Way back in 2014, Goldman Sachs Research predicted that there’d be as much mobile commerce in 2018 as there was eCommerce in 2013.

Not the most difficult prediction to make, really; smartphones were already the norm, and the marketplace was already preparing for increased public comfort with mobile transactions to catch up. It was only a matter of time.

The rise of mobile commerce has been inevitable from the beginning of the smartphone, but looking back at 2017, we’ve seen the rapid rise of a perhaps less obvious variable in the eCommerce formula: Voice.

Part of being a digital products and innovation company is staying ahead of trends so our clients can integrate new technologies while they’re still cutting edge.

To that end, we’ve been paying a lot of attention internally over the last couple years to the growth of the voice industry. BI Intelligence estimates that the use of voice payments will quadruple over the next five years to reach 31% of US adults—or 78 million consumers—by 2022.

Between Google’s recent partnership with Walmart to allow voice shopping via Google’s Home assistants to Amazon’s Alexa coming to a BMW near you next year, we’re making a prediction that 2018 is the year that voice—and voice-assisted payments and shopping—goes mainstream.

This month I want to talk about why we’re so confident about this, and what you should be doing to position your company to capture a piece of the voice space this coming year. divider 600

The state of voice technology right now

Personalized responses

Both Amazon and Google’s voice assistants can now differentiate voices. In 2018 we’ll see brands incorporate this new ability into their skills, leading to more personalized experiences for users. What can you your voice app do if it knows specifically who it’s talking to?

Voice payments

It’s going to become more common, more secure, and more convenient to make payments via voice. Whether it’s paying for a service or product, or sending money to friends, we’ll see this become more of a norm.

Moving beyond home assistant devices

Amazon missed out on the smartphone revolution (RIP Fire phone), which puts them at a disadvantage; Apple and Google ship their voice assistant with millions of phones each year.

So Amazon is instead taking an ‘Alexa everywhere’ approach-integrating the assistant into everything from cars to refrigerators to thermostats. If you sell a physical product, what would it say if they could talk?

Push notifications

This is a tactical shift, but it’s a hugely important one. Amazon has already opened up the ability for brands to send push notifications via Alexa; the device indicates there is a new notification, using a tone, flashing light or on-screen notice, depending on the model.

This means new possibilities, but also new pitfalls, for brands: what will you push to your users that is so timely, relevant or interesting they’ll be happy you interrupted whatever they were doing?

“Hearables”

Apple, Google and Amazon are all racing to integrate their voice assistants into wireless earphones (aka “hearables”). That’ll let people interact with services even more easily than they do know—in certain cases, you won’t even have to take your phone out of your pocket.

Screens

Voice interactions have the most long-term staying power within multi-modal ecosystems where those interactions translate well across all devices for a seamless experience of both voice and screen. Imagine asking Alexa to buy a couple tickets to the new Avengers movie and then having those tickets appear on your phone without having to take an intermediary action on your own.

Amazon has already launched home assistants that include screens. Google hasn’t done the same (yet), but they are working on making it easier to transition interactions from a home assistant to a laptop. All of that means that people will increasingly be able to enjoy the ease of issuing commands by voice with the clarity of viewing information (or products) on a screen. divider 600

What you need to do:

Start experimenting now.

For many companies, the danger now is waiting to figure out the perfect application for voice before diving in and starting to learn. Much like the early days of the web, when outsized advantage went to early movers, the voice landscape is still relatively wide open-there’s still time to get ahead.

Amazon, Google and others are paying attention to (and promoting) the companies that jump in and do something interesting. Being early in this evolution is especially important, since with voice, people likely only hear the first search result.

Look for new opportunities to provide value.

Are there new things you can help your customers with, now that they can talk to your brand at any time from their kitchen or living room?

Get ready to support experiences that transition across devices and channels.

Before long, people will be frustrated if they can’t pick up that shopping process they started on Alexa on their laptop later at work. And they won’t want to tell you what product they own twice when they come asking for support.

This requires a backend infrastructure that knows your customers and can recognize them across different channels.

Rethink your content strategy.

You’ll increasingly need to be able to offer your content up in different forms - no longer can you count on people being at a computer. They might be in their car, with their eyes (hopefully) on the road. How does your product catalogue work over voice? divider 600

Whoever your customer base is, voice assistance is likely to be a part of their lives in some capacity next year. It’s time to start preparing your company to meet them there. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.