6 Things You Need to Know to Develop a Voice Marketing Strategy for Amazon Echo

One of the biggest trends in marketing for 2018 seems to be how to use Voice as a customer interface. How do we market and advertise using just Voice?

According to a report by Juniper in November 2017, Smart devices like the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Sonos One will be installed in 55 percent of U.S. households by 2022. By that time, over 70 million households will have at least one of these smart speakers in their home, and the total number of installed devices will top 175 million.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of the internet, specifically, how we access it. As Voice continues to develop as a platform, I wonder, what does this mean for branding? How will brands advertise with Voice? And what about your website, how do we ensure information is gleaned with integrity and in alignment with core values? Some thoughts about how to approach a Voice strategy:

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1) A New Customer Experience - How to Design a "Voice First" Website

As explored in a previous article, if Voice is a future interface, then how can we imagine the user experience? What prompts would we have to feed the Google algorithm to enable us to get our message across? As marketers, we know the most frequently asked questions and user concerns, so it's important that we ensure answers are delivered on-message. But what if the algorithm picks up on crowd-sourced information that is negative or incorrect? 

How can we guide or prompt queries to learn more about our brand in ways that are positive and likely to generate traction? First and foremost, you'll have to map out the expected user flow. A core part of the strategy will be designing embedded prompts that lead directly to corporate sanctioned answers and authorities.

An example of how to use Voice as an extension of the brand experience is in motor vehicles. Hyundai's Blue Link® technology enables owners of its IONIQ Electric and Sonata Hybrid vehicles to start and stop the charge of their cars by giving their Echo a voice command - and even heat the car to a certain temperature.

Lying in bed on a cold winter’s morning a user could say: “Alexa, tell Blue Link to start my car at 26 degrees” 

 

Mapping out how the user might engage with your service and how they might wish to combine the experience or what channels they use to arrive, to the desire to buy will enable you to think creatively about how to lure customers or make their experience easier.

Which Device?

This study, performed in 2017, shows that the Amazon Echo is surging in popularity against it's peers. As the Amazon platform expands, its segment domination suggests that it's the Facebook of Voice, meaning that's where most of the traffic will be. However, all VUI's - Cortana, Siri, Alexa, Bixby - rely on algorithms that draw information from the internet, which is dominated by Google. So purchasing advertising should be a multi-platform approach particularly for services which are not delivered via Amazon.

 

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Therefore, paying attention to SEO's that will deliver information to the platforms as much as advertising will likely deliver a bigger ROI.

Another factor to consider is the skillset. While some suggest the Google Assistant may be superior to Amazon Alexa in some ways, Amazon Alexa has more "skills".

Amazon Alexa users were introduced to 2,776 new skills while Google Assistant users only saw 74 additions and Microsoft Cortana just 7

What are these skills exactly? Providing flash news, delivering weather reports, playing music, enabling Lyft... are all "skills". Which means they are services enabled by brands. So it may be wise to target all of the voice platforms (VUI's) to have a large market share of a smaller pie, but differentiate the strategy by the extent to which you can leverage that platform's particular Skillset. The good news is that since Voice is still a pioneer platform, we have the opportunity to shape how this medium can be used more effectively.

2) About Us – Defining your Brand through Voice

Who should be your brand spokesperson? For general queries, you may have a generic voice. But what if you could program our own unique Voice to answer queries? For example, a question posed to Siri could be replied by a charismatic executive or CEO, a social media star, or celebrity endorser. 

 

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Unlike the old days of radio, we cannot expect to hear from one generic voice any more than we would expect to have one television channel. Who will be your voice? Is it male or female? How mature is your voice? What data do you have that supports that decision?

“More than half of US teens use voice search on a daily basis.”

Once you know who your Brand Ambassadors are, consider how you can gain traction with compelling, interesting, informative and entertaining podcasts. Which begs the question: could podcasts become the new radio?

3) The Voice Persona - How to customize it to your brand

What is your brand persona: should you define it or allow others to define it?

My GPS is male and speaks with a posh English accent like Jeeves. In real life I imagine he would look a great deal like Jude Law. So when he tells me to turn left, I do so with pleasure. But what if I had no choice in which voice to use? Would I dislike the experience? I like cruising with Jude, but that’s me. Others may prefer Scarlett Johannsen. As a brand, how important is this voice to you? 

 

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A study by Indiana University shows that male and female users both prefer a female voice for their virtual assistants, such as Siri and Alexa.

Older generations may long for a singular voice of authority. Millennials are famous for their preference for personalized experiences. They choose their own avatars and pictures and expect to be able to communicate with a brand via social media. 

Preference Depends on Subject Matter

A Stanford University study on the subject showed a user’s preference for a male or female voice depended on the subject matter. Male voices are preferred when the subject was learning about computers, but a female voice was preferred when learning about love and relationships. This may be viewed by many as a highly sexist viewpoint, which may require deeper examination and exploration for brand strategy development.

For now, however, Siri and Alexa are still the smartest in the room.

4) Real-Time Responses - Have a PR and IR response strategy

As marketers, we control the timing and response. With voice, the answers are expected to be immediate. As issues and crisis arrive, they do so faster than ever. How can you ensure that your message is delivered in real time to market? Yes, your crisis response may be in the “news” section of your website, but the algorithm powered by Google will likely pick up the chatter – potentially spreading rumors about your product, executive or spokesperson - rather than quashing them. What are the PR and IR teams doing to prepare for such eventualities?

5) Swag or No Swag? - Are you Local or Global?

How often have you felt frustrated the feeling of being lost in a voice answering service? Using a Voice interface should be entertaining and informative. Why? Because no one likes the feeling of talking to a machine.

Translation capabilities are a huge opportunity for brands. But does Swag translate well? O will the jokes be lost in translation?

Personally, I am a formal person who does not appreciate being addressed directly by strangers. I hate it when telemarketers address me by my first name. That said, I like a brand with swag. So as natural language capabilities improve, how much swag do you want your brand to have? If the campaign changes, what about the voice? And what about language? Many brands are stifled in their efforts to penetrate international markets precisely because the brand positioning doesn't appeal. On the other hand, if you are a Kentucky Bourbon, the answer is obvious.

6) Visual Chatbots - Adding a Face to a Voice

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So is a Visual Chatbot pop-up an extension of your Voice strategy? Is it an avatar? Customer service chatbots on your website will still be necessary and should be aligned with your strategy, as above. It will be no surprise to see more Humanoid chatbots – that look identical to real humans - being used in marketing more broadly. Currently, Humanoids are being used in S. Korea to manage massive demand to interface with popstars; and one of Japans biggest stars is Virtual!

So how does the virtual match with the real? 

Says Christopher Reardon, Chief Experience Officer at IPSoft “When you talk to somebody, there's all sorts of non-verbal communication. The avatar itself helps with empathy. If the end user feels like they’re being heard and understood, they’re more likely to engage further and in more length."

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About the Author: Catherine D. Henry is Chief Experience Officer at Palpable Media, an Emerging Tech Marketing Agency that develops strategies for interactive and immersive marketing, advertising, live events and social media. My next article will focus on Merging the Physical and Digital Worlds and will focus on making technology useful and relevant in 2018.  For more information on trends in tech, follow us on Facebook and Twitter! @PalpableMedia

 

Tags: #AI #VUI #Voice #Apple #Siri #Alexa #Google #Hyundai #Chatbot #IoT #Siri #Strategy #Branding

Catherine Henry