Microphone with a sound system as the backdrop.
PHOTO: Magnus D

People have been making their homes — and lives — smarter with voice-enabled technologies. In fact, according to a study by NPR and Edison Research conducted after the 2018 holiday season, U.S. smart speaker ownership increased substantially. About 53 million U.S. adults now own at least one smart speaker, the total number of devices in homes has increased 78 percent year-over-year, and 53 percent of all smart speaker owners use their device daily. 

What do these numbers mean for marketers, customer experience professionals and brands trying to provide better, targeted digital experiences? Voice-activated technology is increasing every day, and brands need to be in the mix when it comes to voice search and voice-related customer experience outcomes. Here are some examples of voice-inspired experiences.

Amazon, Google are Consumers' Choice

But first, a question: What are U.S. consumers using for devices that power these voice experiences? Research this month from Parks Associates finds two-thirds of smart speaker households own an Amazon Echo device and almost one-third own a Google Home.

Echo Dot and Google Home Mini are the most common products owned. Almost all smart speaker households (97 percent) own only one brand in this device category. 

Related Article: How Voice Is Changing Customer Experience Practices for the Better

Providing Simpler Answers to Popular Questions

Before we feed you more statistics, here's the bottom line, you need simple. If you’re at a stop light and you desperately need to find a gas station (don’t text and drive, BTW), are you typing in “nearby gas stations” or are you asking Google or Siri a simple question: “Gas”? "Right now the voice search landscape is being dominated by companies that provide simple answers to popular questions that users are asking,” said Gordy Casasco, vice president of SEO and content at JumpCrew

“On Google home devices and Android phones specifically, results are actually sourced directly from the search engine via Google's ‘answer boxes.’” Casasco cited the example of "Real Simple," which he said has done a fantastic job at owning answer box results for common drink recipes such as, "How to Make a Martini." According to Moz.com, that search query has been asked between 6,500 and 9,300 times a month.

What’s the difference between Google and Amazon search? Unlike Google's search algorithm, which promotes a somewhat level playing field when it comes to organic results, Amazon's search landscape is much more pay-to-play, according to Casasco. “For this reason,” he added, “certain companies are paying top dollar to rank highly for popular products." In the consumer packaged goods space specifically, Casasco noted, Procter & Gamble is making a killing by owning top billing for popular Alexa searches such as, "Alexa, order toothpaste" (top four results: Crest) or "Alexa, order laundry detergent" (top two results: Tide).

Perry Ellis: Matching Outfits Through Voice

Let’s discuss some ways brands are implementing voice-powered experiences. 

The first example of voice-related customer experience is the “Ask Perry Ellis' skill,” a voice activated personal stylist powered by Amazon Alexa. In this example, voice-powered experiences integrate with ecommerce. According to a press release from Salesforce, which provides marketing technology for Perry Ellis, Amazon Alexa provides fashion assistance and helps tailor match shoppers with outfits. The Salesforce Commerce Cloud platform APIs and developer tools integrate with Amazon’s skill. 

Related Article: How to Get the Customer Experience Right in Voice Interactions

GeorgiaGov: Voice-Enabled Experiences for Citizens

Ask GeorgiaGov is another Alexa skill, this one built for the good citizens of Georgia. The skill, launched by digital experience software provider Acquia, enables citizens in the Peach State to do things like renew their driver's license, enroll in pre-kindergarten programs, or find affordable housing by asking Alexa. 

Calvin Rhodes, CIO of Georgia and executive director of the Georgia Technology Authority, said in a blog post that voice technology allows the state to “bypass the screen altogether and embrace conversational interfaces that allow users to simply ask for the information they need.”

AI-Powered Voice Help for Agents

Observe.AI is a platform designed to help call center agents. It is a voice artificial intelligence (AI) platform that gives agents real-time feedback on customer sentiment and suggests actions. The AI platform uses deep learning and natural language processing to understand the context and generates suggestions and guidance for the agent. 

Mozilla Scout: Voice-Enabled Browsing

Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, revealed it is working on a browser that is controlled with voice called Project Scout. It is designed to allow users to browse the web with voice. As of last year, it was an early stage project. "We look forward to discussing these efforts publicly when they are further developed," a Mozilla spokesperson said in a Business Insider report. Mozilla has a site dedicated to voice technologies

Domino’s: Pizza Ordering

Of course, it wouldn't be a digital experience story without pizza. Domino’s has long tried to beef up its digital customer experience game and that includes a voice ordering system. Nuance, a speech recognition company, developed the technology, that allows people to order their Domino's food using the smart tech.