While the US still dominates the voice business market and will continue to do so through 2007, the rest of the world does not inevitably follow the leader. To tackle the market effectively, voice business vendors must understand the unique factors affecting each local market – and how to take advantage of these conditions. But what are they? Datamonitor’s Evan Kirchheimer takes a look…
Enhanced by the largest economy in the world and the sheer number of local voice business vendors, US voice business revenues are certain to remain strong: Datamonitor expects them to reach $1.7 billion by 2007. However, due to the relative maturity of this market, revenues over the next five years will undoubtedly grow faster outside of the US
Even in the depressed global economy there are significant opportunities for voice business vendors in a number of geographic markets. But a vendor’s success in this environment will be determined by its ability to understand the factors affecting each local market and ways to take advantage of those conditions.
Keep your eye on the Brits…
Some markets look set to be particularly interesting going forward. For one, the UK – it’s already the second largest market for voice business globally behind the US, generating $49 million in supply side revenues in 2001.
With the highest number of call centers in Europe and strong media interest in voice solutions, the market is poised for continued strong growth through sustained education. Voice-enabled interactive gaming could also prove lucrative for voice vendors; yet creativity in this area will be crucial to its future success.
The situation in China is somewhat different – the Chinese market for voice technologies is currently minimal. However, Datamonitor expects explosive growth, if China can maintain its impressive overall economic growth.
and follow the Eastern promise
Although uptake of mobile and voice technologies in China is currently low, as the most populous nation in the world the current number of mobile phone users in China exceeds the population of most European countries. This creates a substantial user base for consumer-focused voice business solutions, which will only grow as mobile penetration rates increase.
Finally, Japan has numerous barriers to entry and is difficult to navigate – but again, the payoffs are substantial. Japanese businesses, as a whole, demand the highest quality products and services, but are willing to pay for them.
Japan is at the forefront of telco consumer services and 3G networks and services are becoming a reality. This presents some difficulties in securing pure voice deployments, since emphasis is elsewhere. However, it creates an opportunity to test and improve multimodal applications.
Hit the north
Voice business will be an opportunity in other major economies, although the potential is less great. In the German enterprise market, for example, there are opportunities throughout the value chain since many companies are transitioning from agents directly to speech.
Enabling software providers look set to have greater visibility and success securing contracts, since Germans generally shun touchtone interactive voice response (IVR). Vendors targeting the telco space will have the most success voice-enabling popular local services, such as short messaging service (SMS). If the content available through partnerships such as between Comverse and BMG proves popular with consumers, consumer voice portals may see a resurgence as well.
The Nordic region is more exiting – it is, and will continue to be, at the forefront of new consumer voice services and technologies. However, revenues and long-term growth rates are decidedly hampered by the region’s size – there just aren’t enough people. The most successful route to market is through telecom systems integrators.
More partnering, less opportunity by the Med
France will be a difficult market for global voice vendors to enter. The clearest route is through the major hosting companies. Wariness, both due to cultural factors and unimpressive early applications by France Telecom, pervades the market. This has placed an undue emphasis on risk avoidance, such that even Telisma, an enabling software provider, has migrated to a per-recognized-word pricing model.
Consumer voice portals and services are the strongest opportunity for voice business vendors in Italy. The best route to market is through local players, though global systems integrators (SIs) are increasing their presence in this market.
There are limited opportunities at present in Spain and Portugal; voice business vendors wishing to enter this market in the short term would do best to partner with global SIs such as EDS and Accenture. They are already located in these markets and have access to the most likely enterprise and telco customers.
In the long term, local vendors will become an important route to market, and Nuance’s value-added reseller relationship with Ydilo could be an indication of an early rush to secure partnerships. However, immediate partnerships are not necessary to capitalize on future growth, as these local players do not have the market presence of the global SIs.
Overall, globally, voice business is poised for success in the coming years as the advantages of speech recognition become further embedded in the minds, products and services of companies worldwide. Voice business vendors who tailor their strategy to match unique geographic market conditions and trends will be better equipped to profit from this growth.
Related research: Datamonitor, Voice Business Worldwide