Most APAC consumers using voice tech now

iProspect says brands must get on board now with one of the industry’s most rapidly developing trends.

Close to two-thirds of Asia-Pacific consumers have used or are using voice technology today, according an in-depth study from iProspect.

Produced in partnership with insights consultancy Idstats, ‘The Future is Voice Activated’ is based on a survey just over 1,800 smartphone owners aged 18 to 50 in six APAC markets: Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore.

Among several other insights, the report found that 62% of those surveyed used voice-activated technology in the last six months, and 56% said their usage had increased in the last six months. Most telling for brands, however, is that 95% of respondents said they intend to continue using voice services in the next 12 months.

“The transformative impact of voice technology is being felt across the globe,” said Joanna Catalano, iProspect APAC CEO. “Brands who aren’t reacting to this burgeoning technology risk becoming invisible sooner than they think across key customer touch points.”

India’s frequency of usage

Of the markets surveyed, India (82% voice adoption) and China (77%) were the clear emergent growth markets. Together with Indonesia, the three countries make up the ‘dynamic’ growth markets, while Australia, Japan and Singapore are classified as ‘conservative’ growth markets.

China’s list of activities voice is used for

Japan has the lowest voice adoption of the countries surveyed, with only 40% usage. The study found that embarrassment, among other things, and slow uptake of devices such as personal assistants are likely key factors for the slow growth.

Japan’s reasons of not using voice

Japan’s technology adoption

Source: campaignasia.com; 24 Aug 2018

Google is gaining major ground on Amazon in the smart speaker market

Since snagging an early lead in the smart speaker market with the Echo product lineup, Amazon has maintained its dominance through the second quarter of this year – but it has less breathing room than ever.

As this chart from Statista shows, Amazon is credited with shipping 41% of the 11.7 million smart speakers distributed worldwide this past quarter, with Google coming in second with 27.6% of shipments. Apple came nowhere close to either of its rivals, with the Cupertino-based giant only shipping off 5.9%.

The big takeaway: Amazon’s competitors are slowly, but surely, gaining traction in the smart speaker race. The company no longer has as big of a lead as it did in Q2 of last year.

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Source: businessinsider.sg; 20 Aug 2018

Voice Control Forces Marketers to Think Differently

Shift focus from promotional messaging to true utility

Consumers are becoming more comfortable using voice assistants, smart speakers and other voice-activated devices for a variety of everyday tasks. Research conducted in the US by PwC in February 2018 found that searching for information, playing music, sending messages and shopping were among the activities conducted by large percentages of voice assistant users.

As this reliance on voice-first communications grows, so too does interest among brands. Companies in all industries are experimenting to figure out how these new communication channels can help them interact with their target audiences and build brand engagement in more personalized and frictionless ways.

Voice, however, is unlike anything that’s come before, which is forcing brands to think differently about how they design their campaigns. Rather than using traditional “push” messaging, they must work harder to make brand interactions useful and valuable—or they risk becoming irrelevant.

The biggest change is that voice-first technology requires marketers to design auditory interactions, without screens or keyboards. “When you do a visual search on a desktop or a mobile phone, you’re presented with multiple choices or answers to your query,” said Allen Nance, CMO at Emarsys. “But when you do voice, you’re pretty much getting whatever answer the device—or the company that owns the device—thinks is the right answer.”

What’s more, it’s not yet possible to buy sponsored ads or keywords to improve the chances of being that one result. Instead, marketers must use trial and error to optimize content and try to organically appear in “position zero” (aka the “featured snippet” or “answer box” in a Google search).

According to Christopher Lundquist, vice president of strategy and consulting at SapientRazorfish, this “changes how marketers can work” and is further complicated by differences in how search engines like Google and Bing process queries, source information and prioritize results.

Voice devices also differ from other channels in that advertising is still very limited, and there are no ad networks or large-scale monetization models to work with. Even as brands clamor for more paid opportunities, voice platform companies—including Amazon and Google—are treading cautiously for fear of alienating users with invasive or inappropriate messaging.

In the absence of advertising, a growing number of brands are experimenting with third-party applications (called “skills” for Amazon Alexa, “actions” for Google Assistant and apps on other platforms). These enable users to do everything from creating grocery lists, finding recipes, and getting beauty tips, to listening to music, scheduling appointments, controlling smart-home devices and meditating.

The most popular of these fit organically into daily routines, save time, and make people’s lives easier or more enjoyable. “Consumers are dying for use cases and utility that make their lives better. These devices aren’t only getting smarter, they’re able to add more value to people’s lives,” said Doug Robinson, CEO of Fresh Digital Group. “It’s now up to brands and marketers to figure out what the utility is. Where are we playing a role? How important can we be in that day-to-day role to where we become a part of the habit and add the value that consumers are looking for?

“From a discovery standpoint, consumers are still trying to figure out what to do with these devices, which offers an amazing opportunity for marketers to guide them to voice applications and provide utility value that they need every day,” Robinson added. “It’s really just a race to see who can take advantage of use cases that drive more consumer engagement with their brand.”

Source: emarketer.com; 25 July 2018

Marketing Beyond the Screen

Using Voice Technology to Boost Brand Engagement

Phrases like “Hey, Siri,” “Hey, Alexa” and “OK, Google” are quickly becoming part of our everyday lexicon. As more consumers become comfortable with digital voice assistants, smart speakers and other voice-first devices, more companies are looking to leverage voice control technology to their advantage.

For marketers, voice-activated hardware and software presents a cornucopia of opportunities to engage target audiences in more personalized and frictionless ways.

– Large global tech companies — including Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft — are driving the market. Their artificial intelligence (AI)–driven platforms for voice control include software (virtual assistants) and hardware (smartphones, smart speakers and other smart devices).

– For most marketers, voice control isn’t a top priority; those experimenting with it are still in the earliest stages. Most projects involve Alexa “skills,” Google “actions” and other apps to encourage engagement.

– Experiments are ongoing in SEO, advertising and promotional messaging, content delivery, customer service and voice commerce. So far, no “killer” applications or monetization models have emerged.

– Agencies and other consultants are beefing up their technical resources and forging technology partnerships to help their clients develop more meaningful voice strategies.

– Best practices are evolving, but brands can take concrete steps to get started now. First and foremost, they must think carefully about how they can add value and utility to users’ lives. Frictionless, compelling and entertaining voice experiences will be key to long-term customer engagement.

Source: emarketer.com; 24 July 2018

Google highlighted the Assistant at I/O 2018

At its annual I/O developer conference, Google made several announcements related to its voice assistant, Google Assistant, that aim to spur adoption of the technology. The biggest updates circle around improving natural interactions and adding a visual component.

Google is enabling more natural interactions with the Assistant aimed to bolster usage of the platform with four key additions:

– Google introduced a Continued Conversation feature. Continued Conversation allows Google Assistant users to ask multiple questions in succession without having to repeat the “Hey, Google” wake-up word for each command. This feature, which should be available in the coming weeks, is similar to Amazon Alexa’s Follow-Up Mode.

– Google launched the ability to create custom Routines. Google rolled out Routines in March 2018 to enable users to manage their connected devices with just a single voice command to Google Assistant, but it was limited to only six pre-programmed Routines. Allowing for customization of Google Assistant Routines could make the platform more useful for consumers, and puts it on par with Alexa.

– Google rolled out a Multiple Actions feature. The Multiple Actions feature allows users to make multiple requests in one voice command. Now Google Assistant will be able to listen to a string of commands within 8 seconds of the initial command. The new feature will improve the speed of the Assistant’s responses, as users no longer have to wait for a second, or third, response.

– Google Assistant now supports six new voices. This brings the total number of voices the Assistant supports to eight — previously, Google Assistant let its users pick between just one female and one male voice. The new voices are built with machine learning technology called WaveNet, which is DeepMind’s model for creating natural-sounding speech. WaveNet also powers Google’s Cloud Text-to-Speech platform.

Google Assistant is also becoming visually assistive. Google unveiled a new experience for Google Assistant that brings up visual information as well as new ways to interact with apps such as those for smart home products. When a user makes a Google Assistant voice request, the assistant will provide a more interactive visual, full-screen experience. For instance, when asking Google Assistant to turn down the heat, a display will show up on the phone with a way to adjust the temperature.

The Google Assistant-powered smart speakers with screen displays will launch in July, with partners including Lenovo, LG, Sony, and Harman via JBL. Smart display speakers can perform all the same functions as smart speakers, but they also offer the ability for users to make video calls, watch videos, look at photos, and search the internet, using both their voice and hands. They also serve as a funnel to bring consumers to YouTube, particularly in areas like the kitchen, where a hands-free, voice-controlled screen could be useful for instructional videos, for example.

The latest announcements could be key in helping Google bolster its voice assistant platform. Google’s emphasis on making the overall Google Assistant experience more conversational and visually assertive will likely fuel engagement on the platform.

As Google Assistant becomes more intelligent and allows for a more natural interaction, and developers create better and more useful ways to integrate them with consumers’ lives, the Assistant will cement itself as the primary way consumers interact with their devices.

Advancements in a bevy of industries are helping intelligent digital voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa become more sophisticated and useful pieces of technology.

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are allowing them to accurately understand more information, while upgrades to mobile networks are facilitating quick transfers of data to robust clouds, enabling fast response times. In addition, the swell of internet connected devices like smart thermostats and speakers is giving voice assistants more utility in a connected consumer’s life.

However, there are still numerous barriers that need to be overcome before this product platform will see mass adoption, as both technological challenges and societal hurdles persist.

Source: businessinsider.com; 9 May 2018

Devices supporting Google Assistant have more than tripled in last four months

Over 5,000 devices can talk to Google

Google Assistant has had a good few months: Google’s smart assistant is now compatible with more than 5,000 devices, up from the 1,500 it worked with back in January.

According to Google, it’s a list made up of a huge variety of products, including “cameras, dishwashers, doorbells, dryers, lights, plugs, thermostats, security systems, switches, vacuums, washers, fans, locks, sensors, heaters, AC units, air purifiers, refrigerators, and ovens.” It’s a big jump — at least, numerically speaking — and if nothing else, it’s a sign that the full court press that Google started at the beginning of the year with its massive Google Assistant-themed booth at CES is starting to show some results.

Compare that number to Apple’s Homekit, which has just 195 products listed on Apple’s official site of devices that work with the iOS-based smart home system, and it seems like Google is making some serious progress.

But Google still has Amazon to contend with in the smart home assistant space, and it’s still got some catching up to do there: there are currently over 12,000 devices that work with Amazon’s Alexa assistant.

Source: theverge.com; 3 May 2018

Amazon launches Alexa Agency Plan

In a bid to accelerate adoption of Alexa for advertisers and agencies eager to attain first mover advantage in voice search, Amazon has launched a paid platform plan.

Amazon is accelerating adoption of Alexa as a preferred voice search platform.

Launching the Alexa Agency Plan, Amazon is targeting small agencies and consumer-focused SMEs with a set of tools to close the gap between planning and executing.

Supporting search engine optimization, content marketing, and paid-search for Bing and Google, the platform aims to help advertisers and agencies reduce time spent in analysing the validity of a media mix and more time executing on it.

“The research phase in understanding the industry of a prospective client should be cut in half,” said Danish Ayub, CEO of MWM Studioz. “Given what is offered and promised, an Alexa Agency Plan could eliminate the exhaustive time taken during the data collection and analysis phase in understanding competitors and audiences.”

He adds that while most SME’s in the APAC region do not have the required talent to execute digital in-house, most do hold Amazon in high regard and would be more willing to accept the strategy analysis endorsed by the platform.

Advertisers and agencies that use the platform can access intelligence about traffic sources, audience interests, keywords, backlinks, and a comparison tool for digital properties.

Source: campaignasia.com; 19 Apr 2018

Why Google’s claims about audio transcription matter for marketing

Google says it has nearly perfected the ability to transcribe audio into text, which has potential to impact voice search, retail environments and even creative teams.

A deep learning audio-visual model from Google could impact voice-search, retail and creative production.

Announced on the Research Blog, the method can, according to Google, identify audio found in a video by isolating spoken words and distinguishing between language in the foreground and background.

Applied to YouTube, the model could potentially eliminate the need for creators to manually transcribe and caption their content, a common practice for maximising both user enjoyment and search-engine optimisation.

Researchers behind the model believe it will have a range of applications, from speech enhancement and recognition in videos and voice search to videoconferencing and the ability to improve hearing aids.

“In the near term, this will streamline video production—especially valuable in mobile first-video where lesser speaker quality makes clean mixing critical for comprehension,” said Patrick Givens, VP of VaynerSmart at VaynerMedia. “Looking into the future, as we see more consumer attention migrating to audio-first channels this will also ease the burden of audio production.”

Advertisers and agencies scrambling to optimize for voice-based search also see promise.

“The tip of the iceberg in big data is the analysis, while data collection is below the surface,” said Danish Ayub, CEO of MWM Studioz. “Similarly, with voice-search optimization, the part of the work you don’t see is the hours of manpower that go into transcribing the video content to ensure searchability.”

Ayub adds that the technology could eliminate the need for both transcribers and paid software that can convert audio into text.

Nate Shurilla, regional head of innovation at iProspect APAC believes that the model has far-reaching implications for retail.

“Imagine walking into any fast food joint and just announcing what you would like into the air, sitting down, and having your order brought to you, all while dozens of other customers are doing the same and getting their respective orders,” said Shurilla. “That’s a big boost in efficiency.” He added that at the same time, the technology would affect surveillance. “I’ll just leave that one to your imagination,” he said.

Shaad Hamid, head of SEO for Southeast Asia at APD believes that in the short term there will be more use cases for improving live-streaming of events, videoconferencing, hearing-aid devices, virtual assistants and any other application where multiple and simultaneous speech can cause audio quality to be compromised.

“From an advertiser’s perspective, using this technology, we can create videos that target multiple audiences with a single asset, saving time and reducing production costs while speeding up the campaign setup,” he said.

For example, Hamid envisioned a property portal being able to tone down or dial up different audio within the same video depending on what the user is observed to be in the market for.

On the other hand, Hamid offered a word of caution. “Since no one’s really seen or heard how this type of ad will look or sound, its actual effectiveness as a technique for advertisers is anybody’s guess,” he concluded.

Source: campaignasia.com; 19 Apr 2018

Following Google, Adobe ups its voice game

As advertisers look to voice as an integral touchpoint, Adobe has introduced a tool for voice analytics integrated into a marketer’s customer data sets.

A week after Google announced deeper integrations and additional languages to Assistant, Adobe has announced an update that promises to personalise voice interactions.

Enhancements in the Adobe Experience Cloud will let advertisers and agencies plan scenarios in responses to queries directed at Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

“Imagine searching for a flight on an Amazon Echo device and finding the right one at the best price,” writes Kevin Lindsay, director of product marketing at Adobe, in a post. “The travel brand you are engaging with has already connected the dots on the back end, and you can book instantly — followed by a travel confirmation sent directly to your smartphone.”

The enhancement comes from Adobe Sensei, an AI and machine learning framework that will allow advertisers and agencies to leverage machine learning and predictive algorithms to personalise experiences.

“Voice assistants that were previously seen as a somewhat futuristic idea are here today and moving very fast into our lives,” said V.R. Srivatsan, managing director, Adobe Southeast Asia.

With the increasingly attractive price points and growing ecosystem of apps created for voice devices, Srivatsan predicts it won’t be long before voice becomes as ubiquitous as mobile in the Asia Pacific region.

Adobe’s latest Digital intelligence Briefing reported 13,000 APAC respondents across marketing, creative, and IT roles placed the highest importance in creating personalised and relevant experiences in terms of improving overall customer experience.

Source: campaignasia.com; 6 Mar 2018

Google Assistant: More chatty in more languages

The Google Assistant is going global, with more languages and deeper integration opportunities for advertisers and agencies.

Google has announced more languages and deeper integrations for its virtual personal assistant.

By the end of 2018, Google Assistant will be able to understand over 30 languages, including Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai. The virtual PA will also support multilingual families, that speak, for instance, English and Urdu in the same household.

The second update pertains to routines and location-based reminders. Users will be able to customize a series of events that are part of their daily routines, such as “pick up the kids” or “collect laundry”, when a particular command is spoken such as “OK Google, I’m home.” Depending on where a user is, reminders will be issued based on location.

Advertisers and agencies have the opportunity to invest in voice-based search optimisation in order to send contextual voice-ads that line up with a routine or help achieve a goal.

The third update will allow advertisers and agencies to build out deeper integrations within Google Assistant, with Alphabet working with manufacturers of non-Android phones. This, Alphabet hopes, will make the Google Assistant more friendly on such devices.

Manufacturers can create integrations for device-specific commands, creating room to work with first-come-first-serve advertisers and agencies that want custom integrations. This opens room for a business such as Nestlé to sponsor the good morning messages and breakfast recommendation a device user hears every day, for example.

Source: campaignasia.com; 5 Mar 2018