More than nine out of 10 companies are investing in voice technologies, including voice-based commerce, according to an Adobe study released today. Unfortunately, most of them are making a crucial error: They’re letting IT lead the project.
Just over a fifth of the 401 companies surveyed have released a voice app, and almost half (44%) plan to unveil one this year, according to the study. Most are playing the field, with 88% building apps for both Amazon’s and Google’s smart speaker and assistant solutions.
That’s better than Microsoft’s Cortana, though; only 30% of companies are building voice apps that integrate with Microsoft’s voice technologies. Samsung’s Bixby? Only 16%.
Clearly, wherever companies are developing voice assistant technology, there’s not one single reason driving it. Rather, it’s a basket of different strategic objectives.
Voice-based ordering is one of them, with 45% of companies reporting it as a priority. Right up with that is tracking existing orders, while renewing or refilling orders is almost on par, at 44%. But 41% of companies view voice technology as an opportunity for answering customer searches around sales, promotional offerings, or data acquisition.
Voice is a specific priority in the travel vertical. While 39% of companies overall plan to release search-focused voice apps this year, 70% of companies in travel have the same goal.
The biggest challenge, however, is where to place this technology in a company. In other words, who owns it? For 65% of the 400 companies Adobe surveyed, the answer is depressingly familiar: IT.
That’s problematic for two reasons. One is IT’s staggering rate of failure in completing projects successfully — only 29% of IT projects are successful, according to one recent study cited by Information Age. A full fifth of IT projects are complete failures, while the rest are some mix of success and failure and time/cost overruns.
But the other issue concerns who owns the customer.
A voice project by definition is a close and tight connection with the customer. As such, customer experience people (probably in marketing but possibly in other areas of the company) should be leading the project. IT needs to be involved, of course, but a critical customer connection project should be led by a marketing, product, or customer experience executive.
On the positive side, voice technology seems to be especially important to successful companies. Of companies that are outperforming their competition, 82% say that voice-enabled experiences are very important.
One thing Adobe didn’t study? Companies that are using white label or internal technology to build their own-branded voice assistants, using software like SoundHound.
That’s an interesting opportunity for brands because it builds their own intellectual property on owned channels. It’s a tougher proposition, obviously, than building an Alexa skill or a Google action — which they will probably need to do anyway, because that’s where the customers are — but it does protect them somewhat from being a sharecropper on Google’s and Amazon’s estates.