Voice interfaces are the new frontier for advertisers. With Google’s recent release of Duplex to conduct natural conversations and carry out “real world” tasks, and the increasing consumer adoption of Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, voice interfaces are becoming more accessible to users and adopted in business. In 2018, Canalys research estimates that 56.3 million speakers will ship globally, largely from Amazon and Google. eMarketer expects that in the U.S. alone, the number of the devices will rise to 67 million by 2019.
At the same time, the pace at which developers are improving the ability for natural voice recognition (i.e. Google Duplex) and building apps, like Microsoft’s Cortana, that can be used through voice activation in the workplace is rising (the number of Alexa skills has increased fivefold between 2016 and 2017). Chatbot applications are becoming widely adopted in business to handle customer support issues, and are particularly well-positioned to become common voice interfaces in the enterprise space.
We're now moving quickly into the intersection of voice and business applications, and this is great news for advertisers who rely on complex data sets to make critical decisions about performance. With the rise in the amount of data resulting from app and platform interactions, there's been an increasing demand for more efficient ways to process, analyze and access that data. The answer is in the emerging voice-activated interfaces and chatbots that will provide advertisers with a novel way of interacting with their apps and data, which many would have considered science fiction just a few years ago.
We expect advertisers to adopt voice interface technology as a new business intelligence ally due to the following reasons:
Traditional Screens Are Shifting Toward Voice Activation
In workplaces over the past few years, we’ve shifted from the wired desktop mouse to mobile touchscreens. Now it seems that we’re transitioning again, this time to conversational interfaces synced to our data and the applications we use.
The smartphone screen and traditional interaction will continue to play a big role in the future of voice AI, and developers will continue improving user interfaces as adoption increases. Research shows that three voice interactions or less per session are recommended for voice assistants. While we’re not there yet in terms of natural language working perfectly for everyday tasks, improvements in the technology for natural language understanding are being invested in deeply by companies like Google.
In the far future, we expect interactions between marketing analysts and business intelligence apps to be conversational and include questions such as:
- "What are my top-performing campaigns?"
- "Which campaigns should I allocate more budget to?"
Voice and Word Recognition for Everyday Tasks Are Improving
While voice search is currently reaching its limits, there's considerable investment into improving speech recognition. Google reports that its word accuracy rate reached 95% in 2017, and its release of Duplex is focused on enabling a natural dialog between man and machine. In fact, the Google Duplex system is already capable of carrying out sophisticated conversations and it completes the majority of its tasks fully autonomously, without human involvement. (Tasks such as making restaurant reservations and scheduling appointments.)
Both for search and for mobile commerce, improvements in voice and word accuracy will be significant. Criteo reports that U.S. retail advertisers with a shopping app generate 67% of revenue transactions from mobile devices, and Statista reports that U.S. mobile retail revenues are expected to be $267.47 billion by 2019. A voice interface is an ideal solution for a variety of tasks, such as making purchases and managing purchase order logistics.
Advertisers will need to adapt to a consumer landscape where touchpoints become listening points, and search marketers are laying important groundwork by focusing on what can be done with devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. comScore data forecasts that 50% of all search will be via voice by 2020. With voice superseding touchscreens in the future, understanding and improving search for their brand and products is key for advertisers now.
What's Next for the Future of Voice Interfaces
There's a positive outlook from advertisers and brands on the impact of voice-powered interfaces. In a survey conducted with Forrester Consulting in 2017, agency professionals predicted that emerging technologies, including chatbots and voice AI, will have a significant impact on marketing approaches going forward.
We believe that voice interfaces are a step forward for mobile advertising and analytics that will deliver significant impact. As we move toward 2019, we expect to see even more examples of voice-powered business applications. While the keyboard and touchscreens won't be completely obsolete yet, voice could begin to replace the need to type and provide a more natural way of interacting with computers and software.
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