How Virtual Assistants are Changing the Customer Experience
The consumer-experience landscape is experiencing a paradigm shift. Advancements in AI and PASO (personal assistant search optimization) are increasing the accuracy of digital marketing efforts while enhancing brand-consumer relationships. If the trend continues, phone assistants will be able to better utilize big data in the pursuit of well placed, well timed, and increasingly relevant advertisements. What results from this increase in accuracy is not only significantly higher ad relevance, but an enhanced consumer experience that allows companies and brands to increase customer loyalty, while decreasing the costs of acquisition.
The Growth of Voice Search
Recent years have seen massive growth in both the smart-home assistant market and smartphone voice assistant use. The increased presence of these technologies radically changes both how customers interact with brands, and how brands reach out to those customers. Today, Google reports 55% of teens actively using voice search, followed by adults with 40% active use. That’s 35x more Google voice search queries from 2008-2016. Even more impactful is that nearly 50% of people now use voice search to research products prior to purchase . As keywords become less relevant and are replaced by semantics, smart-phone and smart-speaker use will provide a unique opportunity for marketers to reach their target audience and provide more valuable, relevant content that is more likely to drive action.
Voice Search Accuracy Driving Action
In addition to the increased use of voice search, is the increased accuracy of its results. Average search engine queries can provide upwards of 42 million results, and with phone assistants typically returning 1-4 results, it is easy to understand how click-through-rates would be exceptionally higher for voice searches. This is the result of several factors, primarily the location-specific nature of voice searches, and the semantic, rather than keyword-based algorithms being used.
People utilizing voice search typically are seeking to fill an immediate need, making them more susceptible to influence regarding that need; a need that could be fulfilled and met by a product, or service. The more accurate or precise search results are, logically, the higher the likelihood of the user engaging with the content provided. This is how accuracy drives action.
E-Commerce and Voice Search
As marketers learn to synergize e-commerce with the growth of voice search, consumers will be delivered ads with significantly higher relevance and greater chances of conversion. A report titled “Future of Retail” from Walker Sands found that in 2017 alone, 19% of consumers made a purchase using a voice-controlled assistant, with 37% of millennials reporting they “always” or “often” shop online using voice assistants. The combination of e-commerce and voice search seems to be a promising new frontier through which brands can enhance their relationships and interactions with their target audience.
Phones as Personal Assistants
“As our devices learn to better predict and provide for our needs, the better they will be able to interact with us, rather than vice-versa.”
The transition from phone to voice-controlled personal assistant arguably began with Siri in 2010. Before this, there were much more limited functionalities through voice controls. As the voice command technology has improved, so too has the frequency in which people use them. As of May 2017, almost 40% of all smartphone owners use voice command and recognition software. As our devices learn to better predict and provide for our needs, the better they will be able to interact with us, rather than vice-versa; providing product or service recommendations, or even going as far as making purchases that are or are not pre-determined by the user.
2017 has seen rapid improvement in the responsiveness and functionality of voice-controlled phone assistants. Samsung’s release of Bixby for their flagship phones possesses notable points of difference when compared to its Apple counterpart—Siri. Boasting rudimentary artificial intelligence, Bixby learns as you use it, better recognizing voice and speech patterns, and anticipating needs based on past actions. Although these functions are more designed for planning, scheduling, and commands, it is only a matter of time before the functionality transitions to compatibility with e-commerce. Cross-app integration will pave the way for voice-controlled or even autonomous purchases via mobile devices. Amazon Echo, a voice-controlled smart-home appliance has this capability and merging that technology with what is already present inside our mobile devices will again change the customer-experience landscape.
Big Data Integration
The last and arguably most important factor contributing to the future of intelligent smart-phone assistants is the use of big data and its ability to anticipate consumer behavior. One of the most powerful aspects of big data is its potential to create transparency. When a need arises, marketers can now identify indicators through an individual’s internet “footprint”. Indicators such as search queries, social media, shared links, and location. These indicators provide marketers with clues as to what consumers are looking for; which they can then provide directly to them. The extent to which big data can reach, only continues to grow as household appliances begin to obtain IP addresses in the wave of IoT (internet of things) and smart-home technology, providing more sources to accumulate information in big data pools.
Big Data Enhancing the Virtual Assistant
As the artificial intelligence previously discussed pushes the capabilities of the virtual assistants within our mobile devices, they will be better able to utilize the big data at their disposal. Once there is a seamless interaction between the data accumulated on the device (such as cookies, search histories etc.) and the virtual assistants, they will be able to predict, and even autonomously serve ads or recommendations with increasingly higher relevance. This will make digital marketing efforts more effective, as a more targeted approach can be adopted. There will also be a higher likelihood of conversion as the ads are delivered at the time the need arises in a consumer’s life or mind. Considering many daily functions and services have been centralized onto our mobile devices—such as banking, it is not difficult to anticipate our phones being able to make purchases on our behalf after identifying the need through our digital footprints.
The digital marketing environment is changing. There are more channels than ever before to reach customers, and more information available to inform marketing decisions. Technology is rapidly evolving the way consumers interact with brands and vice-versa. Because of mobile phones and e-commerce, the future of the brick-and-mortar model of retailing is uncertain. Simplicity is paramount in today's society, and voice-controlled, artificially intelligent assistants, are one of many forms that simplicity is manifesting in our technologies.