Voice is next. How are you going to make it work for you?
Voice is next. How are you going to make it work for you?

By on in Design & experience

Voice is next. How are you going to make it work for you?

For the last 10 years or so, I’ve been a hardcore Google customer. From Android to numerous Google apps and tools, as well as devices like the Google Pixel phone, Chromecast streaming and Google Nest smart speakers. Little by little, all of these became a natural part of my life. One day I’m creating folders and files in Google Drive, the next I’m exchanging words with my Google Assistant.

You may not be able to monetize timer setting and turning on the lights, but where can you better embed your brand into people’s day-to-day home and work lives?

The voice assistant market, in particular, promises significant growth in the next few years. It is expected to reach US$7.3 billion by 2025, according to Market Research Future. Smart speaker sales, specifically, saw acceleration during the pandemic and expect annual growth of 49% from 2020 to 2021. The voice assistant market is still new, though, and it is very challenging for brands to integrate with assistants in a seamless way that adds value for providers and users.


How I use smart assistants

I have three smart speakers—Nest Minis in my home office and kitchen, and a Nest Hub, which has a display but no camera, installed in the bedroom.

These are the voice commands I use every single day. “Hey Google…

… turn off all lights.

… turn on the office lights. (Working until 7 or 8 pm, it can be too much effort to get up when I’m deep into a spreadsheet.)

… turn [on/off] the TV. (Because I often don’t know where the remote is.)

… play [this TV show] from Netflix/Disney Plus on the living room TV.

… set a timer for X minutes.

This one is really helpful on many, many occasions, like:

    • Cooking is definitely top of the list
    • Reminders to go to the building laundry when a load is done
    • Timeouts for a naughty dog

… what’s on my calendar today?

… what’s the weather forecast for [today/tomorrow/the weekend]?

… ring my phone. (Sometimes you lose it, even at home.)

… can dogs eat X? (Yes, I’m one of those people who adopted during the pandemic.)

… how do I prepare/cook [whatever I’m looking at]?

… broadcast [important message for my partner]. (This is a great replacement for yelling around the house.)

… play [song name] from [artist name] on Spotify.

And there are more that I imagine others use frequently, like. “Hey, Google…

… add X to my shopping list. (I prefer to have my lists in Google Keep and for some reason the Google Assistant insisted on using shoppinglist.google.com by default. Today, I was finally able to reconfigure it to use Google Keep after reviewing this discussion on reddit. Perhaps I’ll start using the voice assistant more often for this task again.)

… send a WhatsApp message to [this person]. (I feel like this always results in nonsense messages. Plus, my Google default language is English, and I often need to send messages in Portuguese and Spanish.)

… order X on [store]. (I’m not comfortable shopping this way, and I don’t think I’m alone here. In 2018, even with PwC reporting that 1 in 4 Americans had a smart speaker at home, only 2% used voice shopping regularly. Over 50% never used it and weren’t interested, according to an eMarketer Commerce Survey conducted in December 2020.

With a few exceptions, it looks like my behavior is in line with the PwC survey results.

How frequently are/were you using your voice to do the following? - PwC Consumer Intelligence Series voice assistant survey, 2018

Apparently, voice assistants are even more useful if you have children, as if they become an esteemed member of the family. And the way voice assistants can increase accessibility for many people with physical or cognitive disabilities is amazing.

The key is being able to help us speed up or automate repetitive and simple tasks. Two seconds here, five seconds there, it all adds up to significant time saved in a day, a month, a year.


Where can your brand start?

Sure, you may not be able to monetize timer setting and turning on the lights, but where can you better embed your brand into people’s day-to-day home and work lives? Here are the two big opportunities facing you today:

1. Speaker-friendly search

Google Assistant uses speakable structured data to answer topical queries on smart speaker devices. Think of the questions your customers may be asking themselves or searching on Google. Does your website answer them in a conversational, speakable manner? If not, start reviewing your structured data.

You can use Schema markup (schema.org) to help identify sections within your web pages that are best suited for playback using text-to-speech. So when someone asks Google Assistant a question, the answer actually makes sense. Including speakable structured data helps you distribute your content through new channels and reach more users.

2. Spoken app commands

Think about where in your users’ journeys that voice commands might make the experience more interesting, faster or easier? Check out Alexa for Apps, the SiriKit and Google Assistant app actions to learn more about potential integrations. Tasty, for example, allows users to search for recipes in the Tasty app and use the Google Assistant to walk through each step of a recipe while they’re cooking.

Knowing that families with kids, people with physical limitations and digital natives are heavy users of voice assistants, and additional segments are getting on board all the time, it’s critical that you start thinking about how to serve up your content in a way users want to receive it.