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Advances in voice recognition spur personalization for marketers

As marketers continue to hunt for ways to make mobile more contextually-relevant, the growth of voice recognition points to significant opportunities for marketers to tailor experiences at a more granular level.

Publishers, financial institutions and travel companies are all verticals that have recently leveraged voice recognition to create personalized mobile applications. Additionally, voice recognition presents marketers with a way to break up advertising with unique mobile-only elements.

?For mobile advertising in general, it is unclear how well it is working,? said Peter Mahoney, chief marketing officer at Nuance, Burlington, MA.

?People are taking creative from other formats and shrunken it down ? as a result, consumers haven?t interacted to the level that advertisers had hoped for,? he said.

?By giving people a way to have a dialogue, it is an actual way to interact with an ad in a format that is somewhat challenging on a smaller screen.?

Building a two-way conversation
One of the reasons that voice recognition is beginning to play a more prominent role in marketing is because marketers are increasingly getting a better understanding of consumers through data.

Per Mr. Mahoney, voice recognition requires that marketers not only have a significant amount of data about their consumers, but also that consumers have a strong understanding of the brand.

Voice recognition also has particularly strong implications for direct response advertisers to cut down on the number of steps required for a consumer to take.

Take an entertainment company, for example. Instead of directing consumers to a mobile landing page to buy tickets to a movie, a marketer could use voice recognition to let consumers directly buy a movie ticket from an ad.

Nuance recently rolled out a new voice-activated mobile ad format for marketers to create a two-way conversation with consumers. Nuance has partnered with agencies and ad companies including Digitas, Jumptap, Millennial Media and OMD to help bring advertisers on board with the technology.

A demo of Nuance's voice-activated ad

?What these voices ads allow you to do is dynamically drive a personalized conversation and the ability to gather more data," Mr. Mahoney said.

?You can calculate gender and say that it?s a man or woman to personalize the ad towards,? he said.

?You need to ensure that you have segmented your audience ? you need to define offers and messages that are relevant to those segments.?

Lead by example
There have been a few interesting recent uses of voice recognition from financial institutions and publishers that are all geared at creating more personalized mobile content.

For instance, Hearst Corp.?s Esquire launched an app that solely relies on voice-recognition to help users find the right piece of style, fashion and drink content (see story).

Financial institutions and insurance companies that depend on users filling in multiple fields of information to access their accounts or file claims also have a big opportunity with voice recognition to streamline the mobile experience for consumers.

ING Direct Canada, for example, is experimenting with voice recognition in its apps so consumers can speak into their devices to complete banking transactions (see story).

Both of these examples point to voice recognition as being used as a part of more contextually-relevant messages, which is key according to Ron Croen, CEO/founder of Volio, San Francisco.

?In terms of technology, marketing through such experiences is not just about voice recognition - the transcription of words or the listening ? but also about language understanding ? what the user means or the understanding and about the response to what is heard and understood,? Mr. Croen said.

?When combined with an image of a real person, the interaction is more human and realistic. Users respond to such applications with more interest, cooperation and openness,? he said.

?As a result, in the future it will be used in applications for information sharing and gathering, customer service, product information, education, advice and coaching.?

Mobile challenges
Personalized, contextual experiences are the end goal for marketers nowadays.

However, few marketers are leveraging the core built-in capabilities of mobile devices such as voice to do this, especially on mobile sites.

A new report from Monetate and Econsultancy found that only 14 percent of marketers are personalizing their tablet sites, and 13 percent of marketers are doing the same with their mobile sites.

To compare, 43 percent of companies offer personalized experiences for desktop users.

Despite the lack in executions, 94 percent of companies surveyed in the report agreed that personalization is critical to current and future successes. 

Part of the reason that marketers are wary about investing more heavily in digital with personalization comes from brands not getting significant ROI from Web, per the report.

?Consumers expect a consistent experience from a brand across all touch points, such as tablet, smartphone, in-store and desktop, although different devices serve different purposes,? said Marifran Manzo-Ritchie, spokeswoman for Monetate, Conshohocken, PA.

?When it comes to smartphones, consumers look for in-the-moment content that responds to their current situation,? she said.

?Mobile marketers that don?t tailor Web experiences for smartphones and tablets run the risk of alienating or losing customers."

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York