Customers Are Ready for Voice Experiences. Are Brands?

graphic of audio waves from person speaking

By Stas Tushinskiy, CEO, Instreamatic

Powered by the evolution of AI, natural language processing, and cloud modernization, the readiness of voice advertising and voice-driven customer service strategies to achieve transformative impact for brands is no longer in doubt. As Paul Kigawa of Norwest Venture Partners frames the opportunity of the moment: “Voice is certainly one of the most exciting new modalities for easing consumer experiences, especially when we are so overwhelmed with tactile media that require our eyes and fingertips.”

The only remaining question is whether marketers are ready to capitalize on voice’s emerging possibilities.

Brands: Use voice ads and interfaces to give customers a voice

Conversational voice ads enable direct dialogues between brands and consumers. These captivating ad experiences cut through the noise of one-way audio ads to instead offer meaningful (and measurable) engagement, and allow consumers to express themselves like never before. Audiences tell brands – in the moment and in their own words – whether a call-to-action interests them or not. Voice ads bring value even when offers are declined: brands immediately learn consumers’ preferences, building personalization. Subsequent touchpoints in the same campaign can leverage the full history of each individual’s interactions to deliver only relevant offers, respecting consumers’ opinions and time. Brands further benefit from especially transparent and accurate voice ad performance metrics, all based on a firm record of each ad interaction and its result.

These factors extend to voice interfaces for customer service and support as well, similarly enabling individually-customized experiences and satisfying management of brand relationships. “Voice opens the opportunity for brands to get closer to their consumers and build a culture of trust and engagement – along with creating an additional service layer,” observes Julia Rast at Xaxis, the AI-centric programmatic specialist. “For brands, that means that they can shorten the consumer journey. And as long as you provide consumers with the information they are looking for, they will become loyal customers.”

Forge emotional connections, engage, and persuade with voice

Speaking, connecting with another, and being understood are powerful emotional acts. This is true even if it’s a brand’s voice on the other end of the conversation. The interactive nature of voice ads originates a new opportunity for brands to engage and persuade customers. Voice ad metrics bear this out: customers express higher ad recall rates due to the emotion invoked by these two-way brand experiences.

In the hugely popular NYT bestseller Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, seminal expert and author Robert Cialdini introduced his Six Principles of Persuasion that have themselves influenced business and advertising ever since. Among these principles, “Consistency” describes the mental behavioral shortcuts that influence individuals to honor their past commitments. When a consumer speaks aloud to accept a voice ad offering, they emotionally commit to the offer, and to the brand. As Steve Dunlop from A Million Ads puts it, “By tapping into the inherent strengths of audio, the opportunities of voice technology enable us to deliver the most creative, personal, and effective ad campaigns.”

Shape context-aware voice experiences that offer value, privacy, and personality

To succeed at voice experiences, brands must leverage the unique strengths of the medium. Brands should determine the core consumer benefit of each experience and deliver it well. Whether it’s a money-saving product offer or convenient time-saving customer service, voice experiences should convey brand value in the brand’s own personality. Crucially, voice experiences should also understand the consumer’s context (for example, if they are driving or exercising or relaxing), and shape content to fit those hands-free moments. Guaranteeing data privacy by requiring audiences to opt-in to voice experiences is a must. And brands should keep interactions succinct: memorable brand experiences can be as brief as 10 seconds or less.

Voice offers a breadth of opportunities when it comes to what form those memorable brand experiences take. Voice ads on audio platforms are just one path – conversational video ads are another, and are poised to really lift off in 2022. Interactive voice surveys can collect data on customer preferences with far more nuance, understanding, and, well, warmth than passive voice alternatives like IVR systems. Voice feedback capabilities can enable customer service and support, or stretch beyond to power any applications a brand can imagine. The technology is there now, and there’s arguably the most to gain for brands near the front of the line that use these capabilities as a differentiator before mass adoption.

Customers are ready and waiting

“Consumers have already broken down their walls when it comes to voice,” says Robert Davis at Ogilvy, framing the challenge to brands. “They are leading; it’s up to marketers to figure out how to be a part of that world. Progress adopted by consumers won’t slow down to wait for laggards, and current trends have sound front and center.”

The voice opportunity for brands is broad and potentially transformative. Given the chance, consumers will tell brands everything they need to know to succeed, in their own words. After years of ads and interfaces that talk at users, the brands that best empower customers and maximize the benefits of interactive voice experiences will be those that learn to listen.

Click here to read The State of Voice Advertising whitepaper from Instreamatic.

About the Author

Stas Tushinskiy is the CEO of Instreamatic, which provides an end-to-end solution for managing, measuring, and monetizing voice dialogue advertising.