Talking voice commerce with Charlie Cadbury, the great-grandson of Cadbury founder George Cadbury
Business Leader recently chatted with Charlie Cadbury, the founder of Say It Now and the great-grandson of Cadbury founder George Cadbury, who gave us an insight into his upbringing and the world of voice commerce.
What was it like growing up as the great-grandson of Cadbury founder George Cadbury?
Charlie and the Chocolate factory? Thanks parents! Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t grow up in a chocolate factory and my stock response at school was: yes, my dad is Mr Cadbury, and so am I.
I feel really fortunate to be able to have had so much of my family history recorded. My great, great, great grandfather, John Cadbury, was a tea merchant with a modest shop in the middle of Birmingham. He started importing cocoa and alongside his sons, started experimenting with different types of eating and drinking chocolate. They were quakers and their philosophy towards business was restrained and modest; it was frowned upon to overly promote your products. They believed that the focus should be on quality and that should be enough for word to spread about your brand.
It was John’s children, specifically George and Richard, who bucked this trend and started advertising the product and seeking endorsements. It was the growth of the marketing function and the visionary concept of building a purpose-built ‘factory in a field’ with social housing around that was Bournville. There are numerous stories about the culture, work ethic and care for the staff that I have heard through the years and there is a great book called ‘The Chocolate Wars’ that really brings this to life.
Has coming from a family of successful entrepreneurs helped shape you into the businessman you are today?
Of course. My grandfather ran his own printworks and both my parents qualified as chartered accountants. My dad went out on his own and had a series of ventures – some successful, some less so – but he ended up with a decent exit from a telecoms business and retired early. My mum went on to run her own accountancy practice, and from age 10, I used to work in the office during the holidays. I had a lot of filing to do! She digitised her practice in the 1990s and learned ‘Supercalc 4’, a precursor to Microsoft Excel, and got into data entry.
In short, I grew up seeing people running their own business as the norm. I saw that a business could go both up and down. I saw that it could be all-consuming and really rewarding. I feel lucky that I had such supportive parents and a family that could share their experiences with me. I made loads of mistakes and that was always OK – because I learnt from them!
What were you doing before you created Say It Now and what prompted you to start the firm?
I started a software business with a friend of mine in 2005 and we grew it organically to 45 people over the next 10 years – building about 350 digital products (websites, Facebook and mobile apps).
I then found myself consulting for an enterprise travel software business in 2015 and they asked me the question: “How will people be booking their airline tickets in ten years’ time?”. Alexa had just launched, and we did our first proof of concept showing how you could book an airline ticket with your voice.
I then went on to co-found a conversational platform ‘Dazzle’, an in-room voice-first concierge, that we launched with Marriott in December 2016. During that time, I met Sander Siezen, the most brilliant product person I had ever met. We got on well and in late 2018, the stars aligned and we were able to start Say It Now. We’ve had a series of lucky breaks and I’m excited we’re now in a very commanding position, playing meaningfully on a global stage.
How does interactive audio advertising work and how has the market for global voice transactions changed in recent years?
We coined the term ‘Actionable Audio Ads’ last year when we ran our first test campaigns with Comic Relief, NSPCC and WWF in partnership with Global’s DAX. These were the first radio adverts specifically served to people listening on smart speakers. They asked the listener to ‘talk back’ to the advert and interact – to request more information or make a donation. While these adverts used the standard 30 or 40-second audio that you might hear on a normal radio, the difference is that we created voice experiences on smart speakers that allow the listener to engage immediately.
Is there still a place for radio advertising, or is it in need of change?
100%. Radio and audio advertising is having a renaissance. Consumption of audio is up with new working habits. I like thinking of audio listening whilst working at home as ‘the friend in the corner’.
The amount of ad spend on audio is not at parity with the audience, meaning that there is huge potential for growth. Plus, Actionable Audio Ads brings digital transformation to the sector as for the first time, we are able to view engagement and transactional data in real-time. This brings audio advertising in line with other digital channels, allowing real-time optimisation and voice commerce.
What future trends do you expect to see from the global voice transactions market?
Consumer habits tend to follow the path of least resistance. 10 years ago people were worried about mobile payments. Then, the convenience took over and we now don’t give it a second thought. Now, almost 50% of UK and US homes have a smart speaker and the usage of voice commands is rising month on month.
We can expect voice commerce to grow, and grow fast. I predict that voice commerce will grow faster than mobile commerce as all our voice assistants have a payment mechanic baked in (Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, Google Pay). Voice commerce is here and it’s here to stay.