What Is Voice Recognition and Why Should You Care?
Certain types of AI are going to transform your career in marketing and sales sooner than you think.
One of these transformative technologies is voice recognition.
Voice recognition is an AI technology that allows machines to process, interpret and respond to human language.
In a consumer context, voice recognition powers voice search and voice assistants on smartphones and smart home devices. It’s what allows you to look up directions while driving, tell your phone to call someone, or tell Alexa to play your favorite song.
And it’s taking over the world.
A full 41% of U.S. consumers own a voice-activated speaker, which is up from 21.5% in the previous year, says TechCrunch.
Marketers aren’t just unprepared for this adoption growth. They’re not ready for what it means for the consumer landscape.
A recent study from Gartner found that Alexa’s default recommendations for products are “still Amazon’s Choice products.” It also found Google Home recommendations are dominated by just a few companies, with Walmart getting 40% of the first three voice recommendations offered.
“Much like search, marketers are still figuring out how to operate in a context where each platform gives certain retailers an advantage, and where they can’t rely on visual advertising to drive purchase behavior,” notes Digiday.
But to understand how voice recognition will rock your world, and what to do about it, you need to quickly understand how this AI-powered technology works.
How Voice Recognition Works: A 2-Minute Explainer
Realistically, you don’t need to know all the under-the-hood technical details about voice recognition to actually take advantage of it in your company and career.
Instead, this two-minute explainer teaches you a high-level view, so that you can get up to speed fast and move on into taking action.
Ready? Let’s go.
Voice recognition is an AI-powered technology that understands what humans are saying, and that includes an astonishing variety of words, sentence types, and accents.
AI is an umbrella term for a series of related technologies that use large datasets to make predictions. In this case, voice recognition uses AI to turn human speech into text. Then, it analyzes that text to try and predict what you’re saying and how it should respond.
When you talk, voice recognition processes your words using this past study, then applies sophisticated machine learning models to predict what you’re saying and how it should respond. It then delivers a voice or text result back to you. The machine attempts to do this with a high degree of accuracy, though it isn’t perfect.
Over time, the machine learns how to get better at predicting what you’re saying and what it means by studying data from all its users.
The result? Voice recognition systems get better on their own over time, until they’re so accurate, they seem like they understand you perfectly. We’re not there yet, but enormous strides have been made in the accuracy and performance of voice recognition systems—which is a key reason you’ve seen a boom in voice assistants and voice search.
So, that’s all great.
But why the heck does any of this matter?
Glad you asked.
Because voice recognition is going to change your company, career, and the marketing industry at large.
And if you’re ready for the change, you stand to significantly benefit.
Read on to learn how.
What Does Voice Recognition Mean for You?
Voice-powered search and interaction with brands is now possible, and already happening, thanks to voice recognition.
In a world of voice-powered search, chances are only a few search queries—the best ones—are being served to consumers. No one is going to listen to Alexa read them a page full of results to a question. Voice searchers want the answer or only the very best ones.
As voice adoption increases, that certainly complicates the future for any brand that relies on search rankings to do business.
You need to think about how this impacts your strategy, then start taking steps to proactively prepare.
The past offers some guidance for the future.
Plenty of brands in the last decade tried to game Google’s search algorithms to boost their rankings.
The moment the algorithm changed, their traffic (and business) took a serious hit.
Tactics work, until they don’t. What survives is a fanatical commitment to making it as easy and sensible for customers to do business with you as possible.
Voice search presents entirely new ways to reduce friction—or increase it—that didn’t exist before.
Is your brand name difficult to say or pronounce?
You may want to consider that in a voice-first world people will ask for you by name. I’d recommend you sit down and actually brainstorm what a world looks like for your brand if nobody can find you by typing into a search bar.
How do you acquire new customers?
Certain types of display advertising or lead capture may not cut it in a voice-first world. You’d be wise to consider how, if people only used voice search, you would acquire customers—and start thinking about how that impacts strategy.
The same types of considerations go for a world where people interact constantly with voice assistants.
Is your brand’s basic location and company information accurate and consistent?
Consumers will be using voice assistance in the moment before purchase. If someone is asking about your hours, and that info isn’t up to date, you’re in trouble. You may want to audit the basic information available from your brand to guarantee voice users aren’t being misled.
How does your brand experience perform in a voice-first world?
You need to sweat the small stuff. If I search or ask for you via voice, what is the experience like? Can I seamlessly transition from voice search or query to accurate and consistent voice answer to your website or app if need be?
You’ll want to pay extra attention to the minutiae of the brand experience across voice, so you don’t alienate customers when they’re asking for you by name.
Your company, bosses, boards, clients, and customers are going to need answers to these voice-related questions (and probably a million others).
If you don’t have them, you can expect your brand and business to suffer.
That’s why voice recognition matters. It’s fundamentally changing the landscape for marketers, it’s happening now, and few are truly prepared for it.
What Should You Do Next?
It’s clear AI and related technologies are changing the game for marketers and brands everywhere.
You need to be ready for what’s coming.
We’re here to help. The Marketing AI Institute has two amazing resources to get marketers up-to-speed quickly on AI and how to take advantage of it.
The first is The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to AI in Marketing, a free resource with 100+ articles, videos, courses, books, vendors, use cases, and events to dramatically accelerate your AI education. Click below to get free access.
The second is the Marketing AI Conference (MAICON), the AI event specifically for marketers featuring 40+ speakers from AI leaders like Amazon, Softbank Robotics, and HubSpot. Click below to learn more.
About Mike Kaput
Mike Kaput is a senior consultant at PR 20/20 who is passionate about AI's potential to transform marketing. At PR 20/20, he creates measurable marketing results for companies using data-driven strategies, market-leading content, and scalable marketing technologies. Full bio.