Voice apps: the next evolution of the mobile marketplace

As today marks World Voice Day, our Communications Manager Caroline Canty is reflecting on the recent Pro-Manchester Trailblazing Technology conference, where she spoke about the who, what, where and when of voice apps, and their impact on UK brands.

A couple of weeks ago, myself and our resident voice expert Patrick Cavanagh joined a room full of tech enthusiasts throughout Manchester for the 2019 Trailblazing Tech Conference.

Voice apps - Trailblazing Tech Conference

While other speakers focussed on the impact of automation in everyday life, room planning using machine learning, cybersecurity and the ever-increasing digital skills gap, we took the opportunity to chat voice tech.

Why people care about it, what it’s good and bad for, and what this emerging platform means to businesses and brands in terms of their customer engagement.

If you want to know more about voice apps and how they’re already transforming businesses, keep reading…

Voice apps - Trailblazing Tech Conference

Voice apps: the next evolution of the mobile marketplace

Voice apps provide the same speed and convenience as mobile apps, but in a way that’s completely natural and intuitive. They’re the ideal representation of what Mark Weiser called ‘calm technology’ – tech that users can operate without having to learn how

A voice app is a piece of software that’s built to work on a voice platform, such as skills for the Amazon Alexa Store. By enabling them for your voice assistants, you can do everything you currently do on your smartphone, but with less physical tasks to perform and without being confined to a specific device, location or activity.

How do you know when you need voice?

Verbal communication is engrained in us. It’s something we like and want to do, so it makes sense that people are warming to their voice assistants. But voice apps don’t fit every scenario – just like mobile apps. They still need to add value to the customer, or they just won’t be used.

The starting point for any company wanting to define a use case for voice should be the question: “What can this new platform provide that nothing else can?”. What problems are customers encountering that could be solved with voice?

There are many reasons to get onto a voice platform – being first to market, an ecommerce channel, engaging with a new sector of customers – but simply getting on it isn’t enough.

Voice apps - Trailblazing Tech Conference tweet

Helping businesses find their voice

Mobile apps can tailor search options and send new product notifications, but voice apps can immerse the user in an entirely brand-led world.

There are new releases all the time aimed at improving the user experience of voice. Amazon Polly allows you to swap Alexa for a voice that more closely reflects your brand, while Google’s Wavenet produces better and more realistic-sounding speech than ever before.

And customers appreciate it. A recent survey found that 52% of voice-activated speaker owners would like to receive information about sales and promotions from brands, per Google – reflected in the fact that voice commerce sales are predicted to reach $40 billion by 2022.

Voice personalisation gives brands the chance to develop far richer connections with their customers than the current mobile marketplace can offer too. By entwining voice with AI, they’re able to then learn what that specific user is likely to ask most, how they’re likely to phrase things, how they use the app as part of their daily routine and so on.

Voice apps - Trailblazing Tech Conference

Challenges facing adoption

With any new technology comes new challenges. The biggest one currently facing voice is trust – people’s concerns over the devices themselves listening in on conversations, their reputation for being “buggy” and not processing shopping orders correctly, or that the platform itself isn’t secure enough for payments.

Voice platform providers have their work cut out, but the benefits are clear. Voice offers a unique kind of loyalty and an unprecedented level of customer engagement, meaning any product or service can be delivered in the most convenient way.

Voice isn’t just an evolution of the mobile marketplace – it’s a revolution of the mobile concept and what it means to integrate tech into on-the-go lifestyles.

Check out our case study with The Drum Magazine if you want to know how we merged traditional media with voice technology to create a unique brand-led experience for readers.