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Tomorrow's sound: How Google and Amazon are battling for entry to your voice

7, 2020

4 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

Since the dot-com bubble at the beginning of the century, tech companies have clearly understood that new technologies can only be successful if they have a clear roadmap for monetization. Even a decade ago, no matter how many users big companies like Amazon or Facebook had, everyone was talking about how they would convert user numbers into profit.

Big tech companies have done a spectacular job in the past few years when it comes to monetizing their products, but any successful company that wants to stay at the top for as long as possible needs to carefully plan its future moves. And as catchy as it may sound in this high-resolution world, the future can depend heavily on audio content.

The first big steps in this direction resulted in devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home finding their way to our cars and houses. Despite the tech giants' dream of convincing users to buy more online through these devices, their limited capabilities have made them mostly used for playing music or providing basic information like traffic and weather. While not as successful as planned, they have opened the door to new features that could go mainstream in the near future.

Delayed questions and answers

Customer service is an important issue for virtually any company with large customer bases, an issue they have tried to address in a number of different ways. The internet is a paradise for text-based communication. As a result, most companies try to handle customer complaints, inquiries, and feedback through chat and email, automate as many processes as possible, and hire customer service representatives to deal with more complex issues.

Related: Is Audio the Future of Social Media? Jack Dorsey of Twitter thinks so.

However, communicating via text is still unnatural for most, as people usually prefer to hear an answer from a real human. Nowadays this is mainly done through call centers. However, having enough employees and phone lines on a daily basis to communicate with thousands of customers and more in real time is a significant cost for businesses. But there could also be another way.

The middle ground between answering customers via email and phone is to create a system where they simply record and send an audio message on the company's website. A customer service representative listens to them and sends an audio response to the customer within a few hours. Large amounts of customer feedback data can be gathered over time, and those with the same issues and complaints will receive the same pre-recorded audio message, so the company can provide valuable feedback with minimal effort.

This way, call centers don't have to bear the tremendous burden of answering every request in real time, and customers get a clear audio explanation to listen to and respond to. More importantly, unlike email, they actually hear another person communicating with them.

Interactive podcasts

Although podcasts have been around for more than 15 years and have grown in popularity during that time, their value to businesses and advertisers has been rather vague until recently. That changed that summer when Joe Rogan signed an exclusive contract with Spotify for its hugely popular podcast, which was reportedly worth $ 100 million. This was the first time a podcast has received such a high price tag, and more are likely to follow.

Related: LinkedIn adds audio recording option to help with names …

However, there is still room for improvement, mainly because audience interaction with podcasts is hardly possible these days. Even old radio shows made phone calls, so it's a bit surprising that in the age of high-speed Internet and when everyone has a device with a microphone in their pocket, podcasts are still isolated from their audience.

New and existing audio technologies can change this quickly, leaving listeners responsive to specific events and discussions, even if they are properly conversing with the podcast hosts. Audio from listeners doesn't even have to be in real time as podcasters bring in different ideas and pick the most interesting responses from the audience to play the next day.

If the internet has shown us over the past 20 years that engaging with audiences leads to monetization. From Facebook comments to Amazon reviews, when people react to your content and interact with one another, it increases interest, traffic and ultimately profit. There are many signs that audio is the next way to generate and monetize content. Customer service and interactive podcasts are just the tip of the iceberg.

Related: Uber to record audio while driving

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