Possibilities of voice-enabled marketing

Scott Dubois / December 11, 2017

The sound of marketing has never been so clear. That’s because voice-enabled marketing is the present and future for interacting with audiences – the newest disruption.

According to Google, 20% of mobile searches are now voice, most of which are in “conversations” with digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, and Apple’s Siri. eMarketer estimates that more than 60 million U.S. consumers will have interacted with a digital assistant monthly in 2017.

At one time, brands only had the opportunity to match the needs of a typed search. With voice-enabled marketing, the task becomes answering a voiced question.

What does voice-enabled marketing look like?

One of the first considerations for voice-enabled marketing is: How will you interact with audiences? There have been many early adopters. It’s great if your content is coming up in voice search, but it’s not easy to do this. Google will typically only serve up content that it believes is an authority on the subject, but there is a chance to move up by using the Google Answer Box. For Alexa results, Amazon presents the highest recommendation as the result.

With early adoption also comes some big fails – well, depending upon how you look at it. Burger King’s TV to Google ad is a prime example of a great concept that failed due to poor execution. You want your content to be cool and trendy, but it also has to be helpful and relevant.

SEO and SEM shifts 

Voice search is changing SEO and SEM. The foundation is still the same: algorithms power results. The phrasing is the crux of the voice search evolution. Content optimized for voice search uses a question-and answer-format. The difference is, you may type “Italian restaurant Boston,” but a user may ask, “What’s the best Italian restaurant near me?”

Long-tail keywords become more important as well, because voice search is much more conversational. This may include the use of stop words like “and” or “of,” which are usually filtered out; thus, there are many minute differences between traditional and voice searches.

Mobile devices know where you are, as long as location services are activated. So, when you ask for directions to the movie theater, it will provide the one nearest to you.

Voice-enabled content has to be sharp and memorable 

What we hear isn’t retained as easily as what we see. Thus, brands must work harder to reinforce messaging. It might help to start with something people already know. IBM recently introduced Watson ads, and reports more interaction with these types of ads versus other digital formats, with users averaging one to two minutes of engagement. That’s a lifetime in the digital world. Staples has been testing this format with its “Easy Button” campaign. The company first started with an AI-centric chat app, then analyzed those interactions. This helped the brand discern the best use cases and ultimately deliver better experiences for its customers.

Personalized messaging via API

Using an analytics platform that connects to a digital assistant’s API is one approach to delivering personalized messaging. For example, if a user logs into a digital assistant and authenticates through an account that also provides additional information (think about this in terms of a Google-linked account, or even logging in via social profiles), your analytics platform can tag that user. Then, a personalized message could be sent, like: “Hey, Tom. Would you like to learn more about ABC?” The ABC is what you offer IF recent actions show that Tom is interested. Yesterday, Tom may have been searching flights to Seattle. If you’re a travel website, your message could be: “Hi, Tom. Ready to book your Seattle trip?”

Even if users don’t authenticate, your analytics platform can still generate relevant messaging. It would just need to be based on current actions and behaviors.

Opportunities in skill building

Alexa allows brands to “build” skills, which creates connection opportunities. Both B2B and B2C brands have found success with this approach to voice-enabled marketing. Digiday offers 90 seconds of top marketing news. Ask Purina – as in the pet food company – offers answers to questions about dog breeds, allowing filtering of searches with specific attributes, like size. Developing a skill comes down to knowing your audience and having specific goals. Who do you want to talk to, and why? End with a clear call to action that makes sense and brings you closer to a conversion.

Alexa is queen; Google Assistant makes a play 

Currently, Alexa owns 70 percent of the digital assistant market, but this hasn’t yielded a huge advertising marketplace because Amazon is the e-commerce giant. Google and Apple, on the other hand, are focused more on the technology. Apple plans to unveil its Homepod to give consumers and brands more options. The other challenge revolves around the data that’s captured in these voice interactions. You can be sure that Amazon, Google, and Apple all say that it belongs to them, not the advertiser.

Amazon has considerable competition ahead now that Google and Walmart have partnered. Customers will be able to choose from thousands of Walmart items through Google Assistant, and Google will be able to personalize carts with access to the shoppers’ purchase histories.

Voice-enabled marketing done well

Many of the first adopters are e-commerce brands. This makes a lot of sense, because voice searchers are most often looking for an item. However, local businesses have an opportunity as well, because users are looking for places or amenities near them.

There are some other brands beyond e-commerce and local businesses testing out voice-enabled marketing. NPR created the NPR One App, which uses artificial intelligence to curate story recommendations based on previous preferences. NPR signed a deal with Amazon to integrate with Alexa. Now, users can say: “Alexa, play NPR News Now.” NPR’s sponsors are appreciating this move as well, allowing them to extend messaging if users want to hear more.

What happens when brands don’t have voice-enabled marketing content? Well, literally silence. If a user is asking a digital assistant about your brand, and there’s nothing there, then that user will just move on. There are missed opportunities every day, but that doesn’t mean every brand should dive right in. You’ve got to know what your strategy and goals are and what route is right for you.

Beyond voice to 360° interaction

With the Amazon Echo Show, video and voice search merge. Echo show is a smart screen with Alexa voice features and at only $230, it’s a steal for consumers. It’s poised to become the entry point for the next-generation household with talking screens, holograms, and integration with any other IoT objects. People Magazine and the Food Network have already begun to use this new channel to engage fans.

Possibilities await

Voice-enabled marketing is an exciting, rapidly evolving technology. There is no question about its continued influence on search, the customer experience, and the evolution of marketing strategies.

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