts unaided brand recall by nearly two times (96 per cent) compared with TV, and is on par with native mobile.

It also showed a higher electro dermal (a fancy term for sweat) response among voice users. People are in a more active and alert state when interacting through voice and they rate it as more engaging, entertaining, enjoyable and useful.

Voice is the most human technology brands have ever seen

Get voice right, and the future is yours. But beware, voice technology (such as smart speakers) holds an intimate place in people’s homes, and in an era of heightened sensitivity around privacy and data (mis)use, there will be plenty of brands and companies getting it wrong.

Brands need to learn from recent history, avoid clumsy brand-first forays into voice, and ultimately create valuable and highly customised experiences for consumers.

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