Are You Ready for a Voice-First Future?

Emerson Sklar Emerson Sklar
minute read
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You can expect many exciting developments in the burgeoning voice ecosystem.

We’re at the forefront of a movement that is fundamentally changing the way people carry out many of the everyday functions of their lives. Voice allows us to operate in a manner devoid of friction or attentional deterrents, and the progress and forward thinking that I saw at the Alexa Conference gives me confidence that a voice-first future is closer than we think.

Year three of the Alexa Conference is now in the books, and I think I can speak for all of the attendees when I say that our vision of the future of voice is much clearer than when we arrived. Let’s take a look at some of the trends we noticed:

Multimodality

The launch of products like the Amazon Echo Show and Echo Spot have given many reasons to be excited about a multimodal future in voice. With a visual representation to go along with voice feedback, users now have another fluid mechanism to process information and understand feedback.

This is immediately beneficial on a household level, as users can quickly stream their favorite programs on supported OTT channels, or shop with touch and feel to aid to auditory experience. Other things – like viewing a quick news flash or starting a video chat – are currently available, but companies are clearly just scratching the surface of multimodality.

With video already at the forefront of media, this is yet another channel for brands to deliver content through and solidify themselves as voice-first pioneers. There are countless uses for voice media content, especially in the consumer space, but there are several exciting opportunities to be had on the business side as well. Speaking of business…

Alexa for Business

We often think of Alexa being used solely within the confines of our home, but we can expect to see a lot more of her around the workplace. While the workplace has gotten smarter over the years, there are still countless tasks in our day-to-day that could be simplified through basic voice commands.

Alexa, start our conference call. Alexa, set an Out of Office reminder. Though simple in practice, commands like these can save us precious time and free us from the hassle of going through the steps on our computer or mobile phone. These commands create a frictionless experience that helps maximize our time and productivity – things in which companies have a clear vested interest.

Branding with Voice

There was one concept in particular – sonic branding – that Doug Robinson, CEO of Fresh Digital Group, introduced this week that struck me as both amazing simple, yet criminally underutilized.

When users engage with your skill, it’s critical that they know who they are speaking with. Visual cues are useless for those without a multimodal device, so finding a sound that represents your brand and a can become synonymous with it is critical to brand loyalty and retention.

There are several brands that have been successful with sonic branding through traditional mediums, but few have excelled in the voice realm. You’ve Got Mail immediately made you think of AOL, and NBC’s chimes are synonymous with its programming. Due to the underuse of voice search and general lack of awareness of branded skills, it behooves brands to give users something to remember them by.

Voice-Based Entertainment

We haven’t seen a drastic change in board games and gaming mediums over the years, but we can expect that to change in the very near future. Nolan Bushnell (founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese) and Zai Ortiz (Hollywood visual designer), the leaders of upstart X2 Games, closed out day one by discussing the opportunities for voice-first gaming and sharing a sneak peek of their upcoming game, St. Noire, a voice-activated murder mystery game that challenges you to solve a murder by interviewing a full cast of characters using Alexa.

Explained Bushnell, "You can look at games like Pong as being clear to the left, and movies being clear to the right. There's a whole page in between that's part game, part narrative, part movie. We think there's a very vacant area that we can fill with some of the weirdest stuff you've ever seen."

There is an incredible opportunity to find that middle ground, and it will take pioneers like Bushnell and Ortiz to bring life and attention to the burgeoning medium. If games like St. Noire are any indication of what’s to come though, there will be an incredibly bright future in voice-first gaming.

Final Thoughts

Companies have placed a premium on voice, as the total number of Alexa skills in the US grew by 120% in 2018. While brand adoption is on the rise, it has proven immensely challenging to acquire and retain customers. Per VoiceLabs, only 6% of users continue to use a voice app within two weeks of finding it.


There are countless opportunities for brands in the world of voice. The real question is whether they can deliver the outstanding quality and value that will make them more than just a passing fad. If the Alexa Conference attendees and speakers (and we at Applause) have anything to say about it, the answer is a resounding YES.

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