The Challenges of Monetizing Speech Applications

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Meadows says that the more successful speech applications go beyond natural language understanding, using dialects, speech patterns, and accents to sound more like the person on the other end. Botanic offers a variety of animated bots with different voices to give businesses a variety of options to use with their customers.

The Voice of Advertising

Speech-enabled applications can be successfully monetized in three different ways, says Stas Tushinskiy, CEO of Instreamatic, a company that provides software to manage, measure, and monetize voice-enabled audio advertising. “The first is a straight purchase, the second is a subscription basis, and the third is through selling ads.”

In the wider application universe, some apps—mostly in the gaming sector—are very successful in all three areas, but speech applications are more challenging because they don’t offer the same opportunities for in-app purchases to provide additional value. In a game, people will pay for additional characters, powers, and features. That’s not usually the case with speech-based apps.

“As with most publishing products—and I view apps through a publishing lens, primarily, though it is admittedly a wide lens that includes games, tools, and the like—the most successful apps are ones that don’t rely exclusively on advertising for monetization,” says Bourgeois. “So a product that can entice customers to pay even a modest monthly subscription, like 99 cents per month, or one that earns a commission on product sales that are promoted on the app has the best ability to succeed in the long term.” On the web, advertisers often resort to cramming their content with keywords to make sure it surfaces in searches, but that won’t fly in voice world, Wang says. Instead, SEO needs to be based on natural language—how someone would search with voice or respond to voice-based pitches will be different from the way they will respond to visual pitches.

“The content needs to be relevant; you need to understand the context when someone searches and the tonality of their voice,” Wang adds.

So Tushinskiy says to be successful, voice-enabled advertising needs to be thought of in much the same way as radio advertising—though the time to get the message across is much shorter, as people won’t wait 30 seconds for a message like they will with radio. For voice-enabled advertising, a compelling message needs to be delivered in 10 seconds or less, with a human-sounding voice.

“You need to engage in a way that is relevant,” Tushinskiy adds. But while the base of the message may be the same, the ads have to vary as well. “People don’t want to be bombarded with the same ad over and over again.”

What tends to work best, according to Tushinskiy, is a message that engages the prospect to the point that he or she takes an action, like inviting someone to call a phone number to learn more about saving on insurance. Even better would be inviting the prospect to learn some more about the product or service before calling a contact center.

Promote, Promote, Promote

Critical to the monetization of any application is investing significant promotional resources, says John Dinsmore, associate professor of marketing at Wright State University. Regardless of the app, a developer can’t just produce it and expect it to make money.

Google, Microsoft, and other giants in the tech field put substantial marketing dollars into promoting their applications, Dinsmore says. So someone may develop a technically advanced speech application, but if the company doesn’t put a significant marketing effort behind it, it won’t be successfully monetized.

“In order to make money with an application, you need to have incredible scale,” Dinsmore adds. “While some people will naturally gravitate toward the best app, the reality is that you have to spend a lot of money promoting it. Google and EA Sports are very successful selling, but they put a lot of money into promoting them. A guy developing something in his garage is really going to have to sell it hard; he doesn’t have the same kind of [financial] resources. He will need to dedicate a lot of time and energy into marketing it.”

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