Year In Review

From analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on voice assistant users to exploring the future of brand-owned voice presences to predicting what 2021 will hold, 2020 has been a whirlwind year for our team and the voice world at large. For our final issue of 2020, we wanted to do something a little different and take a look backward at the most engaging stories of the year. Today’s issue highlights our top three stories of 2020 based on your engagement as readers along with new commentary on why these developments made such an impact on our industry. From all of us at RAIN, thank you for being part of our community and supporting Voice on Voice — we’ll see you all back here in the New Year!

Evolution of Big Tech Assistants

This year we learned that smart speaker adoption hit a new high, now reaching over a third of consumers in the U.S. Given this continued growth, it’s not surprising that some of your top read stories this year were about Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant’s ever-advancing capabilities. From Alexa’s slew of new features to Google’s new Nest smart speakers and wake word sensitivity advancements, there was no shortage of innovation happening for the major assistants this year. Heading into the New Year, we expect this momentum to continue and for companies to start exploring voice capabilities beyond the smart speaker, evaluating opportunities in mobile, hearables and more. 

The Voice Ad Market Is Coming

After releasing our 2021 Voice Trends Report, far and away the top voted trend was voice ads (174 votes and counting!). With major campaigns launched by NARS and Estée Lauder on Spotify and Peacock announcing TV-integrated voice ads, the potential of monetizing voice-driven experiences is coming into view. Recent data from Adobe confirms consumer interest in the format, sharing that “58% of consumers find smart speaker ads to be less intrusive than other major formats (TV, print, online, social).” Looking to 2021, we see the voice ad industry as primed for significant growth and brand investment. 

Owned Voice Assistants Emerge

In our report “The Dawn of Brand-Owned Virtual Assistants,” we explore how brands are bypassing the mainstream voice assistants of big tech companies to take back control of their own voice experiences through custom assistants built in their own image. And this year, major brands have done just that. Walmart-owned Flipkart in India released its own voice assistant within its mobile app to help customers browse products and deals. In the U.S., Walmart introduced Ask Sam, an assistant targeted to store employees so they can better help customers with questions about product information. With these companies adopting their own customer- and employee-facing voice solutions, we expect others to follow suit in the new year.

Stats of the Year

Here are the data points that were most engaging for Voice on Voice readers this year:

76% of organizations have realized quantifiable benefits from their voice and chat initiatives. (data via Capgemini)

More than double the amount of Alexa-enabled devices are available this year vs. last year. (data from Amazon via CNET)

Chart of the Year

Here is the most popular chart featured this year:



Career Talk: Conversational Design 

Last week, RAIN VUX Designer Lauren Madsen spoke with Sam Harper, UX Designer at Entrata, about her experience in conversation design, how it differs from traditional design thinking, and her tips on how to enter the field. ICYMI, you can watch the discussion here.