Chat & Voice – The New Frontier for Marketing

I am sure all of you will be attending events, preparing presentations or even doing workshops with you own teams that involve Artificial Intelligence.

Over the last year it has become the discussion topic of choice for every forward thinking marketer and technology investor. It is very much the online, SEO, social, mobile, big data of our time.

Much of the thinking out there on artificial intelligence and its lesser known but far more important in my opinion cousin, machine learning is fascinating but how much can I apply in my everyday work I often find myself thinking.

In this post I wanted to identify two areas for the modern marketer which you should start investigating right now for your business and that in my opinion is Chat and Voice.

For years every marketer worth their pay cheque has scrutinised their organisations tone of voice and since the advent of social media, now over a decade ago, we have increasingly focused on ways to humanise and personalise our brand experience.

Both chat and voice give todays marketer more opportunity than ever before to execute on these ambitions. Lets take a deeper look at both.

Chat

Most of us experience chat today via the apps that we use to organise our lives including Facebook messenger, Whatsapp, QQ, Wechat depending on your geography. Over the last 12 months messenging apps have overtaken our favourite social media platforms in terms of active users and those platforms see the chat and messaging experience as the major area of product development as Mark Zuckenberg revealed last year.

FB 3 Horizons

On the other hand chat is sometimes experienced as the either super annoying or super helpful popup you experience when visiting an organisation’s desktop or mobile experience. Behind this experience is often a human in terms of a customer support, sales or founder trying to help you through a customer journey of some description.

However what we need to be thinking about today is the opportunity offered to us in the form of Chatbots.

What is a Chatbot?

A chatbot is a computer program that mimics intelligent conversations with humans, usually through audio or text. The goal is that, rather than just searching for information on your website, a customer can interact with a chatbot to find what they need.

eMarketer reports that 1.4 billion people interacted with a chatbot in 2015; unsurprisingly, more and more brands are starting to use these A.I. programs to engage with their customers and enhance their brands so for me this is an area that we need to explore and have a strategy and possible execution plan for.

If you want to delve deeper on this, and you should want to check out Kik.com. These guys are hoping that marketers will look at developing their own chabots via their bot API. Both H&M and Sephora are two of the first major brands to do so and I predict many more will follow.

The H&M bot, once it gets to know you a little bit can give you effective and personalised style advice in a non- salesy manner which is pretty effective and highly personalised.

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 11.26.51

And the other place you should check out is the big blue, IBM who have in recent years acquired some of the best marketing minds I know to work on the commercialisation of their Watson product.

But before you go or ask a friend to  build a chatbot or play with an APIs do yourself a favour and ask yourself two questions.

  1. What are the key questions that my customers/prospects are asking and needing help with that is connected to my customer journey/experience?
  2. What is the data that we have that can be structured to form an answer to those specific questions?

To help you answer both those questions let me give you a tip. The answers lay in your search data and your customer support and product departments. If you haven’t talked to people in those departments for a while its time to book a coffee or lunch and start collaborating.

At the end of the day as user behaviour moves to messaging apps chatbots will form the next evolution of marketing automation and be able to do much more effective personalisation at scale than ever before and I for one think that exciting.

Voice

Another of the questions we need to be asking ourselves this year is how is our brand experience exploiting the opportunities available to the us through the use of voice. I am reminded of this on a daily basis as this is the search method of choice for the majority of my household aged under 12.

The two areas we need to investigate are – the world of the digital assistant and the impact of voice search.

Digital Assistants

Starting with the digital assistant this is the hotly contested battle ground between Amazon (Alexa), Google (Google Now) , Apple (Siri) and Microsoft (Cortana).

Over the last 6 months Amazon’s Alexa seems to be a clear winner but we are early in the race. Both Google and Microsoft have invested heavily in artificial intelligence in this area so expect the battle to heat up her over the coming months and years ahead.

But Amazon’s advantage right now is their ability for their smart speakers to connect directly with their core retail business. Here is a list of skills Amazon Echo owners have used at least once in 2016.

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 17.22.53.png

You may not be a consumer or retail business but a good question to start with in thinking about how you brand will be able to connect with digital assistants is.

  1. What information and data do we possess that could help a customer in their everyday life?
  2. How could we make the customer journey even smoother through interaction with a digital assistant?

Voice Search

In recent years, when it comes to your search strategy I am pretty sure that you have turned your attention away from the mass link building activities of the first SEO revolution to the quality and relevant content that Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update introduced us to a few years ago. Now you have another thing to consider, how to optimise your brand experience for voice search.

According to Google now over 20% of their searches on mobile are via voice and I expect this figure to rise rapidly.

Google Voice Search has been integral to Google’s virtual assistant, Google Now, for many years. The combination of Google’s powerful search algorithms with its sophisticated natural language processing (NLP) technology is why most people can agree that Google Now is significantly more accurate than Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistants, despite the latter three being very similar in function.

It interesting to note that whilst this way of searching is still in its infancy there are clear differences on the way different age groups use voice search at present.

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 17.46.23.png

But don’t worry. There are no quick fixes you need to implement to be ready for voice search. At present it still relies on semantic search and the relevance and quality of content around a particular topic.

But its always worth revisiting your search strategies, the keywords and topic areas that you and your competitors are ranking for and probably most importantly how your customers and prospects search behaviour is changing. For those of you wanting to dig deeper into voice search have a look at this great article from Dan Schewan published on Business2Community.

So there you have it. Along with all the other factors we need to consider in marketing these days like brand health, lead generation levels, customer loyalty, ever more complex customer journeys and many more here are two more areas we need to keep an eye on.

Personally I am excited about what both chat and voice can give us going forward and done well I believe both can help us with all those marketing challenges and more. Good luck.

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