How Voice Technology is Disrupting the Retail, Financial, Healthcare and Travel Industries
Voice technology in mobile app development is gaining mainstream acceptance. Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more efficient in identifying user intent, and heavy-hitters like Amazon, Google and Apple are fueling the voice search trend with their branded hardware. With the progression of AI, innovative decision makers are beginning to explore new opportunities to leverage voice technology beyond commonplace routine.
As with any emerging technology, voice search still has obstacles to overcome, but the potential remains. The onus will be on the innovators who create voice-powered breakthroughs to drive the technology’s long-term success. It’s predicted that voice technology will be the catalyst for half of all digital searches by 2020, and industry leaders who underestimate the acceleration of voice search will risk losing market share to competitors who execute voice-first strategies.
This post will examine the potential benefits and challenges of incorporating voice technology into a number of industry sectors.
The Beginning of Voice-Activated Retail
At the moment, voice technology is used for very specific tasks or requests, but retailers are facing a systemic change in consumer behavior. Today’s tech-centric consumer has completely transformed the value criteria for traditional retail, and voice is the next interaction point. As commerce channels continue to expand, success will be determined by how well brands incorporate conversational experiences into their omnichannel strategy.
- 62% of those who regularly use a voice-activated device plan to make a voice-enabled purchase within the next month.
- 58% of those who regularly use a voice-activated device use voice technology to manage their weekly shopping lists.
- 44% of those who regularly use a voice-activated device order household products at least once a week.
Voice purchasing is still in its early stages, but as the trend grows in popularity, retailers will have to revision their omnichannel approach to accommodate this new touchpoint. Shoppers are still browsing across multiple channels before making a voice purchase, and purchases tend to be centered around repeat items like household essentials and groceries. The interplay between screen and voice will continue to be essential for retail brands, but voice has the potential to reduce friction within the omnichannel experience.
As it stands, voice search doesn’t lend itself to brand association, and as a result, retailers will need to adopt new methods to keep their products top-of-mind. Users expect voice technology to provide a more streamlined retail experience, and it seems unlikely that paid advertising will integrate well with this model. A key challenge with voice-powered retail will be guaranteeing your brand’s products will be selected by a voice assistant. With algorithm optimization, retailers will have the ability to affect the likelihood that their products are chosen via voice search. The importance of understanding which criteria a voice assistant uses to choose recommendations will become ever-critical in this new retail landscape. Agile retailers will have already begun researching the ways their brand is associated with contextual search, as well as which long-tail keywords are associated with their products.
A Potential Roadblock for the Financial Industry
The financial industry will have a difficult time transitioning into a world intermediated by voice technology for a number of reasons. A recent study conducted by AnswerLab found that the financial industry faces the most challenges leveraging voice technology because of privacy and security concerns.
User concerns are evident in AnswerLab’s findings:
- Less than 40% of respondents were interested in checking their credit score with voice technology
- Less than 40% of respondents were interested in getting financial advice from a voice assistant
People are still uncertain about how often a voice assistant is listening to them, and with the sensitive nature of finance, it’s not surprising that users are hesitant. In fact, a separate report cited that 44% of active voice users are nervous about companies listening to the conversations they have with their voice assistant.
Authentication actions are not secure when it comes to voice interfaces; passwords and answers to security prompts can easily be overheard with voice technology. Moreover, voice assistants are kept in a common area within the home (52% of people keep their voice assistants in a living room). Obviously enough, people do not want their financial information accessible to their children or guests.
In order for the financial industry to leverage voice technology, they will need to monitor developments in device security. In the meantime, financial services can deliver less sensitive notifications through voice when transactions are carried out on other platforms to foster user acceptance.
Aside from user acquisition, compliance requirements also restrain the adoption of voice technology in finance. Financial firms act in accordance with many stringent and complex regulations regarding transparency. Voice technology presents a number of obstacles in this regard. Interactions with voice assistants can be difficult to store, capture, and ultimately contextualize making it difficult for firms to work the emerging technology into the existing regulations structure.
Breakthroughs in Healthcare
Voice technology could potentially facilitate major breakthroughs in healthcare from greater efficiency to patient care. Practitioners can use voice assistants to generate documentation that accurately depicts the patient encounter and supports patient post-care. As AI-powered voice applications become more proficient in recognizing natural language, physicians can transcribe documents with greater accuracy than the average human transcriptionist. Voice assistants can also greatly benefit mining medical records – collecting them, storing them, streamlining them, as well as tracing their lineage.
In terms of patient care, some healthcare organizations are piloting programs using voice-activated devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple Homepod in patient rooms. Giving patients access to hands-free technology allows them to easily control room temperature, television channels, as well as other voice-activated settings. This simple addition can make patients feel more comfortable by giving them more control over their environment. Voice technology can also help patients keep track of their schedules by communicating procedure details, times, and preparation reminders throughout the day.
Again, there are challenges when it comes to enabling this digital transformation in hospitals. Issues like data standards, security, privacy, and systems integration can all impede the transition. However, implementing voice technology can make quality healthcare more accessible, convenient and efficient.
Embracing Digital Disruption in the Travel Industry
The travel sector has enthusiastically embraced digital disruption, incorporating technology at every touchpoint in the modern traveler’s journey. There are multitudes of mobile apps aimed at simplifying the research and booking process, as well as wearable devices used for managing payments, hotel keys, and other essentials. Beacons are helping travelers navigate through crowded airports and virtual reality is even letting people explore destinations before booking. And although the travel industry is exploding with digital transformation opportunities, the customer journey is still fragmented.
Much like retail, voice technology has the potential to make omnichannel travel path as seamless as possible. Voice technology can connect varying touchpoints and data in a way that produces a more personal and contextual search funnel. Even now, 33% of active voice users will use an assistant to check travel info.
Certain travel brands are changing the game by using voice technology to make foreign destinations more accessible to travelers. With many hotels playing host to international travelers, language barriers often harm the customer experience. However, by providing voice assistants to staff and guests, translation can be simplified. This minor addition can dramatically improve guest satisfaction and support a frictionless travel experience.
The core purpose of voice assistants is to offer convenience and streamline daily routines. When it works, voice technology allows users to accomplish tasks quickly, efficiently and naturally; however, many successful applications of voice technology will continue to depend on the interplay between visual and auditory interfaces. Many users are still skeptical about accuracy when it comes to making purchases, scheduling important events (like travel dates), and accessing financial information. To reassure users, it will be crucial for brands to offer omnichannel confirmations, like push notifications or email updates. This is only the beginning of mainstream voice technology, and many companies will have to begin exploring ways to harness this trend to more effectively reach their audience.