The marketing landscape has changed fundamentally since the advent of digital. But now, new challenges and fresh opportunities are coming with the rise of new voice technology and voice marketing within the home and mobile space.

With the rise of data-driven algorithms and the digital assistants they power, a further quantum shift is now taking place that will have as big if not a far greater impact on brands than ‘digital’, as voice-based interaction with digital services takes over from screen.

Already, more than 81% of consumers have used a smartphone to activate a voice assistant like Siri or Google Assistant and one third (35%) have purchased a consumer product or retail item using a voice assistant, according to recent research conducted in the US, UK, France and Germany for Capgemini[i].

The arrival and rapid evolution of voice-enabled digital assistants first on mobile, such as Siri; then on stand-alone device such as Google Home made online recommendation more immediate, reactive and engaging.

Then Dominos and Ocado last year became two of the first brands to offer voice-activated shopping via an in-home device, in both cases via Alexa, taking voice purchasing to a whole new level.

Moving forward, as people interact with an ever-expanding array of connected devices, the algorithms driving next generation digital services will learn our wants, dislikes and behavioural patterns to become both our life and work coaches and also companions. And the net effect will be further consolidation of in-home as a powerful new point of purchase with significant growth potential.

Small wonder, that with comScore now predicting that 50% of online searches will be done via voice rather than screen by 2020 [ii], the future of brand: consumer interaction is now being tipped by many observers to be ‘voice-first’.

With a radically different marketing environment now imminent with brand content, products and services increasingly activated by spoken words brand owners and agencies must adapt their thinking and approaches accordingly.

For a start, they must get to grips not just with the vast quantities of data generated by our digital interactions but the potential for personalisation at scale that comes with the rise and rise of mobile, artificial intelligence and machine learning, cloud-based marketing techniques and technology generally.

But they must also prepare for and optimise an imminent and inevitable split between what customers will want and accept in different environments, notably, outside and inside the home.

In the world outside the home, there will be opportunity for (and, as important, acceptance of) more personalised, large-scale brand experiences. But in the world inside – within consumers’ personal environments, notably their home and car - consumers will be more choosey, only allowing in those brands they trust and see offering clear and tangible value.

Brand owners must therefore ready themselves for a fierce battle to become one of the chosen few granted access to consumers’ home environments, with winners being those best able to generate the highest levels and demonstrate the value or usefulness they can deliver.

They will need to modify their optimisation techniques, too, as people search differently via voice than they do via screen. Via voice, search is more likely to be driven by what consumers associate with a product ‘dry hands’ rather than ‘hand cream’, for example. Brands will also need to ensure their brand rather than a generic become the search criteria not ‘hand cream’, for example, but NIVEA.

New rules of engagement, fresh challenges and opportunities will have to be mastered to get a foot in the consumer’s door in this brave new marketing world. But brand owners can prepare for tomorrow by ensuring today they understand two things:

First, they must get to grips with what value their offer the consumer to make the user’s life simpler, for example, to inform or to entertain. Then, they must understand and then action how that value should sound. And they should ensure they do this not as an afterthought but as a core part of any central brand strategy.

[i] https://retail.emarketer.com/article/heres-what-voice-assistant-users-want-buy-online/5a5e44d7ebd40008bc791202?ecid=NL1001

[ii] https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/just-say-it-future-search-voice-personal-digital-assistants/1392459