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Pioneering study demonstrates that consumers want more intimate relationships with their voice assistants, offering brands the potential for much deeper relationships

Mindshare and J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group have collaborated to launch ‘Speak Easy‘ – a report identifying how brands must adapt and evolve to the rise of a voice activated world.

Key findings of the report show that consumers have a stronger emotional connection to brands when using voice technology. In fact, the research, which includes a neuroscience study carried out by Neuro Insight, a leading neuroscience research agency, showed that emotional activity was twice as high when consumers voiced a brand question rather than type it. It also revealed that 50% less brain activity occurs when processing an answer delivered by voice, meaning people find it much easier to use.

It also found that consumers want to give up control to their voice assistants as they take on more of a proactive role as ‘digital butlers’. 87% of voice users cite that’when voice technology works properly it simplifies their life’.

Brands will need to optimise their content and services to make sure they’re considered, as voice assistants become powerful gatekeepers to the consumer and algorithm optimisation becomes the new SEO.

Furthermore, the research, created in collaboration between J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group and Mindshare shows that voice will free users from mobile dependency, liberating them from the screen and allowing them to better interact with the world around them.

Elizabeth Cherian, UK Director, J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group, said: “We are on the cusp of a new era in technology where voice is set to become mainstream. Our research shows that 88% of UK smartphone users have used voice technology or would consider doing so in the future. To successfully integrate voice into their offerings, brands need to understand how the technology can simplify everyday tasks by adding value and removing friction from their experience. This is not about tech for tech’s sake. Thoughtful and helpful interactions which genuinely enhance the experience will drive engagement and deeper relationships between consumers and brands.”

Jeremy Pounder, Futures Director, Mindshare said: “This study is the first of its kind as it delves deep into consumers’ cognitive response to voice technology. Intriguingly, it shows that voice promises a richer and deeper engagement with consumers because of its ability to trigger an emotional response. Voice technology will literally give brands a voice for the first time and they will need to craft the sound of their own voice to maximise the impact.”

The Speak Easy report identifies four trends that will shape how consumers embrace voice technology. These include:

Trend 1: Voice to encourage more human interaction

Already 43% of smartphone users think voice technology will free us up from our dependency on the mobile allowing us to interact more with the world around us. What is more – 53% agree’it would be easier if technology could speak back to me’. The rise of a voice activated world presents brands with new and exciting opportunities to engage with people, whether that be voice activated outdoor sites or even embedded brand content in IoT connected devices.

For brands, they must ensure their services or content can be accessible through voice in a simple and intuitive manner to encourage consumer engagement away from the screen. Furthermore, brands will need to think of how they can capture the attention of consumers, as they are freed up from their mobile devices, through content accessible in the Internet of Things.

Trend 2: Consumers want to give up control to’Digital Butlers’

Voice assistants will start to take on a more prominent role, managing consumers’ lives proactively, making decisions independently and will essentially evolve into ‘digital butlers’. Almost a third of respondents say they are excited by a future where their voice assistants anticipate what they need and take action or make suggestions. Furthermore, 88% of voice users say that when the technology works properly it’s magical.

For brands, they must ensure they can be discovered by voice assistants. This is where algorithm optimisation will become key. Much like SEO, algorithm optimisation will enable brands to affect the likelihood of the voice assistant recommending their brand. Understanding the criteria through which assistants will surface recommendations will be vital. With this, it is likely the power of endorsements will grow and being able to generate content, supported by key experts, media brands or consumer opinion, will be increasingly important.

Trend 3: Consumers seek an intimate relationship with their voice assistant

Consumers are looking for a deeper, personal understanding from their voice assistants. 36% of regular voice users say that they love their voice assistant so much that they wish it were a real person. What is more – over a quarter of regular voice users revealed they have had a sexual fantasy about their voice assistant.

In order to make the most of this opportunity, brands must establish trust. Providers must have a proven track record of successful service before a dependency can grow and a deeper relationship can emerge. When it comes to privacy concerns, data gathering is making some users nervous with 44% of regular voice users stating”I am worried about companies listening to the conversations I have with my voice assistant.”

However, encouragingly nearly half (46%) of potential users would use voice if there were guarantees around personal data and security. As the voice assistant develops a deeper understanding of their user enhanced by its personality, trust and the emotional bond between assistant and consumer will strengthen. As one respondent put it, “I’d like voice technology to understand me on a level that humans understand each other”.

For the first time, voice technology will give brands a literal voice. Brands will need to craft the sound of their own voice to engage with consumers on a deeper, emotional level. Interestingly, 72% of regular voice users say”I think brands should have unique voices and personalities for their apps / skills and not just use the assistant on my phone.”

Trend 4: Voice is less mentally draining than touch or typing devices

Our research has shown that one of the primary motivations for using voice is efficiency. Working with Neuro Insight the team found that voice interactions are less mentally taxing than their touch or typing equivalents. Interestingly, 50% less brain activity occurs when processing an answer delivered by voice. Furthermore, a stronger emotional response to brands occurs when using voice to ask a brand question, with emotional activity twice as high when saying a brand question than typing it.

With voice being less cognitively draining, it will become an increasingly attractive proposition for consumers who feel overwhelmed by technology.

Please click here to download the full report and here for videos.