From supporting your customer service to reaching new customers— voice assistants offer enormous potential for businesses that has yet to be exploited by many companies. Right now is a good time to start looking into this topic.
In this article, we explain why. In addition, you will receive valuable tips on how to get started with developing your own voice assistant.
By the way: our Conversational AI Platform supports (in addition to other channels) also the voice assistants from Google and Amazon. This means that your intelligent Onlim assistant can be made accessible to your users as a Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa action or skill. We can answer all your related questions, if you want to find out more – just get in contact with us.
What Are Voice Assistants?
While voice assistants were only known from science fiction series such as Star Trek or Knight Rider in the past, they have now arrived in the everyday lives of many consumers. They can be activated easily via voice command and help users place orders, play music or find the nearest flower shop.
Of course, these functions can also be performed using a smartphone, PC or laptop. The crucial difference, however, is the user experience. Thanks to voice assistants, it is no longer necessary to use an end device with a keyboard or a touchscreen.
This makes voice assistants not only a useful companion in everyday life, but also a great opportunity for companies. Because as a company you can communicate with users over another channel and offer them information, services, and products when they really need them.
How Voice Assistants Work
To provide an intuitive user experience, it needs the following three components:
a microphone for voice input
a loudspeaker for voice output
and the appropriate software to process the input
The user can pass on his voice commands to the assistant via a voice message recorded by the microphone. The recorded voice message is processed and compared with a database using an algorithm. If the right answer is found in the database, the user hears it over the loudspeaker.
You may have wondered to yourself that your voice assistant only provides answers with a reliable internet connection. This is because the database is located on distributed servers in the cloud. This has the advantage that users can access a much larger amount of data. In addition, this data is expanded and optimized as the number of queries increases.
The selection of established smart speakers is relatively limited and can be narrowed down to three main providers, all of which you’ve probably heard of: Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri.
Google Assistant is in first place. Around 23 percent of Germans use this voice assistant. Amazon Echo with Alexa is in second place with 18 percent, and Siri from Apple is only close behind with 15 percent.
Before we briefly discuss the individual smart speakers, it should be noted that the user experience is of course closely related to the devices with which the voice assistant interacts.
A voice assistant works best in its own digital ecosystem. Google Assistant works best with other Google devices and applications, such as Google Home, Chromecast, or Google Apps. The user experience for Alexa can be achieved primarily with devices from Amazon, such as Fire Sticks and tablets.
Furthermore, the smart speakers differ in other features.
Assistant from Google
Google Assistant has the best speech recognition. It is clearly ahead both in recognizing the spoken language and in classifying the correct context.
Another decisive advantage, especially for companies: Google Assistant has the largest user base and thus offers the most extensive target group for marketing campaigns. There are already more than 2.5 billion Android devices worldwide. On the one hand, this is because Google Assistant is already installed on all android devices by default and the Google Home smart speaker enjoys great popularity.
Another advantage is that Google is pushing the development of so-called actions. These are small functions with which the user can individualize the smart speaker. For example, this can be a translation function, assistants for the TV program or a read-aloud function for audiobooks. Google itself claims that over 1 million of these actions are now available.
Alexa From Amazon
It is true that Amazon’s voice assistant does not have as many individual functions as Google Assistant. Nevertheless, it can shine with its high adaptability. It can be expanded with around 100,000 so-called skills.
These skills equip the assistant with additional functions, similar to Google Actions. Every user can decide for himself which skills are important for him and thus personalize his assistant.
Siri from Apple
For all Apple users, Siri is a user-friendly voice assistant that primarily scores with its seamless interaction with Apple devices. The voice recognition not only works on new devices, but can also be used on older devices with appropriate updates.
Another advantage is the number of supported languages. Apple offers 21 languages. Coupled with good speech recognition and the ability to recognize the individual voice, this voice assistant offers helpful support for users all over the world.
The Potential Of Voice Assistants For Businesses
What simply sounds like nice gimmicks, is already a serious marketing channel that will continue to grow in importance in the future. Here are 3 reasons why you as a company should invest in voice assistants today.
1. The Internet Of Voice Is On The Rise
Some experts compare the Internet of Voice, i.e. information search via voice control, to the invention of the internet. There are already more than 1 billion end devices with voice assistants on the market today. A figure that will continue to rise in the future. By 2023, there are expected to be around 8 billion voice assistants.
This will also have an increasing impact on consumers’ communication behavior. It can be assumed that fewer and fewer consumers will communicate via email or chat. Instead, communication via voice assistants will gradually find its way into communication with companies.
But the Internet of Voice offers companies even greater potential than pure customer communication. Voice shopping, i.e., shopping via voice command, is expected to generate sales of 40 billion U.S. dollars by 2022. Voice shopping thus is a lucrative source of income that is worth tapping into.
2. Voice Discovery Gains In Importance
We have already mentioned it before: Both Google Assistant and Alexa already offer an almost limitless selection of actions or skills. Of course this is great for the users, but it also means that it is becoming increasingly important for companies to find ways to get found and to stand out from the crowd.
Competition is also getting tougher around search engine optimization. Whereas in the past companies wanted to get on the first results page, today they have to achieve “position zero”. This is because a page of relevant results, where up to 10 results are shown, doesn’t exist in voice search. Usually, users are only shown the top result. So, it’s all or nothing.
That’s why it’s important for companies to start thinking about the Internet of Voice today. You need to find a way to position yourself in the market and include voice discovery as an elementary component of your marketing strategy.
3. Now Or Never — The Importance Of Brand In Voice Search
Another important reason why it is important for companies to act as quickly as possible is naming Google Actions and Alexa Skills. Because this is very strict.
For example, names that are too generic are not allowed and a name that has already been registered once cannot be assigned a second time. So, to secure a well-named Alexa Skill and Google Action, you should be quick.
At the same time, the brand name and its recognition will be an effective way to stand out from the competition. For example, if the user uses the brand name in a search query, only matching shops will be suggested.
For example, a user who asks, “Siri, where can I buy Hugo Boss business shirts?” will only receive shops that offer the corresponding brand. Past marketing campaigns focused on increasing brand awareness will definitely pay off in this case.
How Do Companies Use Voice Assistants Already?
In addition to being used to complement the marketing strategy, voice assistants offer other promising use cases for companies. For example, they are often used as phone bots and within company apps.
According to the study “The Power of Bots” by The Academic Society for Management & Communication, voice assistants are being used for the following three use cases:
Customer service support
Internal of employees (e.g., for knowledge sharing, networking, onboarding)
Personalization of online presence
These use cases offer significant assistance as well as additional service, especially for customer service.
For example, in the form of the following offerings:
Product advice & information research: One of the strengths of voice assistants is the fast access to information. In a matter of seconds, they can find relevant information about a product or service and make it available to the customer. Internally, a voice assistant can also make searching for relevant information much easier.
Troubleshooting: In the event of recurring error messages or customer problems, voice assistants can be a first point of contact. Especially if the problems are easy to solve, a voice assistant may already be sufficient for troubleshooting.
Appointments: Making appointments is also an area that can be outsourced to a voice assistant. Users can make and change appointments as well as receive reminders without the need for a human employee.
On-site services: Voice assistants can be of great help not only by phone, but also directly on site. For example, they can provide hotel guests with relevant information about the surrounding area while they are in their room, or be an easy way to activate a wake-up call or order something from room service.
Order tracking: For customers eagerly awaiting a package, this feature is worth a mint. They can check the status of the delivery via the voice assistant as often as they want after placing an order.
Refunds: Online shopping is used by more and more users. But, they are not always satisfied with the products ordered. Returns can also be handled conveniently via a voice assistant.
Applications and registrations: Whether registering for a gym, a loan or applying for a new job — Voice assistants make it particularly easy to enter the required information without having to type everything into a form.
Best practice examples – These brands are already successfully using voice technology
Below are some examples of how brands are using voice assistants to improve their customer experience, market their products and automate customer service.
Nike has partnered with Google to create a unique voice shopping experience for consumers. In 2019, the duo launched the first voice-activated shoe sale. The aim was to promote its most futuristic pair of shoes, Adapt BB.
The shoes debuted during an NBA game between the Lakers and Celtics on the feet of NBA stars Kyle Kuzma and Jayson Tatum and garnered a lot of attention during the game. As the halftime break began, the commentator announced to fans that the only way to grab a pair of Adapt BBs was to ask Google Assistant how to buy the shoes. The shoe sold out within 6 minutes.
Coca-Cola launched several voice-based promotions in 2020. In Australia, Alexa users could ask the voice assistant to share a Coke (Alexa, Share a Coke) to receive a free, personalized Coke bottle.
In the US, users could ask Alexa for a sample of the new Coca-Cola Energy drink. A promotion linked to the Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad that ended immediately when the samples ran out.
Walmart has already had several experiences with voice technology. Back in 2019, the company partnered with Google to enable Walmart customers to shop for groceries via voice-based services. This service was also offered via Siri a few months later.
In 2020, Walmart developed a virtual assistant for all employees. The Ask Sam app is used to improve coordination within and between Walmart shops. Thus, the embedded voice assistant answers employees’ questions about product prices and locations, either for their own use or to answer customers’ questions. It also informs them about policy changes and emergencies.
KFC was the first company to use Amazon’s Brand Voice feature. With Brand Voice, Amazon engineers help customers develop a custom voice for their brand based on recordings with a voice actor. Amazon’s deep learning technology then teaches Alexa to speak like the actors.
At KFC, the Alexa Skill was thus equipped with a voice that sounds like Colonel Sanders.
Voice technology has also broken new ground in finance over the past years, and US Bank’s voice assistant embodies this trend. The smart assistant, embedded in the bank’s app, allows users to carry out their banking requests via natural language.
The virtual assistant can complete transactions and transfers, retrieve bills and spending history, and manage credit cards. If there is a query that the AI assistant cannot answer, it connects the user with a human employee via text messaging or a phone call.
This floral giant is a long-time innovator on the automated customer service front. The company allows customers to place orders via Samsung Bixby, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. For maximum convenience, 1-800-Flowers.com offers several payment options for voice orders, including Samsung Pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay and Amazon Pay.
In addition, the floral gift retailer has integrated its own intelligent assistant. With the company’s new voice-based self-service, customer queries are answered around the clock. To provide personalised service to returning customers, the AI assistant learns with each customer interaction.
This once phone-based retailer has not only successfully transformed into an online retailer, but is also a leader in the use of voice technology and AI in e-commerce.
Whitepaper: More Knowledge For Chatbots And Voice Assistants
In the whitepaper “More Knowledge For Chatbots And Voice Assistants” you will learn how meaningful conversations between humans and machines are made possible in automated customer communication through so-called Knowledge Graphs.
In the second part of our series about voice assistants we will take a look at the challenges voice assistants face today, as well as what to expect in the near future.
Curious about the capabilities of a fully featured, yet user friendly Conversational AI platform? Take a look at our unique, knowledge-based solution.
In the first part we took a look at why it’s important to get involved with the topic of voice assistants and what possible areas of application and successful implementations already exist.
Now we’ll look at what challenges voice assistants are currently facing. You’ll also get tips on how to get started with developing your own voice assistant. So read on.
What Challenges Do Voice Assistants Currently Face?
As promising as voice technology sounds — It still has to overcome other challenges to secure a long-term place in the corporate world.
These are its biggest challenges:
1. Improving Speech Recognition
It is true that voice recognition is already excellent indoors and in the immediate vicinity of the voice assistant. However, the quality quickly drops in challenging environments, such as a noisy environment or over a long distance.
In this area, further solutions need to be developed so that the technology can also be used for areas such as live interviews, speech recognition during a family dinner, or even in meetings.
Another challenge is the recognition and availability of different languages and subjects. Especially for rare languages and niche topics, there is still room for improvement.
2. Get The Context Right
When two people are talking, you can easily decode what is being said, interpret the gestures of the other person, and link it to the previous conversation. Speech assistants often reach their limits doing so.
It is often difficult for voice assistants to understand and correctly classify the context of the spoken words. As a result, the user’s intention is misunderstood and incorrect information is provided or an inappropriate function is performed.
3. Accents And Dialects
Especially in times when users expect a technology to work in seconds, they can be still disappointed with voice assistants. It is often the case that voice assistants take longer to use than comparable text-based solutions.
This has to do with the fact that voice assistants still have to learn the speech patterns of different users. Accents in particular lead to problems. For example, there are significant differences in how well American English is understood compared to Scottish English. Slow and clear pronunciation can be helpful here.
Accents and dialects are not always the problem. Colds and the voice changes that often accompany them can also cause voice assistants to understand users less well.
4. Privacy And Data Protection
For a voice assistant to function optimally, it needs data to learn and optimize its capabilities. Preferably, data from everyday interactions with voice recognition systems.
However, many users want full control over their data. Especially when it comes to such a wide variety of commands and questions they ask their voice assistant in everyday life. It is not necessarily a reassuring idea when every interaction with the voice assistants is collected and added to a global data set.
Especially when it is stored by commercial companies, such as Google or Amazon. As a result, it is currently a major challenge to collect enough data so that voice assistants can continue to learn while addressing security and privacy needs.
3 Tips For Implementing Voice Assistants For Businesses
If you now think that voice assistants are just what you need, we would like to help you to get started with the following tips for implementing your voice assistant:
1. Don’t Wait Too Long
Now is the optimal time to get started with enterprise voice assistants. The technology is already sufficiently developed so that it provides value to users. Since many businesses are still hesitant, you can get a head start.
You have the opportunity to test and learn which strategies work as well as secure memorable and relevant skill and action names.
2. Adapt Marketing Content
Developing a voice strategy requires rethinking how customers are approached. This is because a voice assistant conversation is very different from the often more formal written communication. You need to realize what the shift to communicating via voice assistants and using spoken queries means.
Of course, the answer is always extremely individual. However, one point remains the same for all companies: Communication via voice assistants must be incorporated across all company divisions. Above all, this is crucial for planning and creating content. Because in order to use content for voice assistants, it must be provided in advance. Answers, for example, can no longer be formulated spontaneously during a customer conversation.
In addition, visual corporate identity is becoming less important. It is no longer a question of how a company presents itself visually, but how it sounds.
3. Analyze Competition And Customer Behavior
Although many companies are still hesitant, there are already some pioneers who have established voice assistants in their marketing mix. Look for companies that are already succeeding in using voice technologies and try to learn from them.
Analyzing customer behavior can also give you valuable insights. After all, the use of spoken language changes customer behavior. They use different technologies, stay in different places, and use different words for their search queries.
For companies, this means they need to evaluate how they can adapt their processes to changing customer behavior. For example, SEO copy may need to be revised, or marketing materials in general may need to be adapted to different technical formats.
Here’s How To Proceed — A Brief Step-By-Step Guide
To help you get started with the topic of voice assistants, you can use the following process as a guide:
1. Idea generation & planning
The first step is to give this topic the importance it deserves. Not only you, but the entire marketing, sales and customer service team must be aware of the opportunity voice technology offers.
To do this, think about the following questions:
In which areas would the implementation of voice-based services improve or add value to your communication?
What are the goals to be achieved?
Which target group should be addressed?
What problems should the skill/action solve for the user?
Which differentiating factors play a role?
What measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) can you define?
What is the estimated project scope and the resources required?
Are your systems suitable for the implementation of a voice-based service?
2. Voice User Interface (VUI) Design
Once you have defined the use case for your voice-based service, it’s time to start designing it.
Consider the following points:
What should your voice user interface look like?
Define functions and content.
Define the skill/action name and invocation name.
Complete technical planning.
3. Development & Certification
At this step, at the latest, you should know whether you want to have the implementation carried out in-house or by an external expert.
Onlim’s experience from numerous successfully implemented chatbot and voice assistant projects shows that when developing skills, actions or voice-based services, you must pay great attention to the preparation and analysis of the data and content you use. Your data is the basis for good natural language understanding and thus, a satisfactory overall result.
What do you have to consider during this phase?
Implement the technical requirements for the skill/action (e.g. APIs, etc.).
Implementation based on Alexa/Google Actions SDKs and toolkits.
Get an overview of the skill/action certification process.
Start with a user-friendly beta test.
Create a user-friendly beta test plan and invite users for beta testing.
Submit the skill/action for certification.
We would be happy to support you in these processes, contact us.
4. Launch & Promotion:
The last step is to launch and promote the skill/action or voice-based service. Make your voice based experiences, evaluate the activities and analyse the data you have collected.
These questions will guide you:
How do you plan to market the skill/action after the launch? (e.g. PR, social media, advertising campaigns etc).
What are the expectations towards the product after launch? (e.g. will there be a V2.0)
How do you plan to handle bug fixes, user reviews etc. after launch?
We hope that our tips will help you kick off your voice assistant project. Of course, as reliable conversational AI developers, we will be happy to support you at all stages and ensure that your project is implemented quickly and without complications. Just ask for our free consultation.