LAS VEGAS: As sales of smart speakers take off in the US, voice will emerge as a new sales channel to sit alongside stores, mobile and online, according to a leading industry figure.

“We’re calling voice the ‘fourth sales channel’,” Lesley Rohrbaugh, Senior Manager/Research at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), told a keynote audience at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Les Vegas.

Her assessment is based on the rapid growth of smart speaker shipments, which rose from 7.2m in 2016 to 27.3m in 2017 and which the CTA projects will leap by 60%, on an annual basis, to 43.6m in 2018.

Further, the CTA’s “Pre-Black Friday Survey”, released in November 2017, found that 19% of participants expected to use voice to learn about sales and deals for their holiday shopping.

“As voice becomes the preferred user interface, there is going to be a lot more new business opportunities and applications for marketers,” Rohrbaugh added. (For more read WARC’s report: Why voice is becoming the “fourth sales channel” for brands.)

Brands will have to consider whether they start developing their brands to have a presence in the voice realm and what that brand identity might look.

Current interactions with smart speakers, however, typically tend to be robotic, occasionally clunky, and sometimes downright frustrating. “At what point do these conversations become relationships?” Rohrbaugh asked.

And while smart speakers are in the vanguard of the voice revolution, they are unlikely to be the sole orally-activated gadgets to enter the mainstream in the longer term.

“One of the most apparent ways that we interact with digital assistants is through the vessels that they’re provided in,” Rohrbaugh noted.

“We see a lot of smart speakers. but clearly [the marketing opportunity is] more than just smart speakers throughout the home and throughout the office.”

Voice-activation is “being embedded in a lot more different types of technology products” – whether in smart homes or connected cars – as consumers who accept the convenience of using voice will expect a similar kind of interaction across their entire digital experience landscape.

Sourced from WARC