Why Voice Technology Talks Directly to Customer Loyalty and Brand Trust

By 2020, over 50% of online search­es will be con­duct­ed via voice devices. Retail mar­keters are already treat­ing voice tech­nol­o­gy as a poten­tial­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ary way of engag­ing with their customers.

When done right, voice tech­nol­o­gy helps com­pa­nies offer more rel­e­vant expe­ri­ences and new lev­els of con­ve­nience, all of which builds brand loy­al­ty that lasts.

But I’m here to offer a word of cau­tion. As with much shiny new tech­nol­o­gy, many busi­ness­es have rushed into the smart speak­er world with a huge amount of excite­ment, but prob­a­bly not as much plan­ning. And not yet com­plete­ly exam­ined how it can best com­ple­ment their exist­ing cus­tomer expe­ri­ence (CX) strategies.

The suc­cess of voice tech­nol­o­gy in retail relies on an exist­ing loy­al con­sumer base and an under­stand­ing that just because everyone’s talk­ing about voice, it doesn’t mean that every prod­uct will be suitable.

Where does voice work?

Voice tech­nol­o­gy is the ulti­mate form of con­ve­nience and it’s tai­lor-made for retail brands. Google has already part­nered with the likes of Wal­mart, Oca­do, and Tar­get, enabling cus­tomers to order their week­ly gro­cery shop via voice, while Ama­zon Echo offers seam­less shop­ping inte­gra­tion with its online store.

And it’s clear­ly work­ing. Accord­ing to a study of almost 40,000 Ama­zon cus­tomers, those who own an Echo voice device have sig­nif­i­cant­ly increased their spend on low-cost, repeat-pur­chase items, such as gro­ceries, pet food, and health and beau­ty products.

How­ev­er, it begs the ques­tion as to whether peo­ple will ever use voice devices to buy big-tick­et items. Indeed, Adobe research shows most peo­ple wouldn’t use voice tech for com­plex tasks like per­son­al bank­ing or book­ing travel.

But even if cus­tomers still pre­fer to shop for more expen­sive goods via mobile, desk­top or in-store – voice tech­nol­o­gy still has an impor­tant role to play in the over­all cus­tomer journey.

The real pow­er of voice expands beyond trans­ac­tions to more con­ver­sa­tion­al and com­plex engage­ments – per­haps a cus­tomer ask­ing ques­tions about a spe­cif­ic prod­uct to inform them dur­ing the research phase of their pur­chase journey.

Well thought-out, voice-led expe­ri­ences that endear some­one to a brand may well mean that they buy a big-tick­et item lat­er down the line via anoth­er chan­nel. It’s why voice tech­nol­o­gy absolute­ly has to be inte­grat­ed into a retail brand’s wider mar­ket­ing mix, rather than sit­ting in isolation.

Every­thing starts with trust

The oppor­tu­ni­ties for retail­ers using voice are clear. But in many ways, voice tech­nol­o­gy is already on the back foot when it comes to earn­ing the con­sumer trust need­ed to make it work. A stig­ma still remains fol­low­ing rumours that voice tech­nol­o­gy was lis­ten­ing to pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions, and it’s been a tough one to shake.

The objec­tive then, is build­ing that all-impor­tant cus­tomer trust first. As with any oth­er new piece of tech­nol­o­gy, it can’t oper­ate in silos, and won’t pro­vide imme­di­ate mar­ket­ing grat­i­fi­ca­tion. But voice tech is so dif­fer­ent from oth­er mar­ket­ing chan­nels, that many brands have made the mis­take of doing exact­ly that.

In fact, accord­ing to research by Adobe Ana­lyt­ics, 91% of 401 deci­sion-mak­ers sur­veyed said they’re mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant invest­ments in voice.

Con­sumer trust will invari­ably increase as voice tech­nol­o­gy evolves to fea­ture more robust secu­ri­ty stan­dards – much like e‑commerce and online bank­ing became the new norm fol­low­ing an ini­tial peri­od of skepticism.

But the onus is also on brands to cre­ate an omin­chan­nel approach that incor­po­rates voice seam­less­ly into the cus­tomer jour­ney. Con­sumers are much more like­ly to embrace voice tech­nol­o­gy from a brand they already trust.

Know what you want to achieve

Despite the oppor­tu­ni­ties, voice tech­nol­o­gy as pure­ly a rev­enue dri­ver just isn’t going cut it in some mar­kets. A real­is­tic approach that recog­nis­es its lim­i­ta­tions is cru­cial to its success.

The impor­tant thing is to deter­mine what you actu­al­ly want voice tech­nol­o­gy to achieve from a busi­ness per­spec­tive. Is it con­ver­sions and increased rev­enue, cus­tomer engage­ment, or cus­tomer loy­al­ty? It real­ly comes down to who you are as a brand.

After all, a B2B tech brand wouldn’t expect to sell a mul­ti-mil­lion pound piece of soft­ware over social media, nor would a restau­rant call you up try­ing to ped­dle their new three-course menu. The same the­o­ry applies to voice, but with the afore­men­tioned restau­rant, for exam­ple, con­sumers may well use a voice device to check out cus­tomer reviews or open­ing times and menu options.

Each brand is dif­fer­ent, mean­ing voice can be used in many dif­fer­ent ways to achieve dif­fer­ent things.

What is cer­tain, how­ev­er, is that the vast major­i­ty (76%) of brands that have intro­duced voice tech into their mar­ket­ing mix already see it as a com­pet­i­tive dif­fer­en­tia­tor – whether that’s due to bet­ter cus­tomer engage­ment or increased sales. The sophis­ti­ca­tion of voice tech­nol­o­gy is only going to increase, and with it the lev­els of con­ve­nience it offers its users, so time real­ly is of the essence.