Blog Post - Sonja Swahn Lindstrom, May 8 2017

End of the screen? Zero UI: what's the impact for content?

End of the screen? Zero UI: what's the impact for content?

Hugh FletcherThe concept of ‘screen-less experiences’ should now to be on every brand’s radar. Gartner estimates that by 2020, nearly a third of all web browsing will be done without a screen. So, brands should be familiarising themselves with the idea of offering their audience a screen-less experience.

Cue Zero UI, the phenomenon we discussed earlier this month in our article “Zero UI: why it matters for online retailers”, where we discovered that more consumers than we’d imagined are ready to leap into a world of new web interactions. Today’s interface is generally the screen on your phone, tablet or computer. Skip forward a few years and the usage of voice and gestures through digital assistants could well be the mainstay of browsing online. Digital assistants that allow voice recognition include Siri, Cortana, Google Home and Amazon Echo.

UK consumers seem to be open-minded about this technology change so it’s crucial that UK-based brands start thinking about changing accordingly. And time is ticking for those who want to stay ahead.

One area ripe for examination is just what the rise of Zero UI means for the future of content creation. In terms of the first commercial Zero UI implementation, we believe that brands and marketers should embrace the early stages of change by considering how their content will need to adapt to voice technology.

The idea of Zero UI might be a little daunting at first, but there’s no need for alarm. This article discusses themes to consider and measures you could take, to avoid falling behind in a world of accelerating technology where consumers are getting more and more savvy.

The first step is to start researching voice technology and understand the types of content that will need to be created to meet consumer expectations.

As you research, these are the questions you need to address:

- How will my brand respond to the rise of voice recognition technology?

- On which platforms should it have a presence?

- What type of content should it offer the user? i.e. the purchasing of goods or a service, or simply the provision of information?

- What are my brand’s limitations with this technology?

- Do we have budget/resource to create software (or ‘skills’) for Amazon Echo?

Let’s call it ‘omni UI’

Zero UI isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight, and it’s unlikely to mean the complete removal of screens, but rather a merging of technologies, i.e. voice, gestures, screens and in-store experiences, all working together as one. Salmon calls this ‘omni UI’. Brands can continue to communicate with consumers through traditional means – voice control is simply another channel through which brands can engage with customers.

So how does it work?

Devices such as the smart home hub, Amazon Echo, require the development of voice-driven capabilities that allow the digital assistant, on behalf of the user, access to your content. These capabilities are referred to as ‘skills’. Similar to the creation of an app, you’ll need to identify a user need that your ‘skill’ will serve, and the content required to power it. The development of your ‘skill’ can be left to the experts - some digital agencies have already started offering skill creation as a service.

What do brands need to do?

Trying out voice recognition on a few digital assistants is a good start. Explore Siri and Cortana on iOS and Android devices, or try stationary smart home hubs like Amazon Echo and Google Home. Apple is said to be launching a smart home hub with Siri built-in, so watch that space too.

Secondly, look at what other brands are doing at the moment. UK brands and organisations that currently have a presence on Amazon Echo include Uber, Starbucks, BMW, Domino’s, Just Eat, Jamie Oliver, Hellman’s and Arsenal Football Club.

Starbucks’ ‘skill’ allows customers with a Starbucks account to re-order their usual beverage. Starbucks clearly identified value in offering their customers purchasing options via Amazon Echo. Jamie Oliver, on the other hand, offers no purchasing options but allows you to browse 160 recipes, getting consumers to interact with the brand using voice technology. And Arsenal will be the first Premier League club to launch an Amazon Alexa Skill that allows fans to stream live matches, offering an experience rather than a service or product.

Establishing which direction is right for the brand is key here. Ecommerce purchasing options will be right for certain brand and not for others.

Serving up the content

Once brands have decided on the route they wish to take, it’s time to create a content strategy. The key thing to remember when creating content for voice recognition devices is that the content should be more human than ever. The user is no longer reading from a screen to find what they are looking for, they are potentially hearing the brand’s voice for the entire journey, as though it were a person.

We need to consider how users might phrase queries aloud, differently from text searches. They’ll have to coin a brand lexicon, create new call-to-action wording and update the company tone of voice. Personalisation will continue to be a key element of content strategy, now more than ever. Brands will most likely have to review their current SEO principles and invest in more long-tail keyword research. Having a good relationship with Google will also be ever increasingly important!

These are only some of the things to consider for the future of content in a world of screen-less web browsing. As for now, why not order an Amazon Echo and get the ball rolling.

To find out more about Zero UI get in touch with our Global Head of Consultancy & Innovation, Hugh Fletcher.

Zero UI is one of 20 key trends that Salmon called out at its annual ecommerce event Commerce 2020. You can download the 20 for 20 Trends ebook featuring all 20 trends.

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