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Say What? What SEA Marketers Need To Know About Digital Voice Assistants

Digital voice assistants are more than glorified personal assistants and can do much more than make phone calls and send reminders

Photo by Lily Banse on Unsplash

Author, Redickaa Subrammanian

Brands are always on a mission to engage customers and prospects in meaningful dialog. With digital voice assistants, they can literally do just that. 

As digital voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Bixby and Cortana grow in popularity worldwide (it’s estimated there will be 20 billion users by 2020), they are becoming a preferred way for many consumers to gather information of all sorts. In fact, one global research company found 24 percent of people would rather use a digital voice assistant than visit a website.

Yet, digital voice assistants have yet to become as widespread for personal use in Southeast Asia as in some other geographies because the technology still needs to catch up with the diverse array of local languages. Nonetheless, a recent survey by Resulticks found 43 percent of brands in the region say they are already investing in this digital channel and have made digital voice assistants a marketing priority.

As more companies incorporate digital voice assistants into their products – from cars and smartphones to refrigerators and vending machines – customers will become more comfortable talking to all sorts of devices and will expect brands to offer even more voice-enabled offerings. 

For brands that have yet to consider incorporating digital voice assistant technology, the quickly growing acceptance and demand among consumers should certainly place it high on the list of tools to consider for future implementation.

The demand for digital assistants

Though not yet considered fully mainstream, digital voice assistants are no longer shiny, new technology. Siri was introduced by Apple in 2011, and most people are familiar with voice-enabled services, even if they do not personally use them.

For example, thanks to the proliferation of smartphones across Southeast Asia. Most people know that the phrase, “Hi, Siri,” is used to engage a digital voice assistant. They would also likely know that once the AI voice has responded to the prompt, the user can ask for information – what the weather is like, what’s on their schedule for the day, the name of the capital of Romania – and the assistant will find the information within seconds.

As AI becomes more sophisticated, it becomes more able to assist with tasks such as providing on-demand dictation services so that users can send emails, text messages and social media posts hands free, translating languages in real time, and giving a customer an update on the status of an order via chatbot. In turn, this helps companies become more efficient by automating rote tasks and allow employees to focus on more high-value problems.

This helps explain why more than half of omnichannel leaders are investing in AI tools as identified in Resulticks’ report, The Omnichannel Imperative. The increased implementation of AI-powered tools will likely spur the adoption of digital voice assistants, too.

How marketers can use digital voice assistants

Digital voice assistants are more than glorified personal assistants and can do much more than make phone calls and send reminders. As technology evolves constantly, it becomes far more robust and useful through leveraging data to personalise interactions and information.

For example, the following conversation between a digital voice assistant and its user is entirely feasible today:

User: Hey Google!

Voice Assistant: Welcome back home! How was your day today?

User: It was hot today.

Voice Assistant: Today was indeed a hot day. It reached a maximum temperature of 39 degrees, and now the temperature is 37 degrees. Would you like to switch on the aircon?

User: Yes, please.

Voice Assistant: Aircon is switched on, and the temperature has been set at 73 degrees. Do you want to change it?

User: No, leave it.

Voice Assistant: Your aircon filter warranty expires next month. Vision Electronics has a 20% discount and a free service on aircon filters for the summer. Would you like to place an order now?

User: Will it be hot next month as well?

Voice Assistant: Yes, I checked, and it is going to be hot next month. Would you like to order the aircon filters?

User: Yes, please.

Voice Assistant: OK. I have placed the order. Please check the details on your email to complete payment.

(The order is placed, and the user receives a confirmation message via email and  SMS.)

By using customer data, the digital voice assistant can communicate relevant information to users, making it easier for them to make purchase decisions. Because of this, brands have the opportunity to leverage digital voice assistants as a channel that can make helpful, personalised recommendations in real time to customers looking for their products.

With brands in Southeast Asia already making digital voice assistants a marketing priority, businesses looking to make strides in the year ahead would be wise to look to AI-powered channels soon. By learning how digital voice assistants can be leveraged not only to create a more seamless omnichannel experience, but also to reach new customers during their purchase journeys, boost brand loyalty and see real business results – all by engaging your customers in meaningful conversation.

Redickaa Subrammanian is the Founder and CEO of Resulticks.

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