The Next CMO Podcast: Voice Interfaces in Marketing with Preston So


Episode Notes

In this episode, we speak with Preston So, senior director of product strategy at Oracle and author of the book, Voice Content and Usability.

Voice interfaces for marketing campaigns are the face of current and future advertising outreach.     In this podcast, Preston So talks  us through some of what marketers will face as they make the change from print media and website to voice interface:

  • How usable is voice interface for your customers?
  • How easy is it to add voice marketing to campaigns?
  • How expensive will it be to develop voice marketing?
  • Navigating cross-channel marketing
  • Plan early to guarantee privacy for your customers
  • When does the Conversational Singularity arrive?  (Spoiler alert: we don’t know the answer to that yet!)

Useful Links


Full Transcript



The  next CMO podcast explores topics that are on the minds of forward-thinking marketing executives from leadership and strategy to emerging technologies. And we bring these topics to life by interviewing leading experts in their fields.  The next CMO is sponsored by Plannuh makers of the world’s first AI based marketing leadership platform and hosted by me, Peter Mahoney, the former CEO of Plannuh along with my cohost
Kelsey Krapf.
in this episode, Kelsey and I speak with Preston. So. Preston is a senior director of product strategy at Oracle and more relevant to this conversation. Preston recently wrote a book called voice content in usability. He’s a writer speaker in a deep expert in the topics of omni-channel content, immersive experiences, voice content, content architectures in the future of content strategy.
I hope you enjoy the conversation.
[00:01:14] Preston So: Well, great. Thank you so much for joining us today. Preston, we’re super excited to have you on the next CML podcast. I’d love to learn a little bit more about you. So tell us about your background. Sure. Um, thanks so much for having me here on the next CMO podcast. It’s a real pleasure to be here today.
My name is Preston, so I use he him pronouns and I’m senior director of product strategy at Oracle working on Oracle content management and our developer experience. But my main focus these days. Um, especially is around product architecture and strategy for some of the really interesting digital experiences that we have beyond the humble website.
So really thinking about how marketing organizations can take advantage of a lot of these new paradigms that are coming out. What we had Oracle likes to call page lists, experiences through voice interfaces and extended reality interfaces like augmented and virtual reality and all of the architectures and implementation details and all of the interesting strategies.
That design teams, development teams. And of course marketing teams should really be thinking about in this really interesting new world that we’re coming into with this upcoming decade.
[00:02:21] Peter Mahoney: Well, I love this topic, Preston, and as you know, and I think many of our audience knows I have a background in voice.
Having spent many years at nuance communications and I’m super excited about it and could never figure out in my early days of nuance, why everyone wasn’t excited about it. But I’d love to hear from you sort of what was attractive to you about the concept of voice interface as you started to dig into this topic.
[00:02:51] Preston So: I’ve always been interested in the really interesting ways in which content can manifest itself in a variety of contexts that go well beyond what we have today. And I think in some ways we’re approaching a really interesting inflection point at the moment where just like the transition from print to web, the big digital transformation.
Late nineties, early two thousands. When a lot of organizations said, Hey, we got to move our brand over to the web. The interesting thing today is that we’re facing a lot of those same questions, but from multiple angles, not just from the concept of voice, but also from the standpoint of immersive experiences and all sorts of other kinds of, uh, Uh, content marketing and all sorts of other dimensions that we haven’t thought about before.
I also have a little bit of an interesting connection to voice interfaces and to some of the natural language processing and all of those sorts of exciting disciplines that take place within the voice world. And that’s because I’m actually a trained linguist. A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I started out as a web designer, a print designer in the old days, uh, specializing in user experience.
Um, but I also was a trainer. It’s back in my university days. And voice has been one of those really exciting areas that combines together. A lot of the really interesting things that we do as humans when it comes to natural language and the ways in which machines now have to speak with us on our own terms, using one of our most primordial habits and one of our most primeval.
Practices, which was of course spoken human conversation. One of the things I always like to say is, um, first of all, I always quote Erica Hall’s book, conversational design, where she says, you know, conversation is not a new interface. It’s not a new experience that we as marketers or we as marketing organizations have to be thinking about it’s the oldest interface it’s been around for generations upon generations.
And one thing I find really interesting about a lot of the marketing approaches that we have to. Is that digital marketing these days is really laser focused on a lot of these learned artificial interfaces. If you think about computer mice, if you think about keyboards. So if you think about video game controllers, even if you think about wearable technology, all of these things are not things that come naturally to us over the course of our development as young adults.
But speech and conversation. These are truly innate experiences of growth as a human being. So from a linguist perspective, and this is the reason why I think a lot of linguists have gone over into the conversational landscape is it’s one of the ways that we can scratch both hitches at the same time.
Both are . Two, uh, linguistics and also the itch that comes about when it comes to innovation and how we can really innovate when it comes to reaching our customers and reaching our users in really novel ways that didn’t exist before.
[00:05:41] Peter Mahoney: One of the things that I find about that concept, you just brought up Preston that’s challenging.
And the concept I’m referring to is the fact that it is an old and natural kind of method of communication. So everyone knows how to do it. What happens with that is that there are all these built-in expectation patients that happen with consumers. So they are used to talking to people from the time they’re a toddler.
And now all of a sudden they’re talking to some kind of non-human interface. And based on that, they develop a set of expectation for how our conversation should work. So how have they. Expectations change. It used to be that we could kind of train users to be very robotic in their communication when it came to talking to unnatural interfaces.
Now, all of a sudden there’s this. Rising set of expectations around how smart they should be, how interactive they should be. How do you see that changing the way that we should be thinking about the voice interfaces that we’re developing for our consumers?
[00:06:51] Preston So: Everyone remembers the first voice interface they interacted with that was super stilted.
Uncanny valley effects, very eerie, very uncomfortable, very awkward, very aloof. And I think one of the things. I certainly experienced when I first interacted with even some of the older devices that existed back in the day or some of the older voice interfaces that , especially with regard to some of the phone hotlines we all use is, gosh, you know, there’s no way that you could really carry a conversation with this interface, the same way that you might with your favorite person at the deli counter.
And I think this really illustrates several things. One thing is it’s really interesting to watch over the past. Let’s say 10 to 20. The fact that there’s this really interesting dichotomy that has surfaced when it comes to voice interfaces. We have a certain expectation, as you said about how we actually want these conversations to go.
But for all intents and purposes today, voice assistants and voice interfaces are still pretty easy to differentiate from a real human being. Still very far away from, um, what someone might call, uh, you know, what Mark Curtis calls, for example, the conversational singularity, that moment in the future when having a conversation with Alexa or Siri or Google home is indistinguishable from the kind of conversation you and I are having right now, Peter, and I think one of the really interesting insights that come that’s come about from usability studies over the past few years, especially, is that just as we have.
Adjusted the ways in which we interact with each other online because of these digital forms of communication, these artificial nuances that come about when it comes to keyboard usage and computer mouse usage, there are actually a lot of, uh, interesting papers that points. Kind of bifurcation in the way that people speak with voice interfaces, a group of people who has never, you know, never interacted with a voice interface before is going to obviously refer back to their previous ability to converse with human beings and run into some brick walls.
But there are also people who interact. So many of these voice interfaces on a daily basis, they’ve almost Dobbs their own artificial rehearsed approach, interacting with voice interfaces. And there’s some really interesting usability research that suggests that’s the people actually prefer this slightly artificial.
Speaking, whether the voice interface and they can’t be bothered necessarily with some of the more, let’s say natural or organic or extemporaneous forms of conversation that we might have. That being said. I think it’s really important that a lot of people recognize that a lot of these voice assistants today, despite the fact that we have a lot of boundaries arbitrarily set between different topic areas between different brands.
For example, it’s really a question. Well, you can’t go to the capital one voice spot and ask them to order you a pizza. And likewise, you can’t go to pizza hut and ask pizza hut about your credit card balance, but Amazon and Google and apple and all these different conglomerates are really trying their hardest to try to get to the point where a lot of these boundaries go away.
It’s something that Rafael RR and, uh, Robert Moore and several other academics call conversation centric, design. Where you’re having a conversation that washes away those arbitrary boundaries, where there are no lines in the sand, let’s say, oh, you can’t be asking me about this topic because I can’t actually answer that question.
And that’s a really important milestone and stepping stone on the way to this notion of a conversational singularity. I think it’s a really interesting, um, conflict though, and a bit of a quandary, right? Because the big question, and I answered this question, um, from multiple angles in my book, voice continent, usability, right?
Well, as we go into this realm where conversational interfaces become more and more indistinguishable from a human being, from the kind of person that you meet at a brick and mortar store from the kind of interaction you have with somebody who is, um, you know, at an event, but you’re trying to generate leads from it’s.
One of those things that you have to ask yourself. How natural exactly is this conversation going to be, how natural is this conversation going to sound? And under whose standards does this conversation actually become a natural thing. And I think it’s a really new world. We’re not anywhere near where we’re going to solve these problems yet, but there’s some interesting trends in the right direction where we’ve started to wash away a lot of these arbitrary lines between some of these things that, for example, a lot of the old phone hotlines, would it be able to handle it?
[00:11:18] Peter Mahoney: There’s so much there. Let’s see. Where do I begin? I love the concept of the conversational singularity and what I used to tell people back at nuance when we were building voice interfaces for people, is I used to tell them to think about these voice interactive systems. Like they were someone with Asperger’s.
So there are people who have very, very. Understanding of certain topics, but if you go outside that topic range, they get completely lost. And in a lot of voice interfaces, especially in the early days were really bad at failing. So if they didn’t know there, wasn’t a good way. So Sera used to annoyingly say, I can search the web for you.
I’m like shut up Siri. I don’t want to hear that. And obviously, as you said, now, all of the. Major voice assistant providers are trying to federate these kinds of things with apps or skills or whatever they call them in their domain, which is really interesting, but it still requires that the developer of that end point application have a broader understanding of it.
At least their individual task and that ultimately they should probably be good at identifying if it’s, if it’s a capability they don’t have. And then handing you back is that notion of failing back to the mothership, something that’s built into modern interactive
[00:12:49] Preston So: voice applications. Wow. That’s a, that’s a really interesting question.
And you know, the answer is it depends. I, you know, I think one of the things that you encounter with these, especially, you know, as you said, the Federation of a lot of these capabilities and a lot of these concerns out to these individualized, highly curated, highly, um, customized skills and applications that you actually.
Install onto a voice interface. A lot of times what happens is that arbitrary barrier is something that a lot of voice users don’t really understand, especially if they’re new to voice interfaces. And I think one of the things that’s really interesting about, for example, um, the first voice interface for the state of Georgia that we created as store to gov, which was an Alexa skill that you installed onto Rolex.
I think one of the really interesting things is there’s that there’s always that leap between interacting with Alexa, having a conversation, saying how’s the weather playing this song, you know, doing these normal Alexa things that you would normally do, and then suddenly opening up one of those apps or at one of those skills and beginning to have a conversation that’s a little bit more specific to the actual use case or the actual need that you’re trying to resolve.
And in some way, I think that a lot of these voice assistants and these ecosystems have developed in a really interesting way where there isn’t that opportunity to kind of leave that new real world, that new universe, that these individual skills and these individual applications have fostered because as soon as you enter it, You know, interesting kind of a microcosm of the overarching conversational interface that you have.
It becomes a lot harder for you to handle errors. You’ve got to customize those things directly in the application or directly in the scale that you’ve built. Um, whereas in the general. Say, um, in, in the, in the constructs, right? To pull something from the matrix here, um, outside of those individual applications, what you’re actually experiencing is a more unfettered conversation, a conversation that is a little bit less limited, but of course, that comes with that.
Trade-off that you mentioned earlier, Peter, you know, I think. When we talk about some of these interactions that we want to have, the fact that, you know, Alexa and Google home and Siri are really good at having, let’s say a couple of rounds of what I call pro-social conversation, which is, you know, a little bit of that small talk, a little bit of that.
Glad-handing whereas as soon as you go into one of these skills, if you don’t have any of those social interactions or some of that small talk built in you fall flat on your face, when you try to do anything, that’s outside the immediate boundaries of what that. Application is meant to do. It’s a really challenging thing.
I’ve been asked about this before, actually on a different podcast. When do I see some of these lines that really should not exist if we’re trying to foster the conversational singularity? Um, when do we see those disappear? It’s a really challenging question. And I think it really comes down to the fact that a lot of the.
Design world. And a lot of the marketing world, we have to be focused on like laser vision and tunnel vision on a particular track on which we want to generate leads around which we want to reach our customers or do a certain thing that abides to certain metrics. And frankly, when it comes to Amazon, you know, Google, apple, their metrics are not the same, their benchmarks, aren’t the same.
And it’s a really hard thing to square that circle. And. You know, I think time will tell. So I got a question here, you know, obviously we’re talking to the marketing world. Um, do you think we should start enabling, you know, voice enabling in campaigns? Um, do you think that is something we should constantly have and then try and figure out?
And how would we, how would we set up. I think there’s a really interesting trend that’s happening these days, especially. And for example, one of my dear colleagues, uh, from a past job today works at drift, which is a conversational marketing company that focuses on this notion of everyone who goes onto your website.
If they want to have a chat bot to interact with, they need to have some means of having an interaction that’s built in conversation. I think we’re very much nearing that point where, um, you know, certainly, uh, people need to be starting to think about, okay, well, We’ve got this for our organization. We’ve got this for our brand.
We’ve got a voice interface that can answer questions, frequently, asked questions, you know, do these informational interactions about, Hey, what’s your company about what products do you have? What do you actually do as a business? And also those transactional interactions, those tasks lead, uh, conversations where we want to actually order something or actually, um, you know, place some kind of, uh, of a shipment to our homes of some products.
However, I think one of the things. I find very interesting is there, isn’t so much of a focus on some of these let’s say seasonal or some of these campaign restricted approaches where, you know, we want to drive leads when it comes to things like black Friday sales or when it comes to the super bowl or a particular period of time, these templates.
That are very important too. Um, obviously our marketing campaigns in general, um, but might not have the level of investment that our overarching brand marketing has. One example of this is we had, um, a case at my previous company Aquia, where we built out a voice search interface for Nestle Purina. And it was a voice search interface that allows you to conduct a search across, um, the website.
But one of the things that, um, I think about today is, well, you know, what, if somebody wants to have a much more narrow approach to some of these searches that are much more finely tuned to the needs of that particular. A campaign or that particular season or whatever it is that you’re focusing on. So, um, in my view, I think what we’re going to see a lot more of is, and this pivots a little bit to some of the questions around, well, what platforms should you use?
What ecosystems should you use? Because one of the things that’s very exciting today is that it’s becoming easier and easier and it’s never been easier. I think today to build a voice. Even if you don’t know how to write a single line of code, even if you don’t know anything about some of these acronyms that, you know, people’s buys kind of glaze over on like NLP and, you know, speech synthesis and all of this stuff.
One of the really interesting things today that I noticed is that for the very first time, a lot of these marketers who spend their day pushing pages, as opposed to pushing pixels or, uh, or pushing code. Are today really able to build visual, um, equivalent of voice interfaces that manifests out as various conversational interfaces.
And because of that ease of use because of this, let’s say no low-code or no-code democratization of the ways in which we build these conversational interfaces. I think the campaign level of approaching these problems will become much more compelling and you’ll be able to have really finally, uh, granular and dedicated, um, voice interfaces for a lot of these different purposes.
You’re looking.
[00:19:38] Peter Mahoney: It’s interesting. When, when Kelsey asked the question about integrating voice interactivity into your campaigns, it reminded me of a project I worked on and I tried to go back into my way back machine in the memory banks to figure out exactly when it was. And I believe it was 2015. I worked on a project that we were launching within nuance called voice.
Right. And it was a cool concept that encountered lots of problems, but basically the concept was you could send out an ad unit, a digital ad unit to a device, whether it’s your mobile phone or your computer or in your car. And there was interactivity built into it, meaning. You could actually initiate a dialogue with a customer right.
Within an ad unit and was way ahead of its time, because now there was all sorts of broken things behind it. And as you said, Preston, the idea of actually finding people who had the skills to build these applications was really problematic because it was practically coding and ones and zeros, if not grains of sand back then.
So it was a little hard to do, but it’s really interesting to see how far it’s come and the. Example that you used of drift is a really great one because that’s obviously a conversational interface. There’s not a voice interface, but that has the same kind of, of issues that you need to think about when you’re building an application.
And we love the folks at drift. They’ve been on the show and things like that. So high, all the drift people out there. But it, it starts to make you think about how is this going to affect the way that marketers think about interacting with consumers. In their campaigns, whether it’s contained within their website or outside the bounds of their website, especially as these consumer expectations continue to grow around the level of interactivity that you should be able to have, whether it’s a, uh, a mobile phone or something else.
So that, that’s a, that’s a real issue that I think we get to. So talk a little bit about the idea. Of the kinds of skills that you think are required. Your implication was that they’re pretty limited these days, but what are the skills that are required to build voice and interactivity into applications?
Especially if you’re thinking from our audience of a marketer and how do you expect that to change over time?
[00:22:09] Preston So: Absolutely. And boy, we touched on a lot of things just in that last part there. Um, you know, I’ll, I’ll preface this with a little bit of, of, uh, you know, a few thoughts on, on some of the really big challenges that we have and how, um, today we have a lot of these interesting skillsets that are emerging around.
A new world. The first is that, you know, we talked about the difference between the written word and the spoken word. And we talked about the differences between the written conversational interface and the spoken conversational interface. So I think there’s really interesting nuances there that really highlight the fact that a lot of our marketing and campaigns, a lot of them.
Marketing content today has been rooted in the web for a long time. And we’re at the point where a lot of these notions, these preconceived ideas that we’ve had about our content and the way that we actually serve our users and customers with information. With some of these capabilities has really become challenged over the years because in a voice interface, especially there’s no way to actually color, text blue or underline it like you would on a website to indicate a link.
There’s no way to actually do something like read more or learn more or subscribe to my newsletter on a voice interface. It’s also calls into question. Some of the really interesting approaches that emerged when it comes to this distinction between conversational marketing in the written word versus the spoken word.
Because when you look at the spoken word, there are certain nuances that are really important to keep in mind that marketers oftentimes, um, I think, especially because we’ve been so rooted in. Media and web and all, you know, a lot of these visual written medias is that there is a big difference between how we speak and how we write.
Um, and it’s not so easy to actually cover up those differences. For example, we very seldom say to whom it may concern when we talk. Um, and we also very seldom. Uh, uh, the word literally, as often as we say it, when we’re having a conversation. So it’s one of those things that I think is really challenging today, especially with some of these no code, you know, democratic, uh, frameworks that have emerged like dialogue flow or bots society that focused on this, what you see is what you get approach to building voice interfaces and conversational interfaces agnostically in the same way that you might have built a website in Dreamweaver back in the day.
One of the concerns that I have. And I talk about this at length on my blog is that, you know, these written conversational interfaces are very different from the voice applications that we’re trying to build. And it’s important to build according to that voice, because if you’re going to build for a written conversational interface, what sorts of things are you missing from the spoken column?
And this brings me to my, uh, answer to the question, which is that frankly, there’s some interesting fields that are emerging. Um, and one of those in particular is the fact that we now have this new discipline of voice content. And the reason voice content has become really important. Back in the day with these interactive voice response systems, these IVR systems that today’s still grace, our phone hotlines, one of the biggest issues is they could do a lot of things in terms of handling our transactions for us making a reservation for us, but they couldn’t necessarily ask us or, you know, they couldn’t necessarily answer our questions.
Well, you know, how is this hotel or how is this flight? You know, what is this jet safety record that I’m about to fly on? If I’m calling somebody like Delta. And I think today with the fact that a lot of marketing organizations are now thinking about how they can deliver content and information to these voice users, it’s a lot more of this notion of having.
Some really interesting, uh, background in content strategy, having a bit of a background when it comes to content design and being able to take a look at some of the information that your brand voice encompasses and thinking about how that actually translates into a spoken content realm. But I think at the end of the day, one of the most important things that any voice interface designer or anyone, frankly, who’s working on a conversational interface, writ large needs to have, right.
Good writing skills. And this is one of those things that our high school teachers always told us. Right? As, as you get into the real world, you gotta be a good writer. But I think the kind of writing you do for a voice interface is very interesting and very different in a lot of ways. It’s a bit like screenwriting.
It’s a bit like playwriting and, um, you know, oftentimes people ask me what tools do you use for writing these dialogues that eventually make their way into voice interfaces? And one of the tools I actually recommend is the most popular program too. Um, to write screenplays, which is cell techs. Because if you write these things in a film screenplay format, you can actually get a lot of insights into how you think about the actual surroundings of the user when it comes to their oral and verbal context, as opposed to some of the things that you might just be thinking about when it comes to the written word these days, though, I think there’s a lot of interesting small skills that people would really benefit from.
And those of course have to do with user experience design. Um, but also things like information architecture. These days. I think a lot of people are very used to the ideas of site maps and navigation, schemes, and wayfinding. That is really important to the ways that we market content and the ways that we market our brands.
But when we apply them, those things to the voice context, how do we actually that’s our brand and present the full offerings of what our organization provides in the context of an interface that has no visual effects. Where you’re actually negotiating instead of navigating where instead of leafing through pages of a catalog, you’re listening through entries or utterances in a voice interface.
So really interesting world and a Pandora’s box that we’ve only just begun to open.
[00:27:43] Peter Mahoney: We have, and there’s a lot of stuff flying out of Pandora’s box right now that you just went through in the last couple of minutes. The one thing I wanted to just comment on a little bit was the idea that the. Written dialogue is so different from the spoken dialogue.
And the example you used was a very formal one to whom it may concern. But what we often see as the opposite, which is this texting kind of written communication that you get, which has got typos in shorten words and emojis and things like that. So the idea. In fact, the idea that a conversational interface should understand emoji language is really important.
It should be able to speak it and it should be able to interpret it because it’s the way that people are trained to communicate. Emotion in a, in a very short form text world, which I think is an important concept to think about. The other thing that you mentioned, I thought is really interesting is they, you, you were talking about marketing content and the idea that the world of audio is obviously exploding right now in marketing.
So everybody in the world is trying to come up with their audio thing, their clubhouse kind of alternative. And it, it made me think that with this medium, that we’re communicating on now, which is an audio only, or an audio first kind of medium. Now we’re finally, at the point, I can go back to 2015 and get out my voice ads thing.
Cause this is the perfect setting for voice ads in a podcast. It would be awesome if you could actually have. An ad unit that was interactive because you’re on headphones, you’re listening to the thing. And you’re in a setting when voice interactivity is probably the perfect one and you, you can interrupt or not the conversation.
So it’s actually a perfect way to, uh, to do it, I think. Um, so I’ll, I’ll get working on that after. Uh, with Plannuh, which will be a long time from now. I think it was, uh, it does remind me though, of an important question that I had, which is about setting, uh, meaning the place going back to your screenwriting thing, you know, you’re going to define the setting that you’re for, for your, your player, for your movie.
What is the right environments that we should think about when, when people are designing a voice interactive kind of campaign, is it in front of your computer where you may not have the audio up or is it on the move or something different or do you have to be
[00:30:17] Preston So: completely flat? It really depends on the audience.
And I think this really tugs that some of the really interesting dilemmas that I think a lot of organizations are going to have to face when it comes to the, the rationales and the motivations and the value propositions of their investments in voice marketing. One of the things that I’ll share is there’s various contexts.
You could. Voice interfaces. And then obviously I think the most common that we saw in the early days, especially of let’s say, uh, audio input on the web was on your mobile browser or your mobile apps or on your browsers, in the websites that you would visit, where you could click a little microphone icon and say something.
And that’s actually what we did back at Aquia labs for Nestle Purina was actually build that into both the mobile, a website and the desktop web. But there’s a lot of interesting exceptions there and a lot of interesting, uh, demographics that you might want to reach that don’t necessarily have a computer in front of them, or that might actually be completely outside of the kind of audience that you currently reach with the website.
So, one very interesting example of this is actually asked George gov the first voice interface for the state of Georgia, which is the case study in my book, voice content, usability, George. Has the very interesting, uh, requirement where they ha they have a state government website that is meant to serve information about state government issues, like how to renew your driver’s license, you know, nowadays of course, with COVID-19 what are some of the things you need to know?
Also things like, well, how do I transfer my nursing license from out of state? How do I register Mike, my toddler for pre-kindergarten? How do I actually. I applied for a small business loan. Some of these really important questions that oftentimes are either answered through an agency phone hotline or through the website.
One of the things that Georgia was really focused on and is still today very focused on, um, is that they’ve always been at the forefront of accessibility and of reaching. Disabled Georgians, elderly Georgians, who might be living in rural areas with poor broadband access. They might not have a computer at home.
They might not even have a smartphone, but what they might have is an Amazon Alexa, either at home or in a public library or some conduit by which they can actually have a conversation with a voice assistant. And especially with smart TVs nowadays that have voice assistance built into them. This is becoming a really common thing, even for households that don’t have a lot of technology.
And one of the things that we found was through our usability testing and through our, uh, logging and analytics that we did and the reporting that we did on Astoria gov, this Alexis. Was that the kinds of information that people would seek out on the website was completely different from the kind of information that people would seek out on the Alexa skill, which was really mind blowing.
If you think about it, because you would expect those two things to be relatively similar, if you’re actually getting. A relatively similar cross section of the entire state population. But what we, as a matter of fact found is that most people using the voice interface searched for things that were totally different, they searched for vehicle registration, state sales, tax driver’s licenses, and these topics were completely done.
From the ones that were prioritized, uh, by people using the website. Now, that being said, I think one of the really interesting things about voice interfaces today is that we’re very seldom using voice interfaces in isolation. And I think a lot of marketing organizations have to think about how to approach this cross channel interaction problem, where, Hey, you know, I might be walking around.
Uh, uh, the subway and I see a digital sign over here, but I’ve also got the service alerts over here on my phone that I’m scrolling through, which screen do I look at when I’m walking down the platform and the same way that we do those sorts of toggles and context switches between our devices. We also want to think.
Some of the ways in which we context switch when it comes to voice interfaces. One of the things that we did for Georgia was we conducted a first sever omni-channel content audit, which is a really important facet of content strategy today. And that involves the idea that, Hey, you should really take a look at your content and your marketing content, all of your marketing materials, your collateral, and make sure that it’s easily understood.
Um, in any setting, whether that’s a voice interface or a virtual reality interface, which is probably a bit too far down the road for a lot of the people in the audience, but when it comes to voice interfaces, I think one of the things that oftentimes happens is we’re sitting in front of an Alexa, but we’re also potentially strolling on our phone.
We might have one hand on our iPads over here. We might also you watching a smart TV that’s voice enabled. So one of the things that we did for Astoria gov. Well, Hey, let’s make sure to get rid of some of these outright nonsensical things that happen in a voice that are faced, like saying the phrase, read more or learn more or click this link or download PDF when those things make absolutely no sense when it comes to a voice interface, but there were certain situations where we might want to cater to some of these audiences that might still have a computer in front of them and might be looking for information that’s outside the purview or the jurisdiction of our.
Concern one example of this is we had a question that, um, we had an Astoria gov, which is a, you know, based on the frequently asked questions, content on the Georgia website. And it pointed to the link out to the Georgia lottery website. Um, and there’s, you know, many cases of this. And so one of the things that we did is we actually kept that mention of a Georgia lottery website in that content.
Because of the fact that we wanted to make sure that, Hey, if somebody has a phone in front of them, or if somebody has a laptop in front of them, we still want them to potentially go to that website to get that information about their, uh, you know, where their lottery purchases are going towards. But, um, at the same time, I think it’s, it’s one of those things that as we see today, especially with our homebound audiences, our homebound customers here during the pandemic, and a lot of us now have.
Obviously smart speakers, smart home systems who sales have been skyrocketing. I think one of the things that’s very interesting to take a look at is, well, how do we actually jump between some of these interfaces and how do we still enable that seamless, graceful journey across these different touch points that doesn’t actually disrupt the way that a user wants to get to either purchasing something or getting the information they need from a marketing perspective, I feel like it’s both a very challenging and also a very exciting new.
World that we live in because the website is not on its own anymore. We’ve got this milieu of so many different things, this kaleidoscopic context that we live in now where so many different things and so many different experiences can happen for our customers.
[00:36:42] Peter Mahoney: So I’m going to ask you a question that I fear.
We’ll take you about an hour to completely answer. And, uh, I’m, I’m going to limit you because we’re actually getting to the, to the end of the time that we have, unfortunately, cause I can talk about this stuff all day and this has been super exciting for me, but a big, gnarly question coming up. Around privacy with voice interfaces.
So they’re whole bunch of things that are related to privacy that we all need to start to think about. So one is the idea of always listening. Microphones obviously is a big issue. The other that you talked about is the idea of sort of maintaining context between different systems. So should I know that this is Preston that came from.
From Alexa down into the skill that got there. And then if I pass it to another skill, can I still say it’s Preston? Is that okay? And all the way to, should I understand which devices Preston has available to him in, in, in this general, there there’s a lot of really interesting privacy related issues that, that come with us.
Give us the headlines. Uh, and, uh, and then I think Kelsey probably has one more
[00:37:53] Preston So: quick question. I’ll keep the story short. There’s a lot of resources out there about privacy around voice interfaces. One recent one is somebody. I had the pleasure to share a stage with Sarah M. Watson as a, she recently appeared on a podcast talking about this very issue around Amazon.
Uh, and, and the issue of privacy, especially nowadays that, you know, we’re hearing about some of the things Amazon is trying to do with a lot of the new initiatives that they’re tackling privacy is a major concern. We made a decision at the very beginning of this development cycle for Astro to go. Not to retain any information.
We don’t have any history or anything like a back scroll that’s preserved or anything like any sort of account history. And I think a lot of that is the fact that there are very deep concerns about privacy when it comes to voice interfaces, we’ve all heard those stories about how. Oh, you caught your voice assistant, actually listening to you or accidentally catching parts of conversations that you really don’t want these large companies, how they access to.
And when it comes to some of these devices that are in our homes, it really is one of those things that requires more regularly. Especially when it comes to some of these invasive approaches that, uh, certain folks are very eager to experiment with. They’re very eager to even hack into, as we’ve seen with a lot of the cyber attacks happening around the world.
I think marketing organizations have to be very, very careful. And my recommendation initially here and this. I said before, uh, to some of my clients is you want to be very careful when you start to thread that needle of performing things like authentication or retaining some kind of user history in the context of the voice interface, because things can get very gnarly to use your word, Peter, uh, very quick.
Well, Preston, I, this has been fascinating for me. And I have to say that ask Georgia, God has definitely set the standard for all states. Uh, then I hope they are implemented soon. And then obviously with, you know, Alexa and Google home, Siri, they’ve definitely set the standard too. But what advice would you give for CMOs and those aspiring to be one someday.
The biggest thing I would say is as somebody who is not a CMO, I will say that, um, from what I’ve seen, you know, I think that the CMOs that I most respect the CMOs that I, um, have, uh, you know, obviously followed over the years. I think one of the most important things to remember is just like in technology.
And this is something I think a lot of engineers have trouble with too. And a lot of product managers have trouble with two is it’s very difficult to know everything that there is. About the current trends about where the market’s headed, about where exactly your customers are going to be looking for your brand next or how they’re going to be wanting to interact with your brand next.
But it’s really important nonetheless, to keep track of the things that are just around the corner and to keep track of those things that are really about to surface on the horizon. And I think voice is one of those really compelling examples of an area where we are just at that point in that famous hype curve where.
The next decade is going to really be about voice interfaces. It’s going to really be about these immersive experiences that I just wrote an article for a list of part about immersive content strategy as well. These eight AR VR applications, these voice applications, given the skyrocketing sales and smart home systems and smart speakers given the skyrocketing sales and gaming headsets and wearables ever since the pandemic first began.
It’s really one of those things that these numbers should be helping the CMOs everywhere. I think about it. Now, how can I get ahead of the curve? How can I get ahead of where the hockey puck’s going and make sure that I’m there to meet that, where to go actually lands and provide the best possible experience for my customers, especially given the fact, as I mentioned earlier, that a lot of these new experiences and journeys that customers want these days are mixed and a fusion of multiple different user devices that we face.
Great answer. Well, thank you so much for your time today. Preston, we’ve really enjoyed having you on the next CMO podcast. Make sure to follow the next CMO on our LinkedIn and Twitter, and you can email us for any guests at the next CMO at Plannuh dot com. Have a good day,
[00:42:02] Peter Mahoney: everyone. Thanks,
[00:42:03] Preston So: Preston. Thanks so much for having me.