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Technology adoption is accelerating at an incredible rate, and you’ve probably seen a technology adoption chart like this before. The snack is evident in the disclosure of our insatiable hunger for new technology. What begins as gradually sloping lines is very abruptly replaced by near-vertical acceptance curves for technologies introduced in the internet age. While there are a variety of reasons for the recent acceleration in market penetration, the promise of new technologies and the speed at which we are adopting them is an enticing prospect for brands. New media, new experiences, and new value exchanges theoretically add up to relationships with consumers that are deeper, more personal, and ultimately (fingers crossed) more profitable. But when looking for the “next big thing,” how do you know it’s the right time to start investing? How do you measure the benefit of being an early adopter when the immediate ROI isn’t clear?
In the past, brands tended to jump on a tech trend as a tactic to look for a strategy when it should be the other way around. We’re seeing it again now with the rise of hype surrounding Web3, NFTs and the Metaverse. As a company focused on conversational AI, we saw similar brand interest as voice assistants made the leap into the mainstream. Five years ago we were asked to develop dozens of Alexa Skills and Google Actions for brands, often without a clear strategy or sufficient funding to drive sustainable success.
Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri were initially largely responsible for the rise in public consciousness of language, it’s only integration with other touchpoints – in cars, mobile apps, custom hardware products to name a few – that we see the more meaningful impact of language adoption. As this maturation has begun, the herd of early experimenters has thinned out, and the companies that have invested in language are doing so over the long term by investing in broader applications, acquiring companies with language capabilities, and hiring dedicated in-house assistant product teams. The result is fewer but more powerful and valuable branded speech applications.
We see parallels in this recent wave of digital technology experimentation among brands, as we saw with Voice. Although the addressable audience is currently in all “web3.0 virtual worlds”. just With 50,000 monthly users, brands are spending millions on virtual properties, minting NFTs and building partnerships to create the “metaverse for kids” (who said they even needed one?). And for what? FOMO? PR headlines for the brand? long-term investments? From brand to brand these may all be worthwhile reasons, but in the spirit of the parallels between this wave and what we’ve learned as we’ve guided consumer and corporate organizations through the adoption of language technologies, there are few judgments to make in the assessment meet when, how and why a brand should be a part of what seems to be the next big thing.
Steer emerging technologies through your core business and brand with voice
This might not be groundbreaking advice, but it’s a surprising misstep when new technologies emerge. Even as the voice experiences market has matured, the first successful voice experiences were those that formed the core of the customer experience brands already on offer. When developing Alexa Skills and Google Actions for brands like Starbucks and Nike, it was re-ordering an instant order from Starbucks to manage in-store customer traffic or a surprise sneaker drop by a media partnership that moved the needle and their Day supported -today shops. As a parallel, fashion brands creating digital styles for avatars are an extension of the value exchange currently taking place in the physical world and represent a strong first mover advantage and branding opportunity, but can we say the same for toilet paper NFTs ?
While the early capabilities and actions developed by Starbucks and Nike are not necessarily core business channels today, these early efforts allowed organizations to become more familiar with the underlying capabilities and requirements of Voice — such as long-term initiatives. By starting small in support of their core business, they were able to build on their early pilots rather than generate fleeting enthusiasm with no real KPIs or strategic value. Instead, they made stronger connections between their brand and their audience without any missteps; with that goal in mind, metaverse and web3 should be explored for brands starting out.
Experiment & Invest: Build depth instead of breadth
Five years ago, for a brand to go “all-in” on voice would have meant something like achieving wide reach through a voice experience with your customers across as many smart speaker/voice assistant platforms as possible, while having one underlying lying consistent interaction model around a core service.
But as the market has matured even further in recent years, the “voice all-in” for brands and businesses has evolved from achieving cross-platform reach to a rigorous technology strategy. The depth of valuable strategies includes building knowledge of domain-specific language models, low-latency speech recognition, speech sentiment analysis, and the aforementioned development of branded custom assistants. By incrementally embracing available technologies over time, brands can deliver more valuable experiences in physical and digital relationship environments. This strategy has been successfully deployed in financial services with brands like Bank of America, which have been improving their voice assistant Erica to incredible gains year after year, and through technology acquisition with brands like Peloton, Sonos and Microsoft, which have had very specialized acquisition plays for robust ones Technology capabilities that shape their customer experience, hardware, or vertical technology strategies.
Since 2018, job creation and demand for Web3-related roles has steadily increased by hundreds of percent annually relative the emergence of technology and the promise of what those capabilities will usher in; and the projected demand in the coming years is expected to be even higher. Being able to explore these technologies — either internally or through partnerships — should help brands that want to go all-in bid their time while ensuring that the virtual and physically augmented experiences they want to support are their to really live up to one’s ambitions without stumbling over a short-sighted goal.
Voice’s rise to mainstream prominence offers lessons for brands when considering their relationships with Web3 and tactics for navigating the expanded worlds of the future. And it’s clear that the voice’s story in relation to these technologies is one of convergence, as evidenced by, among other things, next-gen projects such as Meta’s own announced ambitions to build a voice assistant for the Metaverse that will “combine Alexa and Siri.” blows you away”. As the crypto wallet becomes as ubiquitous as the mobile app, we know what we’re going to see: big tech and big brands leading and inspiring FOMO, some early “innovators” doing a reset, and the inevitable leap and Success through patient observers and experienced early adopters with a long-term perspective.
Dale is a Senior Director at RAIN
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