How CMOs Are Taking On The Voice-First Future

'If you can tell a story in a way that replicates human interaction, people really dig that," explained UpsideDoor CMO Mike Darne at Voice Summit.

With voice commerce set to grow 20-fold from $2 billion to $40 billion in the next four years, CMOs are planning for the voice-first future today — and voice commerce is only one aspect of the shift, with voice searches also on the rise and audio undergoing a renaissance.

Addressing these changes was naturally a hot topic at last week’s Voice Summit, particularly in a panel discussion entitled “CMOs Take On Voice.” Moderated by Jeff Rohrs, CMO at Yext [full disclosure: Yext owns GeoMarketing. More details on that relationship here], CMOs and marketing decision makers shared key takeaways for building a voice strategy — and why the voice-first revolution affects verticals far beyond retail.

Think Beyond Retail: Alexa For Real Estate Sales?

While many marketers may think about voice in terms of commerce — “Alexa, re-order dish soap” — or the critical importance of voice search, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that the primary reason for consumer adoption of voice assistants is ease. People are using voice — proven to be cognitively simpler than text/swipe — to make the process of accomplishing tasks and finding products more seamless. And this is something marketers can participate in, too.

Mike Darne, CMO at UpsideDoor, explained how his company tested Amazon Alexa application for home buyers, to positive results.

“We put Alexa devices in homes we were trying to sell, and then [prospective buyers] who came in could ask the assistant questions about the home for sale,” Darne said. “They could ask, ‘tell me about the upgrade to this kitchen’ or ‘where would my kids go to school in this neighborhood?’ We had really good feedback on that; it was solving a consumer problem, and making things easier for them. The buyer’s agents actually loved it too; they don’t know everything about a property, and this can help them get a sale. We used Alexa Blueprints to power it.”

In addition to thinking about discoverability in voice, marketers can and should think about these kind of applications for voice devices in stores, homes and at events. The question to ask is, “how might this technology make someone’s experience with us better?”

“People want to interact,” Darne said. “So, a brochure is one thing, but if you can tell a story in a way that replicates human interaction, people really dig that.”

Be Present — At Every Touchpoint

Thinking about the “voice-first revolution” doesn’t mean assuming that majority of every consumer’s brand interactions will involve the technology. Rather, it simply means that voice adoption has become significant — and being present and discoverable there is an integral part of a holistic marketing strategy.

Chris Vennard, Head of AI Strategy & Solutions at LivePerson, addressed this, explaining why his company views chat and voice as inexorably linked.

“If you look at messaging interactions and voice interactions, it’s a lot of the same,” Vennard said. “We just have to be at every point where someone could want to reach us. The goal should be to be able to [answer queries] everywhere.”

Manage Your ‘Knowledge Layer’

Pay-to-play advertising doesn’t exist in the voice realm — yet. Additionally, marketers can’t control the exact algorithmic process by which voice assistants recommend places or products when consumers’ make a search. So what can they do to be discoverable in voice searches?

“The consumers are going to decide what UIs they’re going to use; we can’t control the selection. And we can’t control the respective algorithms. But the one thing you can control is the knowledge layer,” Rohrs explained. “You can make sure that [the assistant] knows the objective facts about your location. You have to be the source of truth about location, menu, hours — everything.”

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.