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Is Voice Technology the New SEO? Research Shows Tool Drives Greater Emotional Connection with Brands

The businessman is in correspondence in the chat.Brands Must Tap Consumers’ Desire for Intimate Relationships with Voice Assistants

According to new research, consumers have a stronger emotional connection to brands when using voice technology—in fact, the research from Mindshare and J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group, which includes a neuroscience study carried out by neuroscience research agency Neuro Insight, showed that emotional activity was twice as high when consumers voiced a brand question rather than type it. It also revealed that 50% less brain activity occurs when processing an answer delivered by voice, meaning people find it much easier to use.

The UK firms have collaborated to launch Speak Easy, a report identifying how brands must adapt and evolve to the rise of a voice activated world. The study also found that consumers want to give up control to their voice assistants as they take on more of a proactive role as “digital butlers”—87% of voice users cite that “when voice technology works properly it simplifies their life.”

Brands will need to optimize their content and services to make sure they’re considered, as voice assistants become powerful gatekeepers to the consumer and algorithm optimization becomes the new SEO.

Furthermore, the research shows that voice will free users from mobile dependency, liberating them from the screen and allowing them to better interact with the world around them.

“We are on the cusp of a new era in technology where voice is set to become mainstream. Our research shows that 88% of UK smartphone users have used voice technology or would consider doing so in the future,” said Elizabeth Cherian, UK director of J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group, in a news release. “To successfully integrate voice into their offerings, brands need to understand how the technology can simplify everyday tasks by adding value and removing friction from their experience. This is not about tech for tech’s sake. Thoughtful and helpful interactions which genuinely enhance the experience will drive engagement and deeper relationships between consumers and brands.”

“This study is the first of its kind as it delves deep into consumers’ cognitive response to voice technology,” said Jeremy Pounder, futures director at Mindshare, in the release. “Intriguingly, it shows that voice promises a richer and deeper engagement with consumers because of its ability to trigger an emotional response. Voice technology will literally give brands a voice for the first time and they will need to craft the sound of their own voice to maximize the impact.”

The Speak Easy report identifies four trends that will shape how consumers embrace voice technology. These include:

Trend 1: Voice to encourage more human interaction  

Already 43% of smartphone users think voice technology will free us up from our dependency on mobile, allowing us to interact more with the world around us. What’s more, 53% agree “it would be easier if technology could speak back to me.” The rise of a voice-activated world presents brands with new and exciting opportunities to engage with people, whether that be voice activated outdoor sites or even embedded brand content in IoT connected devices.

Brands must ensure their services or content can be accessible through voice in a simple and intuitive manner to encourage consumer engagement away from the screen. Furthermore, brands will need to think of how they can capture the attention of consumers, as they are freed up from their mobile devices, through content accessible in the Internet of Things.

Trend 2: Consumers want to give up control to “Digital Butlers”

Voice assistants will start to take on a more prominent role, managing consumers’ lives proactively, making decisions independently and will essentially evolve into ‘digital butlers’. Almost a third of respondents say they are excited by a future where their voice assistants anticipate what they need and take action or make suggestions. Furthermore, 88% of voice users say that when the technology works properly it’s magical.

Brands must ensure they can be discovered by voice assistants. This is where algorithm optimization will become key. Much like SEO, algorithm optimization will enable brands to affect the likelihood of the voice assistant recommending their brand. Understanding the criteria through which assistants will surface recommendations will be vital. With this, it is likely the power of endorsements will grow and being able to generate content, supported by key experts, media brands or consumer opinion, will be increasingly important.

Trend 3: Consumers seek an intimate relationship with their voice assistant

Consumers are looking for a deeper, personal understanding from their voice assistants, with 36% of regular voice users saying they love their voice assistant so much that they wish it were a real person. What’s more, over a quarter of regular voice users revealed they have had a sexual fantasy about their voice assistant.

In order to make the most of this opportunity, brands must establish trust. Providers must have a proven track record of successful service before a dependency can grow and a deeper relationship can emerge. When it comes to privacy concerns, data gathering is making some users nervous with 44% of regular voice users stating “I am worried about companies listening to the conversations I have with my voice assistant.”

However, encouragingly nearly half (46%) of potential users would use voice if there were guarantees around personal data and security. As the voice assistant develops a deeper understanding of their user enhanced by its personality, trust and the emotional bond between assistant and consumer will strengthen. As one respondent put it, “I’d like voice technology to understand me on a level that humans understand each other”.

For the first time, voice technology will give brands a literal voice. Brands will need to craft the sound of their own voice to engage with consumers on a deeper, emotional level. Interestingly, 72% of regular voice users say “I think brands should have unique voices and personalities for their apps / skills and not just use the assistant on my phone.”

Trend 4: Voice is less mentally draining than touch or typing devices 

The research shows that one of the primary motivations for using voice is efficiency. Working with Neuro Insight the team found that voice interactions are less mentally taxing than their touch or typing equivalents. Interestingly, 50% less brain activity occurs when processing an answer delivered by voice. Furthermore, a stronger emotional response to brands occurs when using voice to ask a brand question, with emotional activity twice as high when saying a brand question than typing it.

With voice being less cognitively draining, it will become an increasingly attractive proposition for consumers who feel overwhelmed by technology.

Download the complete Speak Easy report here.

Speak Easy is a macro trend report created in collaboration by J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group and Mindshare Futures that explores voice technology. The report was based on:  

  • Neuroscience experiment: In partnership with Neuro-Insight, we used Steady-State Topography (SST) brain-imaging technology to measure how the brain responds to using voice technology for a series of tasks versus text or typing alternatives. 102 smartphone users and Amazon shoppers between the ages of 18 and 65 took part.
  • Qualitative: 31 UK respondents took part in a two-week self-ethnography project capturing their own behaviors and attitudes in a series of voice technology tasks. We then ran two focus groups with 12 of these participants. A mixture of participants from the Early Adopters and Early Majority groups were recruited.
  • Expert interviews: We conducted in-depth interviews with experts across sectors including artificial intelligence (AI), neuroscience, marketing, sound design and radio.
  • Quantitative: We carried out a quantitative survey using SONAR™, J. Walter Thompson’s proprietary market research tool, surveying 1,002 UK smartphone owners aged 18+ and 100 Amazon Echo owners.
  • Secondary research: We carried out extensive desk research that synthesizes international cross-category case studies.

Source: PR Newswire; edited by Richard Carufel

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