Smart speakers were on many people’s Christmas lists last year and that, combined with the growing use of virtual assistants, meant voice was predicted to become an important new channel for brands in 2018. Here’s what you were reading about the subject on WARC.

Consumers are becoming increasingly confident in their use of voice to activate and engage with technology, starting in private spaces such as in the home or car. WARC’s Toolkit 2018 also noted how take-up of voice is likely to be faster in Asia than Western markets, as this is simpler than typing Chinese language characters on smartphones.

For the first time, the Toolkit said, marketers will have no choice but to consider the audio characteristics of their brands and what persona, if any, should they adopt.

Read more: Toolkit 2018: Why voice is branding’s new frontier

Practical advice was forthcoming in a WARC Best Practice Paper which advised building experiences that are accessed through voice assistants like Alexa skills, or by developing voice capabilities within owned assets, such as products (e.g. voice activated white goods), packaging or ads (e.g. voice interactive audio ads).

The primary motivation for using voice is efficiency, so the focus for any brand should be on designing an experience which is faster, simpler or easier than alternative modes of interaction.

Read more: How to develop a voice strategy for your brand

That point was reinforced in an ESOMAR paper from Asia Pacific which reported that voice is the foundation of how humans learn and can ease the cognitive load of communication, while voice tech is “familiarity in novelty” and offers personality which connects to human emotions.

The researchers identified five trends brands should look out for: voice searching, voice customisation, voice synergy beyond personal devices, voice ethics and cultural-led voice technology.

Read more: The future is voice: How voice technology is changing the world of people and brands

The Campbell Soup Co, Procter & Gamble and 1-800-Flowers have been among the early adopters of voice-activated systems but a report from January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas noted that “profound issues remain for brand custodians who want to move beyond relatively basic Skills for Alexa”.

The use of AI systems to accrue more ‘experience’ with consumers, however, means that conversational sophistication will improve rapidly – and in the longer term voice-activation will be embedded in more different types of tech product.

Read more: Why voice is becoming the “fourth sales channel” for brands

Another brand exploring voice is Estée Lauder which partnered with Google on a voice-led marketing program for its Advanced Night Repair anti-ageing product.

This involved activating a Google Home interactive speaker, or a smartphone assistant, then making an oral request for an audience with “Liv at Estée Lauder” – a digital service that provides bespoke, individualised skincare advice for every user.

Crucially, the learning curve has proved to be a two-way process, with the brand finding out a lot more about consumers as a result.

Read more: Estée Lauder finds the beauty in voice technology

Sourced from WARC