One of the my favorite voice technology podcasts, This Week in Voice, returned this week to kick off season four. Bradley Metrock, host of the podcast, welcomed Voicebot creator and CEO, Bret Kinsella, on to discuss the state of voice technology and what to expect heading into the fall of 2019. As two of the most knowledgeable and well-connected people in the industry, listening to this episode is a great way to kick off work coming back from Labor Day Weekend.
The first half of the episode focuses on this idea of whether or not we’re heading into a “cold winter” with the technology, aka “The Trough of Disillusionment” from Gartner’s Hype Cycle. I thought Bret did a good job of putting things into perspective by pointing out the parallels during the iPhone’s early years. When the iPhone came out, it was deemed a toy by competitors and many in the media, but over time, as the app store matured, the hardware kinks were ironed out, and the Android ecosystem emerged, people shifted quickly toward mobile computing. What was true in hindsight was that much of the negative sentiment and debates around mobile computing ultimately did not affect the adoption of the technology.
One of the key points that Bret made during the episode was the importance of media for the early adoption of voice assistants and the affiliated hardware that house said assistants. This is something that I feel strongly about too as I believe it’s one of the areas with the most low hanging fruit to utilize voice assistants. During the conversation, they referenced a new Ghostbusters skill that was created to create buzz around the upcoming film coming out in 2020. To Bret’s point, it’s better to engage fans through quick, companion-type experiences via a smart speaker because of how much less friction (time & effort) it takes to begin the experience, compared to say, an app (download the app, register, etc).
“For someone who’s doing something that might be this more transactional or promotional experience, or just doing some fan service, where the user can just ask for it and they can engage with it – that’s actually a lower price of entry for the consumer to engage with and it’s one of those things that’s really good for that quick hit where you’re trying to get someone really quick awareness, some type of response, maybe a call to action, and then it sort of doesn’t really matter after that.” – Bret Kinsella
This is just one of many examples of how some type of media can be leveraged through things like smart speakers. Voicebot reported on a new skill from StatMuse to get expert NFL fantasy football info and recommendations from ESPN’s fantasy football correspondent, Matthew Barry. Every single subject matter expert could (and probably should) have some type of content available through a smart speaker, whether that be in the form of a skill, a flash briefing, or even podcast content.
In my opinion, one of the biggest culprits behind the growing sentiment that voice is entering into a “cold winter” is the idea that building a voice experience is the entire battle. As Bob Stolzberg, CEO of VoiceXP, mentioned to me when I was writing an article for the Harvard Business Review, “Having a voice experience is only half the battle – successfully marketing your voice experience is the other half of the battle.” If you build it, they won’t necessarily come. Companies need to treat voice experiences the same way they have with any other new digital experience by leveraging their legacy communication channels to make people aware of their voice experiences.
So, while we’re definitely seeing voice technology go through some growing pains while it matures, there are still many opportunities for companies to take advantage of the 26%+ of Americans who own smart speakers and the hundreds of millions that use voice assistants on their phones. Media that’s conducive to voice assistants, in all its forms, from daily flash briefings to companion skills designed to promote or engage with fans, represent good places for any entity to start migrating their presence to the voice web.
-Thanks for Reading-