Will 2018 be the year of voice AI?

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Daniel Smith

The past year has seen AI-powered voice assistants go from a fad idea to a mainstream household item, writes Fireworx founder Daniel Smith 

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Photo by Ben Kolde on Unsplash

There’s no doubt that Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) will have been a staple item under the Christmas tree this year; in fact, it’s been estimated that 35 million Amazon Echo devices will have been sold by the end of 2017.

At the same time, Google’s Home assistant and Apple’s Siri continue to lead the way for the mobile phone industry, which is still the most widely used form of voice-assisted AI among consumers.

But it’s not just tech giants like Amazon and Google who are pushing the use of voice AI. Consumers are already beginning to embrace this technology as part of their daily lives, and there’s a clear appetite amongst consumers for brands to use this technology to interact with them. 

As a result, B2C brands now have a perfect opportunity to capitalize on the growing popularity of this technology among consumers.

Strategy trumps tactics 

As voice-assisted AI becomes more mainstream it will be up to forward-thinking brands to implement a strategy that uses this technology to create a meaningful dialogue with their customers. If brands can achieve this goal, they will be able to build a stronger and long-lasting relationship with their target audience.

A recent campaign by Burger King in the US successfully activated Google’s voice assistant speaker, Google Home by asking, “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?” In response, the AI-assisted device replied with a list of Whopper ingredients.

This was the first time a brand had purposefully intended to trigger a response from a smart speaker through an advert.  

Whilst this was a creative way for Burger King to reach out to its customers in their own homes, the advert sparked a lot of criticism for being an invasion of privacy by entering someone’s home in this way.  The campaign was clearly disruptive and got people talking, but the negative feedback it generated highlights the need for firms to consider several key areas before implementing voice technology.

Read more: Chatbots: Putting the 'art' into 'artificial intelligence'

After all, there are many different applications of voice AI that will prove valuable to a brand for different reasons. As such, brands need to consider what form of voice AI is the most appropriate for what they are trying to achieve.

Chatbots, for example, are becoming more and more popular among brands, so it will be interesting to see how companies expand their use of this technology. Whether this form of voice AI will be beneficial and add true value will ultimately depend on who the customer base is, and what a company is trying to achieve through the use of this technology.

For example, could we see healthcare providers diagnosing a medical condition via an online doctor, powered by a chatbot that can react to voice commands? Similarly, in the insurance world, could we see firms using this technology to recommend products that require a two-way conversation to ensure the customer gets the correct policy? Only time will tell. Ultimately it will be consumer demand that dictates how these solutions develop.

Say what?  

The impact that voice AI will have on search optimization is another area that brands need to consider very carefully. As voice AI technology develops and consumers use it more for search queries on their devices, there’s a huge potential for brands to customize their SEO strategy to see extremely beneficial results.

To achieve this goal, however, brands will need to ensure that their content is fully optimized by adapting their search terms to sound more human, and by including words that a consumer might use when asking an AI voice assistant a question. This level of insight will be vital for success, as this technology is only as powerful as the human minds that support it.

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Photo by Piotr Cichosz on Unsplash

With so many benefits on offer for businesses and consumers alike, it looks like voice AI is here to stay.

If brands want to stay ahead of the curve, they need to start assessing how this technology can help to address their customers’ particular wants and needs right now.

By assessing these factors carefully and creating a well-thought plan, brands can start to use voice technology to create an entirely newand much strongerrelationship with their customers.

Daniel Smith is founder and managing director of creative agency Fireworx.