The News: Pandora announced last week the launch of interactive voice ads. How does that work? Listeners might hear an ad, which will then be followed by a prompt, like “do you need better sleep?” This prompt invites listeners to respond with a “yes” and the more information is served up. This functionality uses Pandora’s Voice Mode smart assistant, which launched earlier this year and is all about getting listeners to interact with content by way of their voices rather than their hands.
The Future of Customer Experience—Why Pandora’s Interactive Voice Ad Launch is a Big Deal
Analyst Take: This is a really big deal. And if you’re in any role that requires you to be focused at all on customer experience (and who isn’t these days), it’s an even bigger deal. Here’s why this news from Pandora got my attention. I don’t listen to Pandora, but when given a choice while in the car, I listen to NPR. When my teenagers are in control of the radio, I listen to one of several pop stations that can be guaranteed to play the same five songs in rotation ad nauseum. If not held hostage by teenybopper stations, I might also stream Spotify, for which I fork over the bucks to ensure I get an ad free experience. I spend a lot of time in the car, I spend a lot of time listening to the radio (or streaming) and I hear a lot of ads. You might, too.
Here’s why this is such a big deal. A few short years ago if you asked people how they felt about having a “smart assistant” or a “robot” in their homes, they might have laughed. Today, smart devices are rapidly becoming the norm. Just how pervasive, exactly is digital technology? In short: Incredibly pervasive. For me, this news isn’t really about Pandora, it’s about the technology in play here and what’s possible moving forward.
Stats on Growth in Voice-Activated Smart Assistant Devices
In our recently research global research report, Experience 2030: The State of Customer Experience is Now, consumers showed they have embraced a digital world. Devices abound—especially mobile phones and wearables—and we’re seeing strong growth in voice-activated smart assistant devices as well. Some 60 percent of households reported owning at least one smart device (Alexa, Google Home), and 35 percent of households reported having two or more smart devices. Here’s a graphic from the report that provides a bird’s eye view of where consumers report they are today and what they expect moving into the next five years—
The adoption of smart assistant devices alone is important to note, but equally as important is the fact that the vast majority of devices today (mobile phones, wearables, laptops, tablets, remote controls, and even doorbells) contain some kind of AI-powered technology that represents an opportunity for the brand to touch—and engage with—the customer in some way.
When you add interactive voice functionality to the equation, especially for brands (and their marketing teams), it adds a whole new level of possibilities of engaging with, observing, and serving the customer in ways that make their experiences more efficient, more meaningful, and more satisfying.
When you add AI to the equation, and the ability to learn more about customers and their preferences over time by way of ongoing voice interactions, well, that’s a game-changer as well.
Every Business is in the Marketing Business (Even Tech Analysts)
We touched briefly on this announcement in last week’s episode of the and one of my colleagues mentioned that if he “still had his marketing hat on, this would be really interesting.” I don’t think that anyone can really ever take their marketing hats off, because figuring out what customers want and need, and how to get it to them in the most expeditious way possible is how every company on the planet survives. It doesn’t matter what you sell, this is the goal. Especially today, when almost every company is in danger of being commoditized and the only real way to compete moving forward is on experience—and delivering the very best in customer experience as efficiently as possible (for both you and the consumer).
As an aside, if you’re a podcast fan and haven’t yet tuned in to our weekly FTP show, check it out. If you’re interested in the latest technology news and thoughts from some smart (admits to bias) and interesting people, you’ll enjoy it. Find the podcast here and listen on your favorite channel.
Voice is Now, But Interactive Voice is the Future
Voice technology is, for many of us, old news. We use Siri, Alexa, or Google by way of voice commands on the regular. Voice is now, but I believe that interactive voice is the future. Here’s the thing about interactive voice ads — they make consumers’ lives more convenient and they are smart, smart, smart for brands. Those two things together: Good for customers, good for brands — yep, it’s happening.
Here’s an example of what happens today: I’m driving in the car and hear an ad for something I’m interested in. Think to self: Oh, that sounds cool, I’m going to have to remember that (repeats web url to self in a lame effort to remember, repeates company name to self to try and remember, repeats phone number to try and remember (hahahahahaha).” Leaves car, completely forgets everything about ad for product or service that interested me in approximately :27 seconds or less. That describe your life? I thought so. Think for a minute about how many missed opportunities there are for brands when it comes to the delivery of their advertising messages. And how if we tweaked the whole thing just a little, those messages could be exponentially more effective—for brands but, equally as important, for consumers who might actually want or need whatever it is that’s being marketed.
While we are at the nascent stages of interactive voice ads, I think there is much to be excited about. Imagine when the technology advances to the point where the ad can say “Interested in more information about how to sleep better?” and I respond affirmatively, and then the technology can ask where I would like more information delivered and I can respond. Maybe it’s to my email address, maybe my device, maybe by way of Facebook Messenger (ugh), or by direct message on some other social channel. Oh, so now, instead of advertising being a one-way channel — from the brand to the consumer, it can become an opportunity to directly connect customer and brand.
Of course, there are privacy issues to deal with and if brands are too obnoxious or offer up things that have no real value, customers will never opt in and that’s a whole separate conversation. But if they do, what a terrific opportunity to start what could be a longer-term, deeper engagement with a customer base.
So that’s why the news about Pandora’s interactive voice advertising got my attention. It’s a small step, but one that can ultimately be a game-changer. And I’m pretty sure we’re not all that far away from this kind of voice technology being a reality.
On another note, no matter what business or industry you’re in, if you’re interested in customer experience, take a minute and download the research report. Experience 2030: The Future of Customer Experience is Now was developed in partnership with SAS and contains some fascinating insights from both customers and brands about what customers want, what brands think they want, and what to expect moving forward into the next decade. We identified five key themes driving the evolution of customer experience between now and 2030 and I’m betting you’ll find the information in this report valuable as you and your team work on your 2020 business strategies.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.
Image Credit: The Verge
Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”