Mary Meeker, venture capitalist of Kleiner Perkins, dropped her Internet Trends 2018 report (a comprehensive snapshot of digital trends shaping how we live and work) last week. The nearly 300-page report is one of the most widely read of the year. This year’s report had fewer slides on voice than in the past, but according to Mary Meeker, voice is at an inflection point.
What makes it a significant time for voice? From an experience perspective, you may not have been too impressed with voice in its infancy. But with the uptake of voice-based products and improved accuracy thanks to machine learning, what has been the biggest hurdle for voice is now behind us. Google’s machine learning word accuracy hit 95 percent in 2017. That number matches the threshold for human accuracy.
In addition, voice is achieving a “product lift off.” Sales of the Amazon Echo alone rose from 10 million to more than 30 million sold by the end of 2017. And Google Home sales outpaced Alexa in the first quarter of 2018 — Amazon Echo selling 2.5 million compared to Google Home’s 3.1 million, according to estimates from analyst company Canalys.
One of Meeker’s slides, which illustrated the world’s Top 20 internet leaders, underscores the uptake of voice beyond Amazon. The Top four companies — Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google/Alphabet — have all developed voice assistants. If you ask me, that information alone is telling.
The increasingly popular competitors to Amazon Echo (not discussed in Meeker’s report) are significant (and good). Amazon needs competitors for voice-first experiences to continue to take hold. Just as Henry Ford needed rivals for the automotive industry to take off in the early part of the 20th Century.
While the competition is putting up a worthy fight, Amazon remains the leader in voice. And not just because of the Echo. As Meeker illustrated, Amazon is integrating voice into everyday experiences such as product search and fulfillment on Amazon, and developing countless Echo products and other interfaces based on Alexa.
Big picture — businesses, ranging from Uber to Walmart to BMW are integrating voice into their products and experiences. Why? Customers are addicted to speed. And to put it simply, voice is fast and frictionless. It saves time. And conversation is natural.
If you don’t have a voice skill yet, we at Moonshot suggest learning and investing in voice. It’s the future. With voice you get to have a real conversation and build a relationship with customers in a way that you never have before. Our white paper, Creating a Voice-Based Product with a Design Sprint, provides an approach to help you get started. Reach out to discuss how to succeed in an increasingly voice-first world. The barrier to entry is low, for now.