What Meerkat Can Teach Retailers About Building A Voice Strategy Solely On Top Of Amazon

0aaPeter Cahill Voysis

It’s an all too familiar story. A company builds its entire product strategy on top of a wildly popular platform, with hopes to quickly gain distribution and adoption. While early adoption signals that building on top of the platform was a smart move, all of sudden access is cut off, and the company meets its demise. That was the story of Meerkat, the live streaming video app that rivaled another app called Periscope. They achieved massive adoption building on top of Twitter, leveraging their social graph to accelerate their growth.

The companies, and businesses that leverage social graphs and the built-in audiences of these platforms, live in constant fear of having the rug pulled out from underneath them.

The same kinds of conversations are happening in the voice space today. Many retailers and brands are building their voice strategies on top of smart speakers from Amazon and Google, only to learn that the data they’re given access to isn’t complete, and their customer relationships are at risk of being owned or, worse yet, hijacked by their biggest competitors. Many retailers have resisted investing in voice experiences for this reason as well: for fear of being “Meerkat-ed” if Amazon or Google decides to cut them off or change their service in any way.


That’s why brands need to invest in multi-faceted voice strategies that live on mobile, web, smart speakers and anywhere else their customers interact with them.

Voice is bigger than a couple of smart speakers. Companies like Spotify are providing a glimpse into what a voice-powered digital strategy looks like with their launch of a native voice search experience. This is the start of many brands leveraging voice not as a feature, but as part of their larger digital strategy. And while it may seem scary, voice presents an opportunity to embrace atransformational technology. This is an opportunity we haven’t seen since the launch of the iPhone, which presented eerily similar adoption numbers in its first few years in market.

If you think about the senses of the body (sight, taste, smell, hearing, touch), the role of speech is as primitive as it gets. That’s why 1 in 2 members of Gen Z are using voice daily, and why nearly 30% of the U.S. population uses a voice-enabled device daily. It removes the friction of finding what you’re looking for, more so than any other medium. Just recently, The Street predicted that 50% of consumers will use voice to shop by 2022.

Retailers, like other companies, are starting to pay attention.

Retailers and brands are tasked with not only improving the experience they deliver on mobile, which will be responsible for nearly 50% of revenue in the coming years, but also ways to entice and attract the next generation of shoppers. Voice will make up 50% of search by 2020, and the brands that will win will embody a complete voice strategy.

So this begs the question: if I’m a retailer and I want to invest in voice, where do I start? And what can Meerkat teach me about building out my voice strategy?

Platform For Distribution And Reach

Meerkat, which used Twitter for its initial growth, wasn’t wrong in its approach. It was wrong for its dependency on one platform for its existence. That’s like building an entire voice strategy on top of Alexa, and only investing there. Use smart speakers as a jumping-off point, and invest deeper in native voice integrations to solve real business problems, no matter where your customers are.

Meet Your Customer Where They Already Are

In my nearly 20 years of experience with building voice interfaces, I’ve learned that the voice experiences that win are the ones that are designed to address a very specific user need. If you’re a CPG brand, smart speakers give you immediate access to consumers who want to reorder groceries or buy more toilet paper. If you’re an apparel brand and want to make mobile shopping easier, use voice as a means to eliminate the pain that traditional UIs present for product discovery.

Use Voice As Part Of A Bigger Brand Strategy

As retailers and brands invest deeper in solutions and technologies that remove friction from their customer journey, it’s important to understand the benefits of owning an end-to-end experience yourself. Amazon and Google provide distribution and instant access to consumers, but assume complete control of the customer relationship. You can make your products available in either of their online stores, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t offer a better, more tailored, direct experience yourself.

Your customer data, and experiences, can be put in the hands of some of your biggest competitors, or you can invest in voice as the future of how consumers will engage with your brand.

Dr. Peter Cahill, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of Voysis. He has over 15 years’ experience in speech technology and neural network R&D. Cahill is an active member of the speech research community where he chairs SynSIG, the global speech synthesis special interest group, in addition to being a reviewer of all leading journals and conferences in his field. Prior to Voysis, he was part of a group of scientists that attracted a total of $117M funding for ADAPT, formerly CNGL, a dynamic research center that combines leading academic researchers with key industry partners to produce groundbreaking digital content innovations. He is a graduate and former faculty member in University College Dublin.

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