How many consumers walk into the kitchen each morning and ask Alexa to play their favorite music, what the weather is for the day, or the latest news? Voice assistants are popping up all over the world, with 45 million currently in use in the United States alone. By 2019, 67 million of these devices are predicted to make their way into homes and offices, opening the door for marketers and brands to advertise their products and services in new and exciting ways.
Currently, according to eMarketer, the Amazon Echo owns 70 percent of the voice assistant market share. Google Home is in second place for the moment, and Sonos, Sony, and Apple are racing to claim their piece of this burgeoning category.
Almost ten years ago, the talk was all about mobile applications. Today, with millions of people using Alexa and other devices to ask for information, make shopping lists, and order items, the next logical step is for brands to take advantage of this unique prospect. Because shoppers have already made a shift from brick-and-mortar stores to online retailers, such as Amazon, with purchase history and brand preferences already sitting in a database, simply asking Alexa to restock supply is seamless (also giving the Echo line an advantage over other assistants, like Google Home).
While voice recognition won’t replace traditional advertising completely in the sense of establishing brand awareness, it will change the way consumers buy merchandise. Ben Huard, GO’s Managing Director of the Atlanta office, explains, “Just like mobile marketing, voice is going to command its own variety of branded and interactive content. Marketers and retailers need to start thinking now about what capabilities these voice assistants will have tomorrow. The brand that does this first and does it well will win.”
"Voice is going to command its own variety of branded and interactive content."
Brands will have an opportunity to get creative with this technology, by generating their own words, forming campaigns around songs or jingles, or even having a well-known and recognizable voice represent their businesses. By building a campaign around tailored and distinctive phrases, questions, or “wake words,” consumers will have a better idea of how to make direct purchases. It is also predicted that visual identity won’t be as important anymore, and people will start to buy on the power of speech instead of visual assets, like logos and packaging. And, resembling mobile, this progressive technology will continue to adapt. The Echo Show, the first Alexa device to come with a 7-inch touchscreen and camera, and Alexa Skills, will provide marketers with even more opportunities in the coming years.
Voice-led marketing is expected to follow a more radio-type model, but with a direct link to the retailer. And, just like traditional media, voice-activated ads will need to be original and come off as genuine. “Marketers are looking towards a more conversation-based model,” GO’s Interactive Director, Steve Malloy, states, “Recipe offerings for food brands, weather reports for outdoor attractions, and fashion news for clothing chains have all been explored as ways to authentically connect with the consumer.”
Beyond the technological advancements that must take place, vocal marketing will have to overcome some obstacles as well. Retailers must train consumers how to ask for their products, and buyers will need to learn how to verbally order merchandise from specific sizes and names. Generic and white-label brands should develop their own advertising strategies, as they will not be as top of mind as established names. Lastly, privacy concerns have to be addressed, as firms find the balance between convenience and security.
But, the benefits are overwhelming, as voice assistant purchasing has the opening to appeal to both younger and older generations. Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers grow increasingly frustrated with technology, yet are looking for ways to make their lives less hectic. Millennials and Gen-Zers are almost always open to embracing the newest advances in tech, and as their families grow and responsibilities change they search for ways to add simplicity to their routines.
Every single brand that wants to remain competitive and current needs to create a viable voice marketing strategy. Just as in blogging and social media, voice marketing should be designed to be a resource to the consumer, not merely a plug. For example, REI’s National Parks mobile app tells hikers where the best trails are. The retailer is thinking about being a resource to their consumers, not just vying for direct sales. What is going to sell products through voice marketing is increasing brand loyalty, and providing value beyond a product or service, fortifying the bond between buyer and brand.