Voice strategy for brands: why it is important to be heard

Written by: Paula Ferrai

illustration of smart speakers

The world is rapidly moving further into the realm of ubiquitous voice technologies catering to our every need and want in real-time. The global voice recognition market size is forecast to reach USD27.16 billion by 2025, with worldwide voice assistant units expected to hit the 8 billion mark in the next 2 years. What these figures inexplicably show is that the pervasive use of voice technology is rising to the point where every business with an online presence will need to adapt its business strategy to include voice technology capabilities in order to remain relevant.

Brands are constantly required to pivot their approach to accommodate changes in both technology and consumer behavior to remain on the right side of customer noticeability in an ever-competitive digital landscape. As with all new technologies being adopted into the mainstream, businesses must leverage this new trend to increase their brand awareness into a new digital frontier.

Why do you need a voice strategy?

Voice technology is ushering in a new era whereby people are opting to engage with brands online by using their voice rather than the ‘traditional’ route of typing into search bars. The reason for this is simple: it’s far easier to speak than to type.

With the rise of home voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and smart mobile assistants like Apple’s Siri, people the world over are getting more and more used to having their needs met by speaking directly to their smart devices. It is more aligned with how we as humans communicate to express interest and desire for things, which means it requires far less of a learning curve to operate.

The main allure to this technology from a business perspective is that voice technology allows brands to interact with consumers during ‘down times’ such as driving, cooking, going to the gym, and even getting dressed (i.e. times throughout the day where a person’s hands – and most of their attention – are occupied by other tasks). With voice technology, brands now have a wider scope to engage with consumers, opening up new avenues for customer engagement. OC&C Strategy Consultants reported that voice shopping will be a USD40 billion market by 2022.

But for businesses that use the traditional image- and text-based mediums to engage with their audience, how can they pivot and leverage this technology to reach a wider audience? In other words, how can brands be heard?

Develop a voice strategy for your business

Developing a voice strategy for your business requires a rethink of how you effectively communicate and engage with your audience. Voice technology is steadily doing away with the need for screens, leaving all communicative engagement inside the ambit of voice and sound. This means that brands should be focusing more on how they sound and how their ‘sonic’ brand presence will engage with consumers in a way that still promotes their brand and values.

Despite voice technology poised to dominate the digital business landscape in years to come, it does not mean that the visual presence of your brand will fall away – far from it. Voice technology should be seen as another communication tool to drive audiences to your website or social media channels. After all, your brand identity combines audio-visual components for multi-sensory engagement, and this will never change. So, do not make the mistake of piling all your business and marketing initiatives into one or the other, rather opt for an omnichannel approach to audience engagement.

How to develop a voice strategy

The aim of utilising voice technology in your business strategy should focus on how it can be used to make the user experience more efficient and meaningful, otherwise, it is just a gimmick. But within the efficiency framework, you need to decide what your motivations are: do you want to leverage voice technology to promote your brand, sell products, or provide a particular service to your audience? Identifying your primary reasoning for incorporating this technology will guide your strategy.

Voice optimisation

It is crucial that you focus your efforts on optimising all your digital assets for voice search, including your website and social media channels. The aim here is to make it easier for Google’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML) processes to discover and present your content. This will entail generating shorter-form content which provides quick and informative answers. You can do this by designing your pages to cater to answering individual questions, such as locations and specials. It is important to remember that roughly 20% of voice searches are related to localised content so be sure to incorporate local elements, words, and geographic indicators into your content to feature higher on search engine rankings. 

There is so much you can do to optimise your website for voice search, which is why we devoted an entire article to it

Sonic branding

As traditional branding and design sit primarily in the visual spectrum, audiences are able to understand a business’s persona through colours, fonts, layouts, and various other visual components. But when it comes to auditory branding, all that is available for brands to stand out is sonic elements – those that are heard. This opens up an exciting avenue for businesses to spread out their marketing and branding efforts to cater to one specific sensory component – audio. Of course, this is not a new concept at all as radio has been around since 1906 and brands have utilised the medium to attract and engage audiences ever since. With voice technology, brands must now channel their brand personalities into their digital content in order to stand out among the competition. 

As we have discussed numerous times, a brand’s persona is the means of fleshing out a brand to resemble a living person: how they act, how they speak, and how they present themselves. Through the strategic use of sounds and music, brands will be able to reinforce their messaging in a variety of interesting ways. Think how many existing sounds you already associate with a brand (the Windows shutdown sound or the famous Nokia ringtone, for example). Sonic branding is an essential component for brands to present themselves in new ways in the years to come.

Summary

As voice technology sweeps through the global digital landscape, every online business will be faced with the task of leveraging this technology to gain access and appeal to the growing number of savvy consumers. The world is etching closer to efficiency and ease of use at every digital touchpoint, and voice is an obvious and powerful step forward.

It is therefore not only imperative but necessary for businesses to develop a business strategy optimised for voice technology in order to remain relevant. Viewing this as merely a fad that will be obsolete in 2-5 years is a dramatic underestimation of where the market is headed: voice optimisation is here to stay so brands must listen up and speak out in order to be heard.

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Last modified: May 17, 2021
Author info
Paula Ferrai
Paula leads our Marketing & Communications team. Her career started 20 years ago in advertising, and she’s since picked up a wealth of experience both in the corporate and agency worlds. She loves scuba-diving and dreams of swimming with dolphins again.
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