Leveraging branded virtual assistants to drive personalisation and innovation – Interview with Eric Turkington of RAIN

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Today’s interview is with Eric Turkington, Vice President of Growth at RAIN, a pioneer in voice & conversational AI, that is helping people, brands and businesses do amazing things with voice technology. Eric joins me today to talk about intelligent voice assistants, the state of demand, how both B2C and B2B brands are leveraging Branded Virtual Assistants (BVA’s) to drive personalisation and innovation and lots of other stuff.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Little personal touches can make all the difference – Interview with Jawad Malik of Idrese – and is number 429 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here’s the highlights of my chat with Eric:

  • We have recently taken on a couple of rounds of funding to build our own voice first product that we’re going to be commercializing via a Saas business model.
  • Between 30-40% of households in the US have purchased and own a smart speaker in their home.
  • Just over half of mobile users are estimated to use the voice assistant on their mobile phone.
  • About a quarter of smartphone users are daily active users of those voice assistants.
  • The biggest use cases focus on utility right now i.e. making phone calls, searching for knowledge etc.
  • Brands are starting to realize that building a channel on the Alexa platform, say, relegates your brand and comes with a lot of baggage and challenges.
  • Brands are now saying we want to build our own voice assistants that live inside our own devices or our own digital properties, whether that’s our apps or our website or even our call center. That way they can reassert control and ensure that their customers get a good experience.
  • According to a voicebot.ai (a voice trade publication) study, they found that almost 70% of the customers that they surveyed were favorable toward voice inside of a mobile app.
  • An Opus study in SoundHound found that 83% of the executives that they polled felt that voice enabled products or services actually improve the customer experience.
  • A lot of category leading companies in a wide range of industry verticals have started to make bold acquisitions to bring voice capabilities inside their organization.
  • Bank of America have spent millions and millions of dollars developing their proprietary assistant called Erica.
  • Brands are intent on controlling data and building their first party data for things like personalisation and sentiment analysis, for example, which is more difficult when using another big tech platform.
  • With regards to data and privacy, there’s so much pervasive consumer misunderstanding about how voice assistants work with regard to listening and privacy.
  • People should be much more concerned about the device in your pocket and what it’s doing with all of your searches if you’re concerned about privacy because that’s really where the vast majority of hyper personalized kind of ad driven targeting happens.
  • Proactive disclosure of data collection and privacy policies is a very smart thing for any company to do if they’re building a voice system as it’s critical to building trust.
  • Spotify has a very mature voice strategy and voice assistant inside their app.
  • Roughly 80% of the global workforce are people who are not tethered to a desk or a computer but rather are performing some sort of skilled or unskilled work using their hands. That’s where there is a big opportunity for intelligent voice assistants to help them in their jobs when they need to work hands free.
  • There’s sort of a truth in the world of voice that is increasingly getting understood, which is mastering a knowledge base and mastering data for voice search is probably the hardest thing to get right. The most important foundational aspect of success in voice is that you need to master your data so that it is enabled for voice look up.
  • Doing well in voice is really about doing well with data, especially in those knowledge retrieval kind of use cases.
  • A couple of years ago we were working with Nike to help them launch a new sneaker that they had been working on. We recommended tapping into the power of voice and the ability to act on an impulse. So, we did a broadcast integration with the NBA game Lakers vs Celtics and at halftime there was a call to action that you could get this shoe for the first time ever just by asking google assistant. All you needed to say was Hey INSERT NAME tell Nike, I want those shoes. Nike sold out of those shoes less than six minutes.
  • Another example that we have worked on is with a large tool brand that allows a general contractor working a job site to convert units from one thing to another or to remember what’s on their list to buy or what did they already buy etc all hands free.
  • Eric’s Punk CX word: Bravery
  • Eric’s Punk XL brand: Spotify

About Eric

eric turkington headshot copyEric Turkington is Vice President of Growth at RAIN, where he leads the company’s growth strategy and new business development, brokers and manages industry partnerships, and oversees company marketing and communications. Eric also directs RAIN’s brand clients on developing and implementing voice strategies and applications, and is a frequent commentator on voice tech trends in publications like The Wall Street Journal, AdWeek, and European Business Review.

Prior to joining RAIN, Eric spent years in product innovation consulting, leading growth and operations at Fahrenheit 212, an industry-leading firm Capgemini acquired in 2016.

Eric began his career in communications and digital strategy at Ruder Finn, where he co-founded an organizational transformation practice and managed global communications programs for F500 companies in insurance, healthcare, and consumer goods.

Eric holds a B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis in Philosophy, Neuroscience, and Psychology and carries his passion for human behavior into every corner of his life and work.

Find out more about RAIN here, say Hi to them on Twitter and Instagram @rainagency and @rainagency respectively and feel to connect with Eric on LinkedIn here.

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