A new challenge is on the horizon for marketers, and for once, we aren’t talking about GDPR. For years the mantras ‘mobile-first’ and ‘content-is-king’ have rung loud and clear across the industry, but now the “next big thing” is upon us: Voice-first.
Voice assistant technology makes social media look like child’s play. Instead of waiting until a consumer views a particular social platform, brands and retailers can literally be in the homes of their customers.
With Amazon’s Alexa, brands can build their own ‘skills’ which can cover anything from stain removal advice (Tide), to purchasing straight from their voice-first device (Domino’s Pizza was an early mover in their field). Others have been more simplistic, incorporating lines in their tv adverts which will trigger actions from Alexa (such as Burger King).
Google also recently announced their Shopping Actions, which offers users a universal shopping cart across mobile, desktop and – the important bit – Google Home devices. This is a level of integration unlike any we have seen before and is the next step in our journey towards the internet of things….in theory.
The New Smartwatch?
However, the waters aren’t plain sailing for retailers. According to a report from Episerver, 2 in 5 people own an in-home assistant such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home, but 60% of consumers who own a device have never used it to make a purchase. Hardly encouraging figures for a brand looking to make the leap into voice-first marketing.
One can’t help but compare the hype surrounding voice assistant devices to that of the smartwatch. When they were first introduced, the industry believed we would be communicating with consumers in a more nuanced way as advertising went straight to their wrists. However, new smartwatch designs like that of Fossil and Skagen are forgoing the digital displays. This doesn’t really look like the new communication platform we were all banking on.
At the moment, it seems that voice-first is heading the same way. Early in March, many users were switching off their Amazon Echos after Alexa started laughing out of the blue, clearly showing our limitations where AI is concerned. While fears of an AI takeover are largely misguided – it turns out that Alexa was most likely mishearing other commands – it is clear that this technology certainly isn’t as capable as we would like to believe. More than this: brands and retailers just aren’t sure how it works. Since these devices don’t respond without a command, traditional advertising is out the window. We don’t know how to create and optimise content for a voice-first world. Yet.
Preparing for Battle
It’s a wild new frontier, that of voice-first marketing. We don’t expect it to realise its true potential in any less than two years, so use that time to practise and perfect your strategies for this platform, there’s a lot of room for trial and error. Be mindful of your brand and brand identity when deciding what avenue to take. You can take the Alexa skill route similar to Tide of Dominos, or you could optimise your digital campaigns for voice search.
We are already beginning to see the initial effects of voice search on PPC campaigns. The interesting thing about voice search is the way in which we conduct our queries. When searching Google, we might simply type “tube delays”, while our voice searches are much more conversational: “are there any delays on the Northern Line going through Bank?”. There is a much higher level of context given in voice searches, which will no doubt prove invaluable as brands become more confident with voice-first marketing. Taking the time to understand these long-tail searches and how best to target them will be one part of succeeding in this space.
It’s no secret that this technology has made our lives easier. You can top up your shopping order while you’re cooking, search for new products or even turn out your lights: virtual personal assistants have more promise than smartwatches ever did in this particular field. Give the industry until 2020 and voice assistant technology will be able to match our current expectations.
Our advice? Research and experimentation. While it seems obvious, this is crucial to be able to boldly go where no marketer has gone before: into a world of successful advanced voice-first marketing.