According to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, around the year 2023 there will be nearly 30 billion connected terminals, including a minority of smartphones. Although brands already know how to address consumers via touch screens, they must now reflect on “voice-centric” communication.

In January 2017, Mobile Marketing Association France published an article highlighting the ubiquity of Amazon and its Alexa technology during the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas. One year later, we see that Amazon has once again stolen the show from other manufacturers by not only equipping the tens of millions of “Smart Speakers” sold by Amazon this year, but also nearly 200 connected objects, ranging from car radios, to washing machines, lamps and refrigerators.

What will the IoT platform be?

According to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, today there are 1.6 billion computers in the world, historically dominated by Microsoft and its Windows operating system, around 7.5 billion mobile telephones, now controlled by Apple (iOS) and especially by Google (Android), and already more than 7 billion connected objects that are not yet controlled by any of the digital giants.

The winner takes all, and Amazon, with Alexa, Google, with its Assistant, Apple with Siri and Samsung, with Bixby, are all obviously trying to impose their assistants as the “platform” that will equip the 20 billion connected objects that will be circulation around the year 2023.

What strategy will the brands adopt?

In this new technological era, which has already been named the “Assistant era” by Google, the brands must probably redefine their strategies to communicate with their consumers via billions of mobile screens (smartphones and tablets) but also in the future via connected objects that may not have screens but which will be equipped with a voice assistant.

Although websites and email have been the tools of reference for desktop computers and applications have imposed themselves on smartphones, the interfaces for connected objects remain to be invented and the brands must now ask themselves several strategic questions.

Question No. 1: To what extent will they be implicated in the Internet of Things?

At the end of the 90s, before Google dominated search engines and Amazon dominated retail, many brands put their trust in direct sales, at the risk of short-circuiting their retail partners. In the upcoming new era of assistants, the brands can also ask themselves this same question by designing their own assistants, possibly in the form of a connected object that is dedicated to their service. Why should it be necessary to revert to Amazon and its Smart Speaker to order new capsules for your coffee machine if it already knows how to connect itself to the web?

Due to lack of investment in equipment or software, certain major brands thus risk missing an opportunity for disintermediation and will have no other option than to launch a voice service on the platform of a digital giant. Even though this pragmatic strategy is understandable for a medium-size business, it is probably not inevitable for a multinational.

 Question No. 2: How should we incorporate multi-modality?

Now that Smart Speakers have democratised the use of the voice, the assistant era will in fact impose a multi-modal approach that combines written and oral commands. We can already see this with Apple Siri, which displays the answers to oral questions on the screen of an iPhone or Watch, but also with the new Amazon Echo Spot, which has adopted a small screen in addition to a speaker: assistants combine different man-machine interfaces depending on the context.

If consumers are in front of their screens, the brands can also opt for an assistant in the form of a chatbot. But if they are in the kitchen or behind the wheel of their car, the voice option is certainly the most adapted. This means that it is not enough to create a voice service alone. The brands must also design their assistants from a multi-modal point of view, combining chatbots and voicebots in a conversational logic, and integrating the context of use to offer the best interface.

Question No. 3: What identity should we give our service?

The third big question that brands must ask themselves is that of their identity in the era of digital assistants. Should they favour their brand (ok Google)? Create a brand (hey Alexa) that is distinct from their group (Amazon)? Should the voice be masculine? Feminine? Customisable? Identical in every country? Perennial?

Like the SNCF, which famously digitalised “Simone” to enable the warm voice of the actress who recorded the company’s vocal tracks to survive her retirement, brands must now imagine the identity and “vocal UX” of the future assistant who will be the ambassador of their brand for the years to come.

Question No. 4: What public do we want to reach?

One of the questions raised by these assistants is also the possibility to reach new, potentially sensitive populations. Although parents are able to control their children’s access to TV, it is practically impossible to prevent a child from interacting with a voice assistant, especially if in the future this latter equips dozens of connected objects in the home.

If banks secure access to commercial applications via a touch screen, they must not allow unauthorised persons to view a bank balance or order a product on the pretext that they are using a voice assistant.

Question No. 5: What business model should they adopt?

The final question is probably the most delicate, but it is also the most important: how can you make money with an assistant? For the moment, there are only a few tens of thousands of Amazon “Skills” and some hundreds of thousands of Messenger “chatbots”. With the exception of some “POCs” that enable the automation of customer relations or to release after-sales departments from tasks with low added value, for the moment there is little convincing feedback as to the financial benefits. In France, the first services on Google Home are not even transactional yet, being limited to customer information, a 2.0 version of the good old interactive voice server.

But these laborious beginnings should be compared to the economic difficulties of the first websites and the first applications. The voice, and “assistants” in general, will revolutionise the relationships between brands and consumers, probably much sooner than we think.

To help brands better understand these new environments, Mobile Marketing Association France has created a guide to the voice and Voice Bots, incorporating certain market data and corporate feedback from businesses like Oui.SNCF, Nestlé France and Monoprix.

Article originally published in French on

Save the date for the next Paris Retail Week show from 10 to 12 September 2018

For its 4th edition, the biggest European trade event will take its full scope and will gather in Pavilion 1 of Paris expo Porte de Versaillethe e-commerce sector, dedicated to solutions for e-retailers, ranging from digital marketing to logistics, and the Store / Equipmag sector, dedicated to physical commerce and distribution.

Pour sa quatrième édition le plus grand événement retail européen de la rentrée prendra toute son envergure et réunira dans le Pavillion 1 de la Porte de Versailles le secteur E-Commerce, dédié aux solutions e-commerce, du digital marketing à la logistique et du secteur Store / Equipmag, dédié au commerce physique et à la distribution.