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Lack of use cases, clarity stopping brands from investing in voice tech: Moneka Khurana of MMA

While the voice market is poised to grow by 40% this year, Moneka Khurana, Country Head, India, MMA, tells why the medium still remains underutilised by marketers. She says brands should make better use of AI, ML, data capabilities and CX amid the challenging times

Moneka Khurana

As voice technology gains more acceptance, a lot of brands have started to dig into the medium to gain clarity on how it can be used to enhance their marketing strategies. While a few have already started to include it in their marketing mix, the majority is still shy of using the medium.

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Moneka Khurana, Country Head, India, MMA, told that it's because of higher dependency of marketers on traditional mediums and the lack of knowledge about voice technology.

“There is definitely less awareness and understanding about voice technology, which is why they are probably not engaging in the medium enough. There are also not enough use cases to inspire them. Plus marketers want to embrace the medium when it is fully evolved. It is more to do with the mindset of an organisation,” she said.

She pointed out how there are not enough organisations and bodies like the MMA, which have actually engaged with the voice ecosystem to evangelise it, educate the industry on voice marketing and making it integral to marketing strategies.

But while there might not be a big increase in spends by brands on voice technology, she said there certainly is a lot more receptiveness and a lot more openness to experiment with the medium.

Categories such as travel, BFSI and auto are leveraging the space quite actively and not restricting it to just pre-sales and sales but expanding it to customer service as well. 

“The reality still is that voice is a new medium. The level of understanding and awareness on how to adopt voice and how to have a robust voice strategy is relatively less along with the whole understanding of who are the right players in the ecosystem. More than ad spends, at present it is about more and more people trying to experiment and innovate with voice,” she said.

Amid the pandemic, as more and more people opt for contactless experiences, it becomes more interesting for the voice market, which can capitalise on it, she said. At a larger level, voice becoming more vernacular and being available in native languages gives it a lot more access to new cohorts.

Slated to grow by 40% this year, she said 57% marketers feel voice search is effective and 86% marketers of the same cohort believe it is important to have a voice strategy and to have a brand voice in its literal sense.

Explaining why marketers need to experiment with voice, she said, “In rural areas where literacy levels are low, voice becomes quite a bridge in terms of connecting with those communities. It's basically vernacular powered by voice. Also, it is one of the touch points that are enabling inclusivity to the fullest, which means if there is a vision impaired community, which would have huge challenges in consuming content, voice technology removes all those barriers and comfortably allows people to consume content and connect with brands. At the same time, senior citizens and Gen Z are two very potential communities who are best suited for voice.”

MMA is also closely working with the Voice and Audio Council (for about 10 months) to enable thought leadership around voice.

“When we started, we had a very small cohort of people engaged as a part of the council. We realised it's very important for the council to get experts and experienced professionals to add value. It took some time to get some right people. At this juncture, the council is still looking for a complete participation in terms of more industry experts joining, so that we can kind of collectively build a strong foundation for the industry to drive thought leadership, drive guidelines standards and create more use cases with their help,” she said.

Asked how the role of MMA has changed for marketers amid the Covid-19 pandemic, she said, “Our vision is to enable and accelerate modern marketing practices for the marketing community. And the same seems to have become relevant because now the industry really needs expertise, insights related to modern marketing, and they really need to upgrade their entire toolkit and structure to drive modern marketing best practices.”

On how marketers can make the best of limited bucks, Khurana said at a time where everyone has been very judicious, it is the best time to strengthen data capabilities.

“Whether it is consolidating data of existing customers, or working towards building ways to strengthen data from a larger database, which from a cost standpoint is not prohibitive, but yet very high on ROI, one needs to leverage data platforms. Second, it is the time when marketers should begin to experiment more with AI and ML, to make sure that they are connecting at the right time at the right place with the right user and with the right product. This helps to move a lot of movable middle customers, who are not the absolute low-hanging fruit, but also not the ones who are not looking at your products, somewhere in between, who need to see the right relevance and engagement.”

Lastly, she suggested that brands should start working at making loyal customers more loyal by improving their customer experience.

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