Alexa, help me, I’m a marketer!

Amazon Alexa

This year is the year that brands have started to experiment with voice to understand the role it has to play in their marketing strategies. Within Bauer we are seeing an increasing number of brands expressing their interest in new forms of voice activation, realising a consistent brand sound will be beneficial in a world which is becoming more audio-led. Sound adds colour to our lives, thoughts, memories and feelings, plus the multiplier effect that it can have on your ROI in the digital age.

Voice search is quickly becoming the go-to search method for consumers; ComScore research predicts that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches. Voice isn’t going to go away, and with the growth of Amazon Echo in the home and voice activation in cars, it is only set to grow further over the coming months and years.

Advertising on Alexa is still in its relative infancy but all the signs are showing that it will grow considerably as consumer habits adapt. Voice-controlled devices, such as Amazon Echo, will be in 40% of homes by early 2018 according to predictions made in a Radiocentre study. With the rapid adoption of the device in the home, brands need to begin experimenting to finesse their strategies and explore the unique campaigns they can activate. Crucial factors to consider when developing a campaign on Alexa are the time of day, location and wider contextual events like the weather. Once these are further adopted, advertising will quickly become an expected and relevant experience.

However, in May 2017, Amazon’s ad policy stated it will only allow advertising across skills in streaming music, radio and flash news briefings. For marketers, this means there are only a few ways of actively advertising to Alexa users. With advertising in skills being limited, it provides brands a great opportunity to reach users who are engaged and receptive, in a premium environment that is less saturated with advertising messages. Savvy marketers can further improve engagement by personalising ads, for instance calling out users’ name, referencing the weather or even indicating where their closest shop is.

Understanding the varied audiences that listen via an Amazon Echo is critical. Bauer has started that journey, making all radio stations available through Alexa skills and has so far seen a considerable uplift in audience consumption. Listening has shown a steep increase and accounted for 11% of the total listening hours in March 2018. Total listening growth in March compared to January is up 6%, 4% of which is from Amazon Echo.

As we start to see voice added more frequently to marketing plans it isn’t too bold to imagine that voice technology, as it becomes more human, will be able to recognise the mood and accent of the person speaking. Knowing this would add a whole new dimension to advertising on devices such as the Amazon Echo, where it will allow an even more personalised experience for marketers.

While brands embark on this journey, to ensure long-term success with voice, they need to start experimenting early to understand how to best create striking campaigns. Naturally, combining strong audience insight and understanding how users are engaging with the devices is key. However, as brands and media owners continue on refining their strategies for voice, the magic spark will be when marketers are able to personalise campaigns to consumers on an individual level.

Abby Carvosso, group managing director of Advertising at Bauer Media

This piece originally ran in The Drum's April issue which focused on the emergence of voice technology and what it meant for marketers.

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