Voice searches allow uses to discover things on the internet by verbally asking questions to a device such as a smartphone, voice-activated speaker, or a computer. By the end of 2020, 50% of all searches are expected to be using voice, while 31% of smartphone users worldwide use voice search at least once per week. There are plenty of statistics that all point towards the growing popularity of voice searches.
Google first introduced voice search back in 2011, more as a novelty than something users were likely to rely upon straight away. However, as speech recognition technology algorithms improve, voice has become the preferred way for many to conduct their online searches.
Smart speakers are now commonplace in the home, with the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod taking the market by storm. The tech giants are all rushing to innovate their products and keep up with consumer demand. At first, Alexa, Siri, and Google were mainly novel, and the questions users asked of them were perhaps silly or about weather and movies. Today, the devices can carry out useful functions and integrate into our daily routines.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have made a massive impact on how consumers interact with their smart speakers and conduct voice searches. If you look at Google RankBrain, it uses AI to have a best guess at a searcher’s intent if they say a phrase it has never heard before. Algorithms then learn from the experience and improve themselves exponentially as the model ingests more conversations.
Overall, the increasing prominence of voice search means industries need to think about how they can better serve customers.
Banks and finance firms need to make sure their websites, apps, and software are compatible with Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistants as their customers continue to adopt the technology. The plans must look at the types of activity and interactions that users will undertake with voice-enabled devices.
The most common use case for voice technology in banking comes with servicing accounts. Westpac Banking Corporation in Australia has an Amazon Alexa skill called Westpac Live. Users can check their account details using Alexa and have the ability to listen to the latest financial news. Natural language processing converts the user commands to text and returns the most accurate response. Westpac also integrates with Google Assistant to allow banking customers to make payments via the Android platform.
Voice-enabled home devices can also let banking customers complete transactions. In Turkey, Garanti Bank has a mobile assistant where users can make payments with a command that starts with “I need to transfer money to.” Furthermore, the app can report on the latest account activities, find out exchange rates, and analyze buying habits. According to Garanti, 60% of customers that use the voice-activated app report high satisfaction rates.
Business Insider says that the use of voice payments will grow to 31% of US adults by 2022. The generational gains in AI and the influx of smart home devices create a strong value proposition for voice transactions.
Financial brands must look to making their websites optimized for voice searches. For digital marketers, the content will always be king. To put that into context, having quality information on a website generates user engagement and builds up brand equity. For smaller finance firms and new fintech, having content that is geared for voice will ensure users can still find, and interact with you using the latest technology.
PwC presents a broad range of potential applications for voice technology across banking, wealth management, insurance.
Most of the applications listed are to turn complex processes into more straightforward ones using voice. For example, the insurance claims process can take several weeks or months to complete. If customers are able to access information with voice commands quickly, they can suddenly get what they need quickly without human intervention.
Due to the type of information they hold, financial firms are risk-averse when it comes to new technology as compared to other industries such as retail. A security breach in finance will have a far more catastrophic impact than in a retail environment. Although large banks are integrating voice technology into their processes, others are still waiting for more confidence in security before they start to invest.
Compliance is another factor that will affect the speed of voice technology adoption. In the EU, the Payment Services Directive requires strong customer authentication that will need consideration for voice-activated payments to be acceptable using IoT devices. Some things they need to think about are:
Convincing consumers that voice services are trustworthy and safe might be the biggest challenge for banks as they look to innovate. In one survey from AnswerLab, less than 30% of respondents were interested in applying for a credit card, less than 40% interested in checking their credit score, and less than 40% interested in getting financial advice from smart speakers.
In the next few years, voice could be the next channel that supplants mobile as the primary channel of customer interaction with financial institutions. In the last decade, mobile has largely taken over from online interactions, which were preceded by offline branches. Voice seems like the next logical step forward in the finance industry. Talking is far easier for a customer when trying to understand complex information than typing on a keyboard. Voice assistants are the perfect integration of technology and traditional human support.
Any firms that are not already taking steps to deploy voice technology should do so now, else face falling behind the competition. The machine learning algorithms that power the tools need time to learn and won’t become “smart” overnight. The opportunity for voice is vast, but there is still a long journey ahead.
Disclaimer: The author of this text, Jean Chalopin, is a global business leader with a background encompassing banking, biotech and entertainment. Mr. Chalopin is Chairman of Deltec International Group, www.deltecbank.com.
The co-author of this text, Robin Trehan, has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, a Master’s in International Business and Finance, and an MBA in Electronic Business. Mr. Trehan is a Senior VP at Deltec International Group, www.deltecbank.com.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text are solely the views of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Deltec International Group, its subsidiaries, and/or its employees.
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