Are You Listening

The future of web is voice: Are you listening?

Voice-led technology is the way of the future and there’s still time to cash in on the early mover advantage, says Luminary CEO Marty Drill.

Marty Drill

By Marty Drill, 31 October 20175 minute read

In the late 1980s, Apple commissioned director George Lucas to bring to life an idea they had about something called a ‘Knowledge Navigator’. 

What was then a spectacularly far-fetched concept, the Knowledge Navigator was pictured as an online assistant who was able to pull in immediate knowledge about anything and everything. In the video, we see a university professor wearing a small screen – looks a lot like an iPad – with his AI assistant wearing a bow tie.

“Today you have a faculty lunch at 12 o’clock; you need to take Cathy to the airport by 2pm; you have a lecture on 'Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest' at 4.15pm,” says the AI butler. Hmm. Sound familiar?

Fast forward to 2011 and Apple’s compliant friend on the screen has lost the bow-tie and gained an attitude: welcome to the world, Siri. She’s sassy, quick on the recall, and just the tip of the iceberg of voice-led interaction. Siri can order you a taxi, tell you the weather, seach for a phone number, or give you directions to the closest pizza place. (Just don’t ask if she’s real: it brings on an existential crisis.)

A new chapter in consuming information

Siri aimed to surprise and delight, and that she did. But her capabilities were quickly outshone by new voice-recognition technologies such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, whose seamless linking with online resources made them the real-life robot butler Apple had dreamt of.

As this technology becomes increasingly immersive, the way we are shopping, learning and communicating continues to shift dramatically. In fact, 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen by 2020.* The future of web is voice-led interaction.

Here’s the thing: the web is changing, and companies need to begin thinking about how they are going to deal with conversational interfaces. What are the challenges? How can you benefit from voice-led technology? Where are the opportunities for growth or innovation? Of course, the biggest question for now, while the technology continues to develop, is how can YOU get involved?

*Source: Gartner Research 2016 'Top 10 Predictions for 2017 and Beyond'.

The answer lies within your content

Essentially, you need to future-proof your investment into content with conversational interfaces. In order to seed your brand’s content – and therefore, your product or services – you need to design structured content that can be accessed through microservices or webhooks. This means making your content (and systems) readily available to digital assistants by using structured content and microservices.

How do you do this? Easy. Eliminate friction from your customers’ lives by making content structured and readable by bots. Modular content – created in a form that allows it to be sliced, diced and delivered via a multitude of platforms – is your best bet. This will ensure your content has the flexibility to be delivered by semantic devices like Google Home or Alexa. 

The future of marketing will increasingly be predictive, hyper-personalised, adaptive and responsive – so don’t be afraid to create lots of content items to capture all possible demographic combinations.

The possibilities are endless

Voice-led interaction with brands and services online is truly in its infancy. As the user experience becomes even easier, traditional methods of searching, purchasing or communicating online are going to feel clunky and outdated. Why fill out a form, when Alexa can do it for you? Or why trace your search history, when Google Home already has it saved?

The opportunities for brand loyalty and increased sales are infinite. Once there is a trusted relationship with a company and customer, repeat ordering and interactions become easy, creating a barrier for competitors. Be the best at voice-integrated services, and your customers will have no reason to leave.

Imagine if you could say "Alexa, book my car in for a service" and Alexa came back to you with times that were available. Do you remember the last time you were at a hotel and wanted to order room service? What if there was a digital assistant in the room that could read you the menu and allow you to place an order. Now, imagine that it made suggestions based on food that it knows you like. The ability to customise services like Amazon's Alexa will provide a completely new way to access information and service.

By removing the barrier of a screen, voice-led interaction with AI will become more and more pervasive in our daily lives. Sure, there is the expected criticism that comes with a shift in human behaviour, but this will also enable dramatic advancements for many people’s lives.

The elderly, the disabled, and the illiterate will suddenly have access to information they previously did not. Australia’s 65+ age group – who in the next 40 years, will make up over 25 percent of our population – will be able to quickly and seamlessly shop without needing to leave their home or navigate a screen.

For now, it is about harnessing the existing technologies and modifying our current systems to ensure they can work together without friction. And into the future? Maybe George Lucas’s vision of AI robots in bow-ties wasn’t so crazy after all.

The questions you’ll need to consider...

As you move out of traditional marketing constructs and into the world of voice-led AI, there are going to be new questions to answer when reviewing your offering and content online: 

  • What problem are you solving? (What problems will people be searching for, where you may provide the solution?)
  • What questions does the person have? (How can you phrase your content to match their online search?)
  • Can you put your existing system online? If you don’t, where are you going to store the content?
  • How do you want to personalise the content? (Finding a way to capture large audiences and niche search nets.)
  • What does success look like? How are you going to assess it?

This article is a summarised version of Marty's closing keynote presented on 26 October 2017 at the Kentico Roadshow in Chicago.

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