Value of voice
In 2016 there was a 64% increase in purchases of smart home devices worldwide, reflecting the huge growth and evolution of advancements made to voice search in recent years, says Ravleen Beeston*. Originating in mobile devices, voice search has now taken a firm and integral positioning inside our homes – voice-activated assistants, such as Alexa, account for a significant part of this growth, and as a result the opportunity to connect brands with consumers has reached a new level.
Over the years, consumers have been embracing, integrating and accepting smart technologies into their everyday lives. For example, in our most recent travel insights report we found UK consumers increasingly turning to assistance from Cortana to complete their hotel searches (up 343% year on year). We are now in a place where the benefits of such technology and intelligence, ease of use and increased productivity, are clear.
What’s more, when analysing searches made through the Cortana platform, we found that voice searches are progressively becoming more idiomatic than their written counterparts. These spoken queries and requests tend to be longer and more structurally complex than those typed into a search box. For marketers, this has huge advantages. Voice searches tend to be loaded with signals, meaning we are revealing more emotion, and therefore personal insight and intent, to our devices.
As we interact with technologies more naturally we are in turn expecting technology to react in an equally similar way – listening, watching, understanding, and most importantly, responding. This is a hugely exciting from a cognitive services perspective. Technologies can use powerful APIs and artificially intelligent algorithms to determine our emotions. If we are smiling, and therefore happy, they will know and serve appropriate content. For marketers, this opens a plethora of possibilities. As part of our democratisation of AI at Microsoft, we are continuously developing our offerings to provide both brands and marketers with a rich level of insight through our Cognitive Services platform.
Microsoft Cognitive Services is a set of solutions which sets out to solve real world problems. For example, working closely with Uber, Microsoft Cognitive Services Face API build the app-based taxi service’s real-time ID-check feature. This application was able to verify a series of regular ‘selfies’ provided by the driver to confirm their identities. The software could then intelligently compare each photo in varying positions, focuses and lighting conditions, instantly after the driver accepts a ride from a passenger – a simple yet effective way to confirm identity. This feature is now capable of supporting up to a million users and provides quick authentication, increasing brand trust and reliability, without impacting the customer’s journey time.
Emerging technologies are getting better at understanding and interpreting human emotional intelligence in ways that will simplify our lives and prove critical to the future of marketing. The growth in the number of purchases of smart home devices emphasises the notion that we are living in a world where we are gradually expecting digital experiences to mirror the way people interact with one another.
Language is becoming the new user interface and humans are the new platform. By connecting brands with this rich emotional consumer data, the opportunities for advertisers to build a deeper understanding of their audiences is stronger than ever before.
*Ravleen Beeston is UK head of sales, Bing Ads