Systems Win at Voice Marketing Meetup

Voice assistants and audio AI technology are advancing quickly and becoming more popular all the time. Now that the foundations are laid, what happens next? According to the experts speaking at the Rise of Voice Marketing event Tuesday evening, the industry is set for exponential expansion. Hosted by the Bots and AI NYC Meetup at Betaworks, the event brought together some of the top expert analysts and builders in the field.

Third Wave of Audio

According to most of the speakers, massive changes in the industry are already upon us, due in part to the spread of smart devices.

“Wave two [of audio] was moving to streaming and smart speakers. Now it’s the third wave and voice-first interfaces,” said Betaworks Ventures partner Matt Hartman. “What is the way that monetization is going to work? Is it selling extra episodes [of podcasts], T-shirts, events?”

With the spread of so many devices integrating voice assistants, there has to be a new way of approaching marketing using the technology, the speakers explained. Globally, smart speaker sales are expected to grow at 20 to 30 percent a year, and that means it’s time to focus on how people actually use them.

“Phase one is over,” founder Bret Kinsella said in his talk on that subject. “You’ve got to look at what consumers are doing in order to know what’s ahead.”

Steeper, Deeper

“If you want to know where big tech is going, look at China,” said Will Hall, Chief Creative Officer at RAIN. “I often refer to China as a distorted crystal ball of our future.”

Hall described how China’s “steeper and deeper” adoption of technology, including its mobile-first approach, has made voice adoption an intrinsic part of tech developments there. Whether it’s WeChat offering voice as the default for its messaging app, or voice-based payment systems.

The U.S. has yet to reach that level of voice engagement, but the trajectory is visible from the present, Hall said. That’s especially obvious when looking at how younger people often prefer voice to other forms of interaction with smart devices. What they learn early on will play a part in how voice tech and commerce develop.

“It’s not just a novelty. [Voice] enhances how we interact with digital information” said Claire Mitchell, Director at VaynerMedia during the panel discussion. “There’s an entire generation learning how to speak to computers before they learn how to type.”

Multimodal Systems

All of the speakers, in one way or another, agreed that building the road to that future means thinking in more than one dimension at a time. People are already multimodal when using voice interfaces, Kinsella said. There’s frequently a screen in front of them at the same time, so plotting out products and marketing has to account for more than one channel at a time.

Going back to how things work in China, Hall pointed out that as voice technology adoption has been faster and more fully integrated into people’s lives, the biggest tech companies are adapting accordingly. The “super apps” like Baidu and Ali Baba are applying voice technology to every part of their businesses where it would fit. It’s that ecosystem that makes a company successful in applying voice technology.

“To win at voice, you have to think in systems,” Hall said. “Systems win.”