Aloisio Pinto

Isobar Chief Strategy Officer

thought leadership

The late 1990s were marked by a significant change in human relations. Since then, technological news has also evolved rapidly. The internet of things (IoT) seemed possible only in fiction films. In the midst of all this came the virtual personal assistants (APVs).

The latter found a favorable environment for them to spread rapidly. The intensity with which information began to be exchanged, both in interpersonal relationships and in those involving companies and consumers, has boomed.

At the same time, people have become accustomed to an "on demand" life in which there is no longer tolerance for waiting or delaying responses. Thus, immediacy has become standardized in society — and if the human being is moved by what brings more convenience and ease, he finds in personal assistants a practical way to realize these benefits very quickly.

Not surprisingly, what recent iProspect research reports: 49% of smartphone users in Brazil use digital assistants. Back in the 1990s, who could imagine that it would be possible to talk to a machine, and that it would answer our questions in real time, even with a sense of humor?

An end to business hours

Voice capabilities already surpass text capabilities in personal assistants. Here in Brazil, we are loving this facility. Portuguese is the second most spoken language in Google Assistant. Another advantage that AVPs provide is "breaking up" business hours. Now the assistance provided by any company can be 24 hours. Long after 6 pm, it is possible to have a sophisticated and elaborate "conversation", far beyond what it was with a robotic chat, with the bank, with the credit card manager, buying a new piece of furniture or an air ticket.

Thanks to virtual assistants, people have gained speed, ease and convenience in interacting with a company. A Gartner survey predicts that by the end of 2019 they will be used by 2% of companies and by 2021 by 25%. This increase reflects how important this technology will be to brokering relationships with the end audience.

Will virtual assistants humanize companies?

In this context, the challenge of brands then becomes to build a strategy for creating conversational experiences. While the brand can use assistants to improve its operations and make its services available at any time, this technology offers another opportunity: to humanize the company. The artificial intelligence that guides the actions and decisions of virtual assistants learns from each interaction and improves to get as close as possible to possessing a personality.

But what benefit would a brand have in going further and creating "a face and a name" for your assistant? And what would be the benefit of not doing all this? This reflection brings with it a certain complexity from the point of view of business decision. It is possible to simulate an almost human interaction experience when you have a virtual figure - as is the case with Magalu, from Magazine Luiza. The character becomes an official spokesperson for the brand. If the company's main goal is to build affection and a strong identification of the assistant with the final audience, this may be an interesting strategy.

Different purposes

Anyway, this does not mean that the absence of a "smiley face" does not serve to build relationship. Any and all interaction is part of the story between brand and consumer. There are companies that opt ​​for greater objectivity in contact with the customer, either to offer focused and assertive service in relation to a certain customer demand, or to increase the capillarity of their service. The faster and more objective, the more people can be assisted. And then there is the middle ground when an assistant develops a certain personality and charisma but has no definite form. Ideal for businesses and cooler categories that don't want to invest in building their own character.

When it comes to the way companies choose to use virtual assistants, there is no right or wrong way. There are only different purposes.

What matters is the customer relationship

Has your brand understood what kind of relationship it wants and needs with the customer? After all, consumers already know that they want everything for yesterday and always want to feel special (whether or not there is a person on the other side of the screen). In addition, voice tends, in the medium term, to replace the screen as people's favorite interface. Therefore, the sooner brands develop their voice strategy, the better.

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Image: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters