The world is speaking. Are you listening? A brand’s voice is no longer something ephemeral. It’s more tangible as companies can “talk” to their customers, and that’s not a metaphor. Voice technologies embrace different aspects of modern human life. We’re going to experience the technology transition that will empower brands and customers to rule reality by voice. Does it still sound like a blurry future? Actually, it’s closer than expected.
According to Statista, there are an estimated 3.25 billion digital voice assistants being used in devices worldwide as of 2019. We’re going to see even more intriguing data by 2023 — the number of digital voice assistants will reach around eight billion units — even higher than the world’s population.
To address the needs of modern consumers, forward-thinking brands need to start rethinking the customer experience from the voice tech perspective, as it brings whole new opportunities to interact with customers. The founder, as the first person that gives the direction to a brand, should be aware of the benefits of voice technologies for business success to initiate the timely incorporation of this technology into a brand’s life and customer experience.
Today, we have an opportunity to hear the vision and anticipations toward it shared by Pete Erickson, the Founder of Modev and Creator of leading voice events such as VOICE Summit, Spinnaker Summit, VOICE Talks, and hundreds of others. Together with brands like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, this powerhouse has been fostering the voice tech revolution on a global scale.
His VOICE Summit has become the world’s largest event gathering millions of voice tech leaders and enthusiasts, and his VOICE Talks has brought together the founders of top brands to discuss voice-driven strategies, best practices and metrics. “Voice offers brands multiple opportunities with customers,” he says and shares even more insights about it here.
What drives your team at Modev to produce content and organize events bringing voice technology enthusiasts and top companies together?
Modev is a tech community-building organization. After growing quite rapidly, I decided to host a conference, and it was very successful. That made me decide to continue with community-building full-time. Since then, at Modev, we are really focused on the needs of the community and how we can help provide them.
We developed our main ‘WHY’ along the way: we believe that human connection is vital in the era of digital transformation. It means that we bring the right information and the right people together at the right time to help everybody — the individuals, the companies, and the organizations. The WHY is also a focus on who we are, what we do, and how we serve the community.
Today, Modev’s VOICE events gather journalists from top media outlets including Forbes, NBC, CNET, Bloomberg Radio, and Financial Times, with a media reach surpassing 163,400,000. Could you share how this VOICE journey started?
Voice technology developed in 2011 from the consumer standpoint with Siri available on iPhones. Developers quickly wanted to get hold of that. Alexa came in 2015 and provided an opportunity for developers to start to utilize voice. We also used that opportunity and hosted one of the very first Alexa workshops sponsored by Amazon in 2016.
Then, we hosted the 10-city tour in 2017, which gave us a lot of critical insights into this market and who’s coming into it. That data allowed us to create VOICE Summit, a conference launched in 2018 that became the number one event in the voice tech industry.
When the pandemic hit, you began partnering with Google Assistant on VOICE Talks, a monthly livestream series featuring insider content from the world’s leaders in voice technology. Why was this important?
Having curated the voice industry for almost five years, we wanted to create something meaningful during the coronavirus, something that could allow us still to engage the community at a global level with compelling content presented in a package of a show. So it’s actually not a webinar, but a show with a multiple-sequence alive host, a featured guest, and a thing for each discussion.
It allows us to offer something very unique, helping to connect, create, and involve the community as we have the community-driven content as a part of each show. So, it is how the VOICE Talks were started back in March when the Coronavirus hit. We were capable of organizing it as we had a lot of relationships and data, and we felt it as the next best step for us, as an organization. Fortunately for us, we partner with Google Assistant that has been a primary sponsor of VOICE Talks since that time and helped bring us up to today.
What brands have participated in VOICE Talks and contributed to its implementation?
We are very thankful for collaboration and partnership with a number of brands that helped us bring VOICE Talks to reality. They include American Express, RAIN Agency, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Voicebot.ai, CNET, Sony, and many others. There is also a range of companies who contribute to the voice tech establishment in the modern world together with Modev by helping us organize VOICE Summit and VOICE Global, such as Reuters, Discovery, Mercedes Benz, Johnson & Johnson, Capital One, and others.
The next episode VOICE Talks on August 27th is centered on how brands are using VOICE to talk to customers. Could you tell us more?
On average, viewers of VOICE Talks watch 53 minutes, which shows the quality of the experts, content, and production. In the next episode, viewers will be able to hear from the top brands like American Express and the RAIN Agency, who has helped Campbells, Nike and Tide, discussing their strategies, best practices, and metrics.
VOICE Talks now has built a community of voice tech enthusiasts reaching 50,000 after just four episodes and is on track to reach 100,000 by year-end. So, of course, we invite everyone to join us.
How can entrepreneurs and founders of consumer brands use voice technologies from the start today?
Voice offers brands multiple opportunities with customers. One of them is access to key information about the brand. Today, many brands are developing Alexa and Google Assistant skills to make the information readily accessible.
Whether these are home products, services, or food products, the voice not only gives brands another level of engagement with consumers, but it also becomes a new customer service portal for brands where they actively assist customers. Helpful tips, how-tos, and frequently asked questions allow brands to engage customers at a deeper level and unload customer service leaving this work for smart systems.
There are also many customizations that some brands are doing today. They take the further step and create a tremendous customer experience leveraging the Google Assistant or Alexa backend. For example, you can see that many U.S. banks and organizations have also become voice tech owners: Capital One has Eno, Bank of America has Erica, USCIS has Emma, and many other companies have voice integration with mobile apps.
A lot of brands are doing many voice customizations, and I can’t help but mention automakers. The automaking companies have already provided voice interactivity for controlling things inside the car. The next delivery for the automaking industry is a personal assistant in the car, which is quite different than just doing voice controls. It’s an assistant that knows you, that you can speak to about things you may need or want. You can only say, “I wanna order some lunch,” and it can help you do it. All this is going to be very interesting…
We got a voice in your homes, cars, and on the go. Voice will become more integrated into brands jumping on this opportunity because they want to be with you in your car. They want to make sure they are part of the discussion that you have and the needs that you have.
If you look back at mobile, you’ll see voice technologies are following a very similar path. When smartphones came out, most brands rushed together to get mobile applications done, but they didn’t do much. Your first generation’s voice skill or voice action doesn’t maybe do a whole life but just some interaction. Anyway, it’s another deep-going, and new mobile applications for the brands that you know and love are very complex with a lot of smart insights inside them.
All of us prefer to engage with a mobile app for a particular service or store versus even going online. And I think it’s what is going to happen with the voice as well. It will be a preferable way because it will be so much easier. So, brands are driving on this journey right now, and I think it’s about being with the consumer.
Do you have any predictions on how voice technologies will evolve the customer experience in the next few years?
Yes, I think it’s in the area of ambient computing. Now, we wake up with our smartphone. We move to our laptop, desktop, or any other device. Then, we use a smart home assistant. Ambient computing describes all of these circles and serves all the aroundness.
Ambient computing is going to be where everything moves too. The concept of voice, as an industry or space, might be dissipated a little bit in terms of what the world’s discussion is. A nice example is the phrases “color TV” or “flat-panel TV” as we don’t use them anymore. Now, we’re just saying “TV.” Similarly, we may talk about a device and its innovations, but we will not necessarily mention that it has a voice interface because that’s going to be a given.
Voice will become part of the ambient computing overtime. So, in the next five years, we will see the full transition. In such an ambient-computing environment, we will interact with brands that we love seamlessly and easily, regardless of where we are. No matter if we are in the kitchen, car, or office — we’re going to be able to have this interaction there.
You will be able to say, “I need a car to be picked up from work” mentioning also a brand that you like, and you’ll be answered with a phrase, “Okay, it will be here in three minutes.” It’s just going to happen, and I think that’s where things are going.