It took a toddler to connect the dots for Patrick Givens.
Recently, the vice president at full-service marketing agency VaynerMedia was visiting family when his niece, Olivia, nonchalantly asked the household’s smart speaker to play her favorite tune from a TV show. The device instantly fulfilled her desire, no mommy or daddy required.
At VaynerMedia, Givens leads the effort to harness intelligent virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant for marketing. His team is producing voice-based marketing projects for brands, including JPMorgan Chase and GE, so it wasn’t the technology that surprised him — it was how easily his niece operated it.
“It’s striking to watch a 3- or 4-year-old, who can barely read or write, interact naturally with Alexa,” he says. “The ability to talk to our computers is something we’ve been imagining in science fiction for decades, and now suddenly, in the last few years, it’s starting to arrive.”
Greater spoken-word accuracy = liftoff
Over millions of years, humans have evolved to convey and receive information using our voices and hearing. That history, plus the possibilities of modern technology, have made the dream of fluent conversation between man and machine as potent as the wish for a flying car.
And now that listening-and-talking devices are on store shelves, consumers are rushing to give them a try.
Researchers expect the global market for intelligent virtual assistants to grow by over 35 percent annually, topping $3.6 billion by 2020. The industry’s Consumer Technology Association predicts that 56 million consumer smart speakers will be sold in 2019.
As with every new communication tool that finds widespread adoption, marketers are quick to figure out commercial applications. In voice technologies, they see the opportunity to offer new types of experiences for customers that can help steer them to new brands or build deeper connections with existing brands.