For the last year, I have been saying that there has been a subtle but important change in the technology market. It is so subtle in fact, that most people have not realised it has happened, despite actually being very much part of the change.
For the last 2 decades, the internet has been characterised by our ability to search for information. If you don’t know something, just bring up a search engine and boom… answers.
Of course whether you get the right answers is a whole other question and is the core of a billion dollar industry, but we have - through search - the whole world of knowledge at our finger tips.
But it's about to be upended. What we once knew and loved (depending on who you asked) is being eroded and replaced, slowly and subtly.
It all started with the first Amazon Echo. Cheap and cheerful, you were able to ask the device questions and it would do its best to answer.
Was it the first voice assistant? No, but it was the most accessible.
Since its birth, the Echo has evolved. Better hardware, for sure, but most importantly, Amazon have created the ability for third parties such as myself to build our own apps that can work with their devices.
The result is a powerful ecosystem that is ushering in a new generation of technology users.
Welcome to the ask generation.
If you watch the behaviour of people under 20, their ‘go to’ method of finding information is to ask. Consulting Siri or Alexa is becoming as common as the term ‘Google it’.
Where middleaged dinosaurs like me are still going to a search engine, the next generation are by passing it by altogether.
Well there are a number issues this presents to businesses.
- How will people find my business?
- If they do find my business, what is being said about me?
- How do I engage with the customer over voice?
Let's look at these one by one.
How will people find my business?
In the age of search, you got ranked. The more relevant your business was to the search query, the more likely you were to be at the top. You could spend ££££££ on search engine optimisation to get you on the front page, or rely on sponsored ads. This is of course how Google made its money in the first instance.
But with voice assistants, it is very different. The first answer is normally the accepted answer, but the key to it is still the same - relevance.
You see, if you ask a question, Alexa is looking to find the most relevant answer. This means we need to review our entire process and marketing behaviour as what we have become used to doing no longer works.
I once heard that a definition of religion is doing the right thing for too long, and we are in danger of becoming religious with our marketing.
Businesses need to be looking at their ask strategy today in the same way they should have looked at their search engine strategy back in the early 00’s.
If they find my business, what will it say about me?
Part of the ask strategy we need to put in place is, if Alexa does find us, be clear about what is going to be said. To be frank, you have less than 10 seconds to get a user's attention.
This is going to be a real challenge for most organisations, whose current information is often a long winded, marketing manicured string of words that takes forever to digest before you realise what the company actually does.
As a sales trainer in a previous life, we used to teach people how to give an ‘elevator pitch’. That is an explanation of what you or the company does, that could be said in the time it take to go up 10 floors.
Well that’s gone to the wall. Forget minutes, you have 10 seconds or less. Could you describe what you do in ten seconds or less in a way that would motivate a customer to engage?
How do I engage with my customers over voice?
Ok so you are the first answer from the Voice Assistant, you have a tailored message that is less than 10 seconds, but how do you engage? How will customers connect with you?
The old saying is true here; “There is nothing new under the sun”. The answer is the good old ‘call to action’. We need to be super clear on what we want our potential customer to actually do.
Thankfully, Voice Assistants do give us many more options now. They can phone you directly, they can show your contact details, they can connect you with a chat bot or live service to process an enquiry or even allow you to get the device to make a enquiry on your behalf.
This is brilliant for restaurants and hair dressers, but what about an enterprise?
Again, it comes back to simply being clear about what the first engagement with your business should be. What do you want them to do?
Clarity is the answer.
So what about Travel Safety?
Great question. I believe the ask generation is going to influence much more than just the way we market our services. I believe it is going to be THE primary interface between the user and their technology.
The app culture will go the same way as search: it will slowly but surely die.
When travellers want to check if it is safe to travel, or what they need to bring with them, they are going to ask. We can forget clever apps, and screens with all the possible data, they will simply want to ask.
This will radically change our solutions, and it should (and will) redefine the next generation of Travel Safety technology.
Whoever masters this first, will master the market.
We’ve already built our chatbot, and even a protype Alexa skill, and they are absolutely game changing, but they do challenge current ways of thinking.
But that’s great: if everything stayed the same, we would still be wasting time, money and resources doing constant tracking and writing up risk assessments manually (surely you are not still doing that!!??).
If you would like to learn more about our journey towards the Ask Generation, get a demo on our tech or simply chew the cud about the future, please do reach out to me. There is nothing I like more than talking tech!!