This post serves a dual purpose: it’s a practical guide to the realities of preparing for voice right now, but equally it’s a rallying call to ensure our industry has a full understanding of just how big, disruptive, and transformational it will be — and that, as a result, we need to stand ready. If you'd like to download the full post straight away, please click here!
My view is that voice is not just an add-on, but an entirely new way of interacting with the machines that add value to our lives. It is the next big era of computing. Brands and agencies alike need to be at the forefront of that revolution. For my part, that begins with investing in the creation of a voice team. Let me explain just how we plan to do that, and why it’s being actioned earlier than many will think necessary...
The times, they are a-changing
Back in 1964, that revered folk-and-blues singer could never have imagined just what that would mean in the 21st century. As we head into 2018, we’re nearing a voice interface-inspired inflection point the likes of which we haven’t seen before. And if the world’s most respected futurist is to be believed, it’s only just beginning.
Talk to Ray Kurzweil, Google’s Chief Engineer and the man Bill Gates says is the “best person to predict the future,” and he’ll tell you that we are entering a period of huge technological change.
For those working across search and many other areas of digital marketing, change is not uncommon. Seismic events, such as the initial roll out of Panda and Penguin, reminded those inside it just how painful it is to be unprepared for the future. At best, it tips everything upside down. At worst, it kills those agencies or businesses stuck behind the curve.
It’s for exactly this reason that I felt compelled to write a post all about why I’m building a voice team at Zazzle Media, the agency I founded here in the UK, as stats from BrightEdge reveal that 62% of marketers still have no plans whatsoever to prepare for the coming age of voice. I’m also here to argue that while the growth traditional search agencies saw through the early 2000s is over, similar levels of expansion are up for grabs again for those able to seamlessly integrate voice strategies into an offering focused on the client or customer.
Based on our current understanding of technological progress, it’s easy to rest on our laurels. Voice interface adoption is still in its very early stages. Moore’s Law draws a (relatively) linear line through technological advancement, giving us time to take our positions — but that era is now behind us.
According to Kurzweil’s thesis on the growth of technology (the Law of Accelerating Returns);
We won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century - it will be more like 20,000 years.
Put another way, he explains that technology does not progress in a linear way. Instead, it progresses exponentially.
“30 steps linearly get you to 30. One, two, three, four, step 30 you’re at 30. With exponential growth, it’s one, two, four, eight. Step 30, you’re at a billion,” he explained in a recent Financial Times interview. In other words, we’re going to see new tech landing and gaining traction faster than we ever realized it possible.
Below, Kurzweil illustrates how we’ll be able to produce computational power as powerful as a human brain by 2023. By 2037 we’ll be able to do it for less than a one-cent cost. Just 15 years later computers will be more powerful than the entire human race as a whole. Powerful stuff — and proof of the need for action as voice and the wider AI paradigm takes hold.
So, what does that mean right now? While many believe voice is still a long way off, one point of view says it’s already here — and those fast enough to grab the opportunity will grow exponentially with it. Indeed, Google itself says more than 20% of all searches are already voice-led, and will reach 50% by 2020.
Let’s first deal with understanding the processes required before then moving onto the expertise to make it happen...
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