Uh oh… this does not sound good, something has definitely got marketing journalist Morag Cuddeford-Jones riled up this month; it’s time marketing prepared for voice…

Did you wake up this morning and instead of lovingly greeting your partner/child/cat, you bellowed at the alarm ‘Alexa, stop. Alexa – STOP. ALEXA FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SHUT UP!’? If so, you will be one of the 56 million who invested their hard-earned cash in a virtual assistant last year alone. A little black box (or tasteful grey or white) ready to do your bidding, not even at the touch of a button.

The answer to all your most trivial needs, OK Google and Amazon Alexa (or Microsoft and Apple’s woefully second-rate Cortana and Siri) will deliver information, entertainment, loo-roll and much, much more at your command. OK, Google and your home is lit and heated. Alexa, read me the Liverpool FC fixtures.

Except – as ever – reality is somewhat different.

Given that only 27% of assistant users have ever bought anything using the platform  for most people virtual assistants are glorified alarm clocks and kitchen timers. Some of us have even managed to get it to play a few radio stations –  but I swear, if I hear ‘This is Gregory Porter and you’re listening to Jazzzz FM’ once more I won’t be held responsible for my actions.

Virtual assistants in 2019 are a nice idea but they’re a typical example of a solution in search of a problem. Most of us have got the hang of pressing a button on the digital radio, or launching the app on our phone. Even the in-laws can get digital radio to play through the telly without too much Face Time tech support. We don’t NEED Alexa in our lives. Yet.

This is where forward-thinking marketers have to keep the faith.

Virtual and voice assistants are indeed the future. It’s just that for end consumers, they’re not the today. As cars become more automated and connected, humans are going to be less driver, more cargo. We’ll have time to multitask, but we’ll still need half a limb and an eye on the road, so voice will be where it’s at.

In the home we might have full use of all eyes and limbs to swipe and tap but we’ll get the hang of ordering the take-away by voice, and turning on the TV or nixing the wifi in the teen’s bedroom after lights out. And when we do get the hang of it, we’re going to want all the apps and skills to be ready and raring to go. That will not be the time for brands to start thinking about getting their shit together.  

I’m quite certain we’ll be talking about voice in the future the same way as we talk about apps today. Indispensible and second nature. And when they took off a few years ago, well didn’t the brands without app strategies primed and ready to go look foolish…

Marketers have to have their verbal ducks in a row today.

While you’re busy creating content for apps and blogs, touchscreens and direct mail, bubbling away in the background has to be content for voice. And also some stuff for the next thing you don’t even know about yet.

Because that’s the trouble with platforms. They keep changing, evolving. It’s nonsense to think anyone’s psychic and can confidently predict the next big thing 10 years from now. We can’t confidently say what the weather’s going to be like this afternoon.

Instead, we prepare. We make like good Scouts and get our content neat and tidy, ready for every eventuality and good to go wherever it’s needed. A single resource, with accurate data and up-to-date assets, all tagged and organised is all you need to tackle the next big thing. So when the customer finally moves on from asking Alexa to time the pizza and starts asking for its calorie content and placing a reorder, we’re ready to hop to.

Now you know you don’t need a crystal ball to predict future technological revolutions, just some neat and tidy content, have a read of censhare’s Omnichannel Marketing in Practice series, and make sure you’re ready for when the next bandwagon rolls by.

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