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Trend Five: Growing into Voice

March 19, 2018

Our last trend from SXSW focuses on voice-enabled devices like Alexa or Google Home.

The head of Alexa video and the VP of Comcast Research and Development (editorial note: Comcast is an SE2 client) presented on how tech titans are bringing voice devices to the masses.

Nearly 39 million American homes – or about a quarter of all homes – have some sort of smart speaker/voice device. The adoption rate outpaces smartphone growth when looking at where each was at in the same phase of their lifecycle.

There is still time to catch up

Amazon and Comcast talked about how they are still very focused on developing the hardware and software to be more responsive to the users’ needs. Both speakers noted that improving the devices’ ability to correctly identify what a user is looking for and serving up appropriate content, thereby improving these devices’ utility, is a big focus on the next year.

Additionally, in a different presentation from the Future Today Institute, voice was noted as an “Act Now” trend – its most urgent trend rating.

Thankfully, with the manufacturers conceding that there is still more work to do before voice is widespread, it gives communicators a chance to catch up.

SE2 Principal Brandon Zelasko recently wrote a blog on the topic of voice and how to prepare. We encourage you to review his practical tips for getting started.

Integrating voice into communications

Several brands were also part of the panel. Those that have begun to integrate voice into their communications mix noted that marketing and promoting voice-enabled experiences remains a challenge – one which they haven’t yet solved.

Their best answer so far: Use paid media (such as social media ads or digital display) to promote your voice offerings.

Lastly, voice devices already are affecting search engine marketing. Google claims 20 percent of mobile search queries submitted via its app are already done using voice. Meanwhile, comScore estimates 30 percent of searches will be done without a screen by 2020.

So what does this mean for you?

While many cause-related organizations may not yet have the resources to invest in newer technologies, mar/comm professionals should be familiar with the technology and have a sound rationale for why voice doesn’t yet make sense for the organization (i.e., be prepared for the drive-by “Why aren’t we doing voice?” question from your boss).

For those organizations that do have the resources to invest in voice, begin by exploring your options:

  • If you’re a nonprofit: How can voice be used to ease the donation process?
  • If your organization does a lot of publishing: Do we have content that plays well in the voice space?
  • For membership organizations: Can we provide voice content that helps our members connect to their audiences?
  • For organizations working to change behavior (e.g., public health agencies): Can voice support other modalities we’re using to affect behavior change (e.g., smoking cessation)?

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