"Hello Alexa" … "Hey Google" … "Siri, …
Which voice ecosystem do you belong to? None, you say? Well it won’t be long now before you succumb to coming onslaught of immersive technology. Why am I so confident? Simple. The adoption rate of new technologies is getting shorter and shorter. The telephone took 25 years to reach 10% adoption, smart phones reached 40% in that same time, and Facebook, it reached a billion users in just under 9 years.
Now voice is making it’s move. In the US, voice systems like Alexa are already in 12% of homes (with the highest usage rate coming from millennials at nearly 30% according to eMarketer). And if we look at this years Consumer Electronics Show (CES), then we can only assume that augmented reality and the Internet of Things are hot on its heels.
So, what does it mean? How can all of these things take their hold in parallel so quickly? And how will brands and marketers tap into the new technologies?
It’s easy to see why the technologies are developing in parallel; because they are all incomplete on their own. However, together they form the basis for a revolution in immersive technology. Think about it, today they are all being developed separately to prove out the technology and as a result the use cases are simple: Google Home allows you to ask questions and gain access to information with a question. Alexa can do the same, but also connects you back to Amazon putting all of their products available with a simple request, etc …
But these narrow uses hardly deliver the value that people are likely to buy into at scale. The value comes when your voice device is connected to your IoT smart devices, so you can lock your doors, turn on the TV, start a load of laundry, all by command. Or when your home starts talking back to you to remind you that the oven is on as you are leaving the house, or to tell you via your phone that you are almost out of Coca-Cola while you are at the store. The value is then further augmented when you combine it with AR. Brands like IKEA have already created AR apps that let you virtually position furniture in your home before you buy it, now connect that with the ability to change the parameter and even buy the product and have it delivered just by asking.
The brand gatekeeper
Voice isn’t the end product, it is the enabler of many other products and the ecosystem is just being put in now. So again, I ask, whose ecosystem do you want to join?
Imagine asking your Google home to order a Pizza for you. Who will they order it from? Products like Google Adwords could take on an important role with voice. Consider that today, search returns 10 results per page, and while most people never get past page 1 of their search results, this still yields 10 possible options. With voice, navigating options may be more difficult and so being first will be important.
“Google, order me a pepperoni pizza.”
“Absolutely, Pizza Hut can get that to you in 30 minutes. What size would you like delivered?”
How many people would reject the Pizza Hut option and ask to hear the next 9 options just to find the pizza place they want? Unless they have something specific in mind already, I believe they would settle for the first option because it is easy.
So, the question becomes, which of the ecosystems do you trust to make your decision for you? Who are you willing to give all your data to? After all, the better they know you, the better they can predict what you would really want.
Trapping voice in a walled garden
One problem with the age of voice that is rapidly approaching, will be fragmentation. With so many brands trying to solve consumer problems by building connected ecosystems, the risk is that all ecosystems exist as walled gardens making it difficult for consumers to move between products and brands.
It used to be that only Apple operated in a walled garden and everyone else focused on compatibility. And while that is still somewhat true, the revenue that Apple generates by locking consumers to their ecosystem is now a model that many brands are trying to replicate, and voice is a visible manifestation of this walled garden thinking risks taking hold.
Will you only buy appliances that connect to your Google Home in the future? Will you want an Alexa-enabled fridge that can detect what food you have and order what you need automatically from Amazon’s Prime Now? These might sound like far off scenarios, but the products are already available to buy today. Now it’s just a question of adoption rates, and with adoption rates moving fast, interconnected ecosystems are likely to appear faster than we think.
Justin Peyton is chief strategy officer for APAC at DigitasLBi.