Our voices are becoming powerful instruments of change. I’m not talking about free speech or the power of voicing our opinion. I’m talking about our literal voices interacting with emerging voice technology.

Voice technology is making an impact across the digital landscape, including the ways we compose searches on Google, how we purchase toilet paper, and even how we sign up for health insurance policies. This emerging mode of digital communication is disrupting our most fundamental notions of human-machine interactivity.

As voice technology continues to grow at a rate comparable to the internet in the 90’s and smartphones in the 2010’s, naturally, brands want in on the action.

What’s driving this growth?

Voice-enabled technology has been in development for years, but advances made in recent years have culminated in a human-centric experience and consumer market penetration.

For example, Google recently announced that Siri has achieved a 4.9% word error rate for human-speaker interactions, a landmark that is equivalent to the accuracy of human-human interactions. It has now been reported that 55% of voice adopters in America use their voice assistants daily (including smartphones, computers, and smart speakers like Amazon Echo).

Who is the voice user?

The typical voice user is a tech-friendly parent in their 30’s or 40’s. The most common introduction to voice technology is the smartphone, which can use voice for various tasks including search, texting, and voice memos. As their comfort increases with the medium, they come to find additional opportunities to incorporate voice technology into their home lives, including family activities.

Today, standalone voice units are becoming increasingly popular. The use cases for smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo vary from the functional to the educational to the entertaining. They can be used as a step-by-step recipe guide, a personal DJ, or a shopping assistant connected to Amazon.

Brands can find a role to play in each of these activities. By optimizing their website for voice search, and by introducing “skill” applications, brands can add a layer of customer engagement and help provide value to their customer’s voice experience.

We’re just getting started. By 2021, there is projected to be more voice assistants in the world than people. This may be cause for anxiety from those who fear a planetary takeover by sentient robots, but it’s a cause of excitement for brands looking to build deeper and more personal connections with their audiences.

Mass adoption of voice assistants has already influenced how consumers discover and purchase products. In 2017, voice commerce was responsible for $1.8 billion in U.S. sales, and is expected to increase to $40 billion by 2022 .

As this exciting technology continues to improve its accuracy and functionality, we can expect voice assistants to become more seamlessly integrated into our everyday lives. Brands are always looking to create more personal engagement with customers, and this goal lends itself well to the inherently humanistic qualities of voice interaction.

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