We wrote in a previous blog post about how voice technology improves brand recall and customer loyalty – the key is knowing how to engage customers in a friendly, non-intrusive manner. Companies that figure this out now will have a massive leg up on the competition in terms of their memorability, i.e., the degree to which they are worth being remembered.
But there’s a deeper reason for why voice technology adoption is growing quickly and is foundational to the future of retail. It capitalizes on a crucial reality – the fact that so much human connection happens through sound. And with modern voice technology, brands can now use sound in a way that meets personal customer needs and enhances the overall shopping experience.
When you see voice technology in this way, voice commerce applications become more than supplemental sales channels. They are the means by which brands will create stronger, more meaningful relationships with customers over the long term.
Emotions and Sounds are Tightly Linked
It’s difficult to determine which of the five senses is most important to the human experience. They all matter. However, we know through research and reflection that hearing is vital for feeling connected to the world around us. When hearing is limited, that connection breaks down.
Countless studies have shown that people who have hearing loss feel more isolated and depressed than their peers. They can’t communicate well with loved ones, and they know that they are missing out on opportunities to engage. That’s why hearing aids both improve hearing and bring up spirits dramatically.
Our ability to hear also enriches our lives. Hearing enables us to absorb powerful musical performances and get swept up in epic blockbusters. Furthermore, our brains release dopamine in response to pleasant sounds, giving us that reward experience that we crave. Even the sound of our own name is special to us. We also know that babies in the womb can hear sounds starting at around 25 weeks old. They learn to recognize voices, which helps create attachment to their primary caregivers after birth.
When it comes to forming memories, people often store emotional information together with specific sounds. Simply hearing a sound that is associated with a powerful memory can bring us back to that moment or help us navigate a new situation. It’s why we can tell the difference between a yell for help versus a yell for joy. And it’s how we know ominous music typically comes before a scary movie moment.
Additionally, sound is essential in the field of linguistics. Sound is how a vast majority of people share ideas, discern meaning, and communicate both within and across cultures. It’s how groups express their unique identities and perspectives on the world. Going a step further, our sounds and languages affect how we think.
So, what’s the takeaway?
Sound is critical for enjoying many of life’s moments. It’s also how we feel closer to the people and world around us. The good news is that voice technology has evolved to the point where it can meet these expectations. Voice technology has the power to both sustain and augment our everyday interactions, including modern shopping experiences.
Voice Technology Delivers on Emotional Expectations
Voice technology is no longer some early-stage innovation with future potential. It’s here, and it’s transforming how people behave in many situations.
According to a 2018 PwC survey, a majority of consumers saw voice technology and voice assistants as more convenient, faster, and easier for conducting online searches. Just over a third of respondents preferred to shop with a voice assistant rather than visit a physical storefront or shop on a mobile app.
In 2021, 45 million people made a transaction using voice. A growing emotional connection to voice assistants is a big reason. One study published in the Journal of Retail and Consumer Services found that voice assistants that exhibit “functional intelligence, sincerity, and creativity” promote exploratory behavior amongst consumers. This leads to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty to the voice assistant. And as voice technology improves, so will these benefits.
We can really see how positive of an impact voice assistants can have when we dig into how the elderly are using smart speakers today. Older adults are using voice technology to play music, get news updates, control lighting, and make purchases – small actions that give them a greater sense of independence and prevent feelings of loneliness. In this way, voice assistants are becoming integral to the lives of people who have traditionally been excluded from digital innovation.
Amongst more active consumers, voice assistants also deliver a uniquely focused experience. They aren’t subject to the same types of interruptions that exist when using phones or laptops. Text messages and emails can easily disrupt the desktop or mobile browsing experience. Voice shopping doesn’t allow for this type of disjointed, stop-and-go shopping. People can stay more engaged and centered, which we know helps minimize stress in our busy, over-stimulated lives. Shopping through voice is also faster, because there’s less friction involved in making a purchase.
To summarize, voice commerce applications and voice assistants are gaining traction – not because the technology is novel, but because it’s familiar. It aligns with what we find interesting and meaningful as humans. Being able to interact with a brand over voice has the potential to create a deeper type of connection that no other channel offers today. And it’s why voice technology will continue its rapid growth trajectory in retail for years to come.