Hola! Our voice is one of the most powerful tools we have. We can persuade, deceive and engage, sometimes all within the same breath. It’s also what helps set us apart, with accents, inflections and slang all contributing to what is uniquely us. Of course it’s easy to glance over all of this – or at least it was.
In a world dominated by technology and led by touch, voice is finally starting to become a part of the equation. So much so in fact, that it’s estimated that 50 per cent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. But like anything that grows at such a rate, voice technology isn’t without its hiccups (pun intended).
Indeed, it’s this rapid rise which is a challenge in itself, with a wide range of options and a general lack of understanding all contributing to a shaky foundation that can ultimately see brands struggle to find their voice.
And even though there is no tried and true way forward, there is a way I believe is effective when it comes to creating your first voice app. Here, I’m going to explore the many stages of a voice app project and inevitably touch on why voice is so important.
At a glance, the rise of voice technology makes sense. With technology itself already an all-consuming entity, the introduction of something that understands and speaks to us only makes sense.
And while early iterations like Siri told us how to get point B and what the weather’s like, it was the Google I/O 2018 conference that truly provided a watershed moment for the industry. Here, Google Assistant rung up and scheduled a haircut appointment with a real person, proving that interaction through voice is very much a possibility.
How we should start
While the rise of voice is indisputable, how exactly we integrate it is anything but.
Today, there are two main voice platforms; Google and Alexa. Naturally, this leads us to our first dilemma – which platform goes first? Well, that all depends on how you interpret the market. And, unless you’re one of those who used to release the iOS and android apps at the same time, I recommend you to do your homework and do one at a time.
Next – like most projects – we need to make sure we’ve established a clear management process. Here, feedback is a necessary by-product so adopting the right methodology is integral to prioritising and managing your time. And while there are two methods to pick from, I believe one is far superior than the other.
The waterfall method just doesn’t cut it for voice apps. The feedback and changes are too constant and the more your app can talk the more complex it becomes to manage. Inevitably, it also takes longer to release.
The agile method, meanwhile, is much more flexible as it follows an iterative approach that allows for changes to take place. Given that we are in a business that is built on feedback, tweaks and drafts, it only feels right that we align with a method that is founded upon the very same pillars.
After picking (hopefully the agile) method, work with your creative team to define the idea and see how it’s going to be rolled out through all channels. Understanding how the app will be promoted will help you clearly define what’s in scope for the first release.
I use the term first release very loosely however, as the ideal project should allow for multiple iterations after the first big launch. It’s common to run into problems so don’t rely on the support and maintenance approach with clients, make it clear from day one the project has multiple milestones and most of them are after the voice app is live.
Once you are ready to publish the app though, do it ASAP. Go through the hurdles of verification and approval, and workout those release notes to help get the app live early – a true MVP.
How We Do It
What better way to show how effective the agile method can be than by showing an example of our own.
At whiteGREY we recently released a voice app for Frank Health Insurance. Here, we set out to answer some of the more common questions that plague the category.
Of course, like anything in our line of work, creating the best, workable solution to solve a client’s business problem always comes with its own challenges.
We relied on releasing multiple beta versions of the app that were tested on an agency, client and consumer level. We quickly learned that users ask very long questions and that often our answer failed to hit all the same points they touched on.
What’s more, given that we were releasing the app on DialogFlow (the Google platform), we had to make sure we were meeting a lengthy list of requirements. Chief among them, a very specific list about the type of language you can and can’t use (prepare for a list of requirements, do’s and don’ts that can’t be found anywhere).
Ultimately though, we were able to release the product while adhering to our deadlines thanks to a healthy combination of teamwork and late nights. Through this, we not only learned that two sprints were too big, but sometimes even one-week efforts proved too hard to overcome. Yet, thanks to working together in an iterative process, we were able to tweak as we went and avoid any potential hurdles.
The essential toolbox for the project was Confluence for project and technical documentation, office-365 to manage all content variations in the cloud and a new-gen Jira board for task management.
Whether we like it or not, voice technology will play a major role in the future of marketing, with the voice recognition market alone estimated to be $601 million industry by next year. And with a flood of voice apps beginning to hit the market, it seems others are starting to take note.
However, if that still feels too far away for you, simply look at one of the biggest markets in the world – the United States. Here, two out of every five adults perform a voice search every day.
Truly, it seems like the future voice is now.