Designing and Launching Your Voice Application

Part 3 of the Marketers And Researchers Guide To Voice Assistants

Read Part 1: Voice Assistants Primer | Read Part 2: Practical Examples | Read Part 3: Launching Your Voice Application


As with any new and emerging consumer technology, the individuals and organizations that are first to leverage voice assistants and voice technology to engage consumers will be the ones best positioned to deliver value via voice in the long-term. Getting started with voice experiences today introduces new brand building and relationship building opportunities to your engagement strategy. 

In this third and final part of the Marketers and Researchers Guide To Voice Assistants, we’re going to cover everything you need to get started leveraging voice assistants to reach your goals. Grab your favorite tea or cup of joe and your notepad. 

Let’s start with covering some key considerations when planning your voice application.

Sonic Branding

While we repeatedly talk about the advantages voice assistants offers consumers, like ease of use and increased convenience, we must also be aware, and maybe even more importantly so, the incredible value it offers the brand relationship. The ability for consumers to hear you, your voice, and your brands voice is extremely powerful at building long lasting relationships and brand identity retention. Your brands voice, literally how your brand sounds, is the most important aspect of an effective brand-centric voice strategy. 

The audio side of your brand, how your brand sounds if it could talk or sing, is referred to as sonic branding.

No one explains Sonic Branding better than the 2-time Emmy Award winning producer and Queen of Sonic Branding herself, Audrey Arbeeny, and her team at AudioBrain:

“Sonic Branding is the art and science surrounding the strategic development and deployment of the consistent, authentic sound experience of a brand. A brand’s sonic identity provides the strategic and creative alignment of this experience to develop a narrative that delivers unified, memorable, and unique communications. A well-developed sonic identity increases brand awareness and differentiation while saving costs over time by providing a clear and consistent audio framework that is easily revised, repurposed, and expanded as a brand’s needs change.”

The sonic branding of your voice application is essential when your goal is to build brand identity retention and drive stronger consumer relationships. 

Engagement Goals

You may not care about the consumers ability to remember your brand, brand identity retention, or care about driving stronger consumer relationships. Maybe your goal is to add additional value to your service offerings, increase consumer engagement, or your focus is more in driving sales growth - top of funnel type of stuff. Regardless of what the goal or goals are for your voice application, detailing the engagement goals of your voice app is essential to success. 

The way I like to approach this at the early stages of the creative process is to combine my key outcome goal - let’s say it’s lead generation - with how I want the user to feel when participating in the voice experience. Voice is a visceral, organic medium and, used properly, can stir emotions; happiness, excitement, or relaxation, for example. A voice experience executed improperly can stir the opposite emotions - anger, frustration, despair. Your sonic branding, by the way, is a big part of what emotional levers will be triggered. 

Once you settle on how you want your customer to feel, you will be better positioned to make design decisions for your new voice experience. Decisions like the personality your messaging should take, what options you want to provide them through the engagement, and what happens after they complete their experience. 

Invocation Names

How users will activate or access your voice experience via voice assistants is known as the invocation name. When we say “Alexa, open Spotify” or “Ok Google, start Spotify” the “Spotify” part of that request is known as the invocation name. Your invocation name can include multiple words, it does not have to be a single word or term. 

Your invocation name is super important to your voice experience because it’s the first opportunity users get to engage with you via their voice assistants. There are a few checkboxes we want to be sure get checked off when choosing the invocation name for your voice application. 

Top of the list is to insure your invocation name is reflective of your brand. This is key because it’s your short cut to becoming a literal household name. If your invocation name includes your brand name or includes some aspect of your brand specialty, you’re off to a good start. “Alexa, open Spotify” is an obvious winner but, say you wanted to be the resource for your consumers for streaming music, it could easily be “Alexa, open my music box” or similar. With cohesive sonic branding and messaging, you’re then bridging your brand with your service speciality; you’re consciously and unconsciously instilling into your consumers minds that you are THE resource for music in their home. Powerful stuff. 

The second thing to consider when choosing your invocation name is how easy it is to pronounce. You do not want to get cute here. Your invocation name must be easy and obvious to pronounce in your target language - whether that’s English, Spanish, Hindi or whatever. This is where multiple word invocations work great. If you have a service or brand that is naturally hard to pronounce, our advice is to use an invocation name with 2-3 words. This helps the voice assistants AI more easily recognize the invocation name and get your user into your voice experience easier. 

The final checkbox we want to make sure you check off is that your invocation name is unique enough to be recognized as the unique option a user is requesting. Using our Spotify example again, if you choose your invocation name to be “Spotted,” it increases the likely hood that, upon requesting your voice application, the user hears the dreaded “Did you mean Spotify?” This simple, avoidable situation can impact engagement considerably. 

The uniqueness of invocation names will become harder as the growth of voice application increases which is why we also suggest, when it comes to your awareness marketing, that you provide multiple ways of the user initiating your voice application that first time. Why is the first time so important? Because voice assistants will first try to match requests with installed voice applications before they go out and try to match a request with the open market of voice applications.

Using Voice App Links in your marketing is a great way to eliminate user onboarding friction and ensure users don’t get redirected to a different voice application because of similar sounding invocation names. 

Outcome Data

In managing and improving products, services, and customer experiences, it’s widely understood that if you can’t measure it, it might as well not have happened. Voice experiences are no different. Just like we measure traffic to our websites, usage of our mobile apps, and the open rate of our email campaigns, you need to capture the right data from your voice experiences to help you refine the experience and reach your engagement goals.

There are three key areas we pay close attention to when considering a new voice experience: Participant Data, Engagement Data, and Experience-specific data. Let’s explain these a bit and see why they are important. 

With Participation Data, we are looking at how users participated. Specifically we focus on the When, Where, and How of participation. 

When did users participate? By monitoring and analyzing when users participated we gain insight into when users are most likely to engage with similar experiences in the future or, if you’re running a longitudinal engagement - something designed for users to engage with repeatedly - this data will give you insight to better position your ongoing awareness marketing. 

Where are users participating from? Knowing where users are participating from gives you insight into the reach and accuracy of your awareness marketing and, if applicable, your research goals. If your voice experience, for example, is designed for local residents only and you are seeing a high level of out-of-region engagement, you should be adjusting your marketing efforts and maybe even the voice experience itself. We would advise using qualifier questions and logic branching as part of the voice experience to better address targeting issues like this, for example. 

How are users participating? Being able to monitor user responses, sentiment, and intention in real-time is essential to maximizing the success of a voice experience. If users are not responding as expected or hitting engagement roadblocks, there is no other way to uncover these quickly and solve for them without a level of real-time monitoring on user responses.  

Of course how you value these areas we pay attention to related to Participation Data will vary based on use case. That being said, knowing the When, Where, and How of Participant Data is always valuable and helps make a voice experience better over time and helps you reach your engagement goals. 

Next is Engagement Data. When we talk about Engagement Data, we focus on a set of “how’s” related to user engagement. 

Let’s start with how are users engaging. When looking at how users are engaging, you want to be able to see a few different things. First, what is the percentage of users who begin your voice experience but don’t finish it. How deep into the voice experience do they go before they drop off? When they drop off, what percentage come back to go through your voice experience to completion? How many come back and don't? Being able to answer these kinds of questions help you understand your overall experience positioning as well as understanding your target demographic a little better. Knowing this information helps further guide you in improving your voice experience. 

How user engagement varies over time is important as well. You don’t necessarily just want this for longitudinal experiences but also for being able to align usage variances with your awareness marketing efforts. If you’re not seeing engagement spikes, including new users, during your peak marketing efforts - something needs to be adjusted. Keeping a pulse on user engagement in real-time is essential to helping you succeed in building your user base. 

Finally, being able to track how users are discovering your voice application is important to nailing down which are your most successful marketing channels. You are flying blind with your awareness marketing without some level of attribution. Through real-time tracking of how users come into your voice experience, you can more directly focus your awareness marketing efforts to those channels delivering the highest level of user engagement. 

When it comes to your unique voice experience use case, having real-time access to your Experience Data is vital. Your experience data will tell you, for example, how many people answered a specific way to a specific question or allow you to identify options chosen most often by users. This information is key to your engagement goals and vital to use case specific voice experience improvements. 

While Participant Data and Engagement Data will show you there is a problem, your Experience Data shows you where that problem exists and clues you into how to fix it - or at least where you should be experimenting to improve your results.   

frustrated-project-managerPitfalls To Avoid

There are a few pitfalls to avoid when you go into the design phase of launching your voice application. It’s easy to jump into the process with the excitement that comes from creating something new that users far and wide will be engaging with and fall victim to some of these pitfalls. 

First up is inconsistent messaging. At this point, you have established your sonic branding and your engagement goals. Keeping these top of mind, it’s important to avoid short cuts that impact either your sonic branding or your engagement goals. Your messaging, from your welcome message to your thank you message and everything in between, should reenforce your sonic branding and your engagement goals. Any inconsistent messaging will break the experience for the user. Imagine if you were having a conversation that started jovial and all of a sudden turned somber and serious. It would be jarring and you, consciously or unconsciously, would react to the sudden change - and not usually in a positive way. The same is true for voice experiences. Avoid inconsistent messaging. 

Somewhat related to the consistency of your messaging is another pitfall - unnatural responses. As users go through your voice experience, responding in a natural way that is consistent with the voice experience design is important. Avoid unnatural responses that feel like the last line of a legal agreement. Need to talk legal, acknowledge for the user upfront that what they are about to hear is boring but has to be done, for example. 

Finally, avoid the pitfall of skipping integrations with your marketing stack. You will thank me later. We talked about the different types of outcome data you should be measuring so make sure you address how you are going to gather that data and bring it into the tools you already use for your marketing analysis. Voice experiences shouldn’t exist in a silo. They should be part of a larger consumer engagement effort and, for your collected data to be effective, you need the option of viewing your voice related data along side the other aspects of your marketing efforts. 

We put together the True Reply Voice Application Worksheet, 2021 Edition for you. This document can serve as your voice application planning blueprint. 

The True Reply Voice Application Worksheet covers

1. Design visualization

2. Messaging

3. Experience definition

We designed this document as a simple framework to accelerate your voice experience design and it is completely free. 

As we wrap up part 3 of our Marketers and Researchers Guide To Voice Assistants, we want to close out with a little housekeeping checklist. 

Here’s your quick voice application checklist:

[ ] Sonic Branding: how does my brand sound? 

[ ] Engagement Goals: what do I want from my voice experience?

[ ] Outcome Data: how is my voice experience performing?

[ ] I have a unique and easy to pronounce invocation name for my voice application

[ ] My messaging is consistent

[ ] None of my experience responses sound out of place to the experience

[ ] Marketing Integrations are in working

You’ll need some general assets when submitting your voice application to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. 

For both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, 

[ ] Invocation Name is unique and branded and fits the phrase “Alexa, [start, open, ask] ______________”

[ ] One-line summary of your voice application

[ ] Detailed summary of your voice application

[ ] Country of distribution

[ ] Language of distribution

[ ] URL to your Privacy Policy

[ ] URL to your Terms of Service

[ ] Voice Application is for children and my privacy policy and terms of service detail how we handle our data

For Amazon Alexa,

[ ] 512px X 512px Graphic Icon in PNG format for my voice application. Displayed in your Alexa Skill directory listing.

[ ] 108px X 108px Graphic Icon in PNG format for my voice application. Displayed on devices with screens.

For Google Assistant

[ ] 1920x1080 Banner in PNG format for my voice application. Displayed in your Google Play directory listing.

[ ] 192px X 192px Graphic Icon in PNG format for my voice application. Displayed on devices with screens.

As of the time of this writing, both Amazon and Google are pretty good at reviewing and accepting submitted voice applications.  We have seen voice applications accepted in as little as 24 hours and others can take as long as 7-10 days. From what we have experienced in powering over 200 voice applications, the amount of time it takes is relative to how complex your voice application is, the kind of information your voice application collects, and the type of actions your voice application empowers. For example, a voice application for Amazon Alexa that collects user telephone numbers and sends a confirmation via SMS has a longer review process than a simple consumer feedback experience. 

While this concludes part three of our Marketers and Researchers Guide To Voice Assistants, your journey is just beginning.

True Reply for voice apps, alexa skills, and voice experiences across Amazon Alexa, Google, and telephoneTrue Reply makes the process of launching and managing your voice applications super easy, fast and cost-effective. You can focus on the experience your consumers are going to have without having to worry about any engineering or technical project management. True Reply is a no-code solution that allows you to setup and instantly test your voice experience on YOUR device, launch your voice app, and then manage and analyze your voice experience in real-time.

We designed True Reply for you, specifically marketers and researchers, and we’re ready to help make it the best experience possible. You can get started with True Reply here or schedule a demo here

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