The benefits of the voice
Audio is becoming more and more important in our lives. It is hands-free, screen-free, provides responses fast and is easy to use alongside daily activities. Consumer engagement with audio has remarkably increased thanks to innovation and development in voice technology together with significant improvement in the availability of premium audio content, including digital radio, streaming services and podcasts. The user experience is further improved by multiple alternatives offered by smart speakers and advanced audio technology.
Podcasts as a new form of digital audio
More people than ever before are listening to digital audio. According to RAJAR’s MIDAS Survey for Spring 2019, over 28.3 million people in the UK enjoy digital radio, streamed music and podcasts for an average of 12.9 hours every week.
Podcasts is an increasingly global phenomenon due to the explosion of smartphone devices. According to data from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism across 23 key markets in 2018, average podcast penetration was 33.5%. However, in Asia Pacific it was 42.0%, North America 30.5% and Europe 27.9%. A considerable force in the rise of audio has been the emergence of podcasts from the media margins to mainstream. As of 2019, 30% of Australians and 32% of Americans aged 12 or over, and 36% of Canadians aged 18 or older, have listened to a podcast in the last month. Podcast listeners are a commercially very attractive audience. They tend to be young, highly-educated and affluent, and look for inspiring and educative content from podcasts. Furthermore, they do not tend to listen to commercial radio at all.
Smart speakers and voice commanded activities
Together with the more passive consumption of audio content, consumers are nowadays using their own voices more to interact with technology. Activities include for example operating smart home and virtual assistant devices, surf the net, different forms of personal entertainment and executing app functionalities. It’s even possible to play an audio based game (Westworld: The Maze) by voice commands via Alexa.
Around 60% of British smartphone users are using voice technology at least once a month, and over 10% of households in the UK now own at least one smart speaker device – Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Google Assistant being the major players. Asian markets are leading the adoption. China’s willingness to adopt voice technology ranks second in the world after India and there are more voice assistants in China than in any other country. The rise in smart speaker adoption has boosted the growth in voice search which is convenient and time saving way to get information online. Consequently this will have profound implications for search marketing strategies.
US based Amazon was the first entering the market of smart speaker manufacturers/industry. In 2019, Amazon, Google, Alibaba, Xiaomi, Baidu and Apple were the key players on the global market. It is estimated that in five years’ time smart speaker penetration will be as high as 75% in the US, 36% in France and 22% in Japan.
Audio opportunities for marketers
Audio is characterized as immersive, close and capable of creating powerful emotional resonance. it works best in the context of a long term, broader sonic branding strategy, rather than short-term, tactical executions. The creation of an audio identity may be complex as it must also include the literal voice that will be used for the brand on diverse sides of audio world and assets must resonate across all international markets in which the brand is operating. This also means that a three-dimensional brand architecture of sonic activity, search marketing and SEO is crucially needed.
As technology evolves, programmatic advertising goes beyond display, and automation moves to the planning of audio, out of home and television. Then it will be possible to optimize reach, brand recall or awareness as a combination of these upper funnel channels and create the best performing campaign structure.
Until recently, influencers have gained a lot of success on Instagram and Facebook, but overtime these channels have been getting more competitive and more expensive. Today podcast offer multiple options for marketers both quantitatively and qualitatively in various forms that combine a specific topic of interest, the form of storytelling and interaction. Their major benefit is also a high level of engagement, as video is watched for an average of 18 seconds while podcasts are listened for 22 minutes.
Currently, podcasts is rather a new audio alternative for marketers and it is growing strongly. The global podcast ad market is expected to reach $1.6bn by 2022, almost doubling the value of the one in 2018, thus accounting for 4.5% of the global audio media expenditure.
Future opportunities with voice technology
The future of voice technology seems very bright: Voice is everywhere, used in different situations by people of all ages. Voice technologies are able to offer services in several languages and thus enable sophisticated customization and more relevant customer service. The share of spoken word has increased by 20% over the last five years. About a half of US adults 18+ use voice commands and 24% of them use voice commands nearly every day.
Our living environments become smarter with voice technology. Voice assistants or smart speakers can be used to control television, lights, thermostats, alarm systems, electricity switches and much more. A centralized voice system not only provides great convenience but also helps save electricity as it provides an option to turn off appliances remotely. Industries such as hospitality, transport, education, automotive, banking and insurance sectors are the major ones to use voice technology to constantly refine their customer experience.
Even though the proliferation of AI and voice technology is generally viewed positively and is welcomed as an enabler of more comfort and ease to daily life, some consumers worry that it may negatively exacerbate social isolation, a loss of control, consent and trust. It is of pivotal importance that voice tech hardware and software developers are transparent and earn consumer trust by ensuring that privacy is protected.
If you want to discuss more on opportunities in global marketing and media please contact Annika Hätönen or Riikka Hallenberg at Dagmar.
What we know about podcasts in marketing, WARC Best Practice February 2019
Digital Audio Advertising, Exploring opportunities in streaming audio, podcasts and smart speakers, eMarketer July 2019
Audio: Prospering in the ever-present medium, Admap and WARC, June 2019
What’s working in radio and audio, Campaign updates and channel trends, WARC September 2019
Voice first, PwC September 2019