A favorite pastime of nearly every era is making predictions about how we will live our lives in the future. By 2018, past generations prognosticated that we would be using flying cars, living in centrally-planned and eco-friendly cities with high-speed mass transit everywhere, and dwelling in fully automated houses.
The future is here—or at least parts of it. We don’t quite have flying cars yet, but Uber is trying its hardest to make that a reality. Bill Gates is investing in a centrally-planned “smart city” in Arizona. Yet, we don’t quite have that automated house of the future in 2018.
Instead, we have the artificially-intelligent, connected house. Nearly every electronic device, from refrigerators to televisions, is connected to the internet.
The grand unifying device that ties all this connectivity together is the smart speaker. With one voice command, your smart speaker can turn on your living room lights, close the window blinds, turn on Netflix on your smart TV, and adjust the thermostat.
Smart speakers, like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, are not only building the future of automated households but also bringing brands and content into the future as well. Brands can now create interactive conversations with customers in their own homes that go beyond digital or TV ads. This sounds exciting, but is this just a fad, or something to be taken seriously by competitive brands?
More Than Just a Trend
Consider these facts about the growth of the smart speaker market. The whole market grew by an astounding 187 percent in Q2 this year.
As of August 2018, 32 percent of all consumers now own a smart speaker which is up from 28 percent in July. Adobe Analytics predicts that by the end of the busy holiday season, nearly 48 percent of U.S. consumers will own a smart speaker.
Let’s be honest: Part of the reason so many people own a smart speaker is that they’re kind of cool. Like most recent tech inventions, the cool factor has been the initial purchasing stimulus.
Exploring hardware’s uses usually comes after this “coolness” stage. For now, the most common uses for a smart speaker are playing music, looking up the weather, and asking fun questions.
As people have grown more comfortable with their smart speakers, they have started using them to research and make online purchases with synced accounts. Adobe Analytics found that 30 percent of Alexa owners used their smart speaker to make an online purchase. Researchers are seeing a trend in smart speakers owners using these devices at the beginning of the purchasing process, specifically for reminders and repeat purchases.
Leveraging Voice Technologies
How can a brand leverage this device in order to bring value to the customer? Brands like Amazon and Google put out these speakers to do more than sell hardware. They link these devices to their online stores so people can purchase their products more easily.
These smart speakers also give the brand an opportunity to speak back to the consumer. This opportunity is a game-changer for brands. Now, when customers ask about brands using their Alexa or Google Home, brands can use the voice technology to help customers with their purchasing decisions.
Johnnie Walker collaborated with Amazon to help customers learn about whiskey at their own pace. (Say, “Alexa, enable Johnnie Walker.”) This innovative experience allows customers to learn about whiskey history, helps them choose a bottle based on taste preferences, and gives a guided tour on whiskey tasting.
The key here is that the customer is getting that conversational experience one can only get in the Johnnie Walker distillery itself. Smart speakers like Alexa offer a natural entry point for brands that want to distribute useful consumer content.
The most apparent way to use Alexa as a business is to create a “skill,” but that skill needs to line up with your brand objectives in order to be successful. A good listening and interactive experience is likely different from the kind of content your marketers are used to creating. Take time to construct scripts, audio cues, music, and calls to action that sell the consumer on your product.
Alexa Success Stories
Remember how one of the most common uses for a smart speaker is looking up the weather? Zyrtec has used that to its advantage by creating a skill to help allergy sufferers find more detailed information about air allergen levels. The skill will even provide an Allergy Impact Score that shows if users need to take extra allergy medicine that day or not—which is awfully convenient for Zyrtec.
Tide created another great example of using smart speakers to your brand’s advantage. Imagine a situation where you spill wine all over your clean clothes. You go to wash out the stain, but it isn’t coming out. The marketers over at Tide thought this would be the perfect opportunity to create a skill that provides step-by-step stain removal instructions.
In each case, these companies brought some type of value to the consumer. The smart speaker was simply another medium to provide that value.
The best way to approach creating a skill for smart speakers is to understand what your customers need and how voice technology can best fill that need. The goal should always be to create a natural conversation with the consumer.
The Future of Voice and Content Marketing
Smart speakers and voice interfaces are becoming so mainstream and popular that it may become the method of choice for searching content. This is still a new frontier in business and consumer minds alike. Thus, it may take some tinkering to create an effective user experience for both sides.
The best type of content experience is one that is personal and valuable to the consumer. Creating an Alexa skill is an innovative way to create this type of service.
The next big consumer generations, Millennials and Gen Z, are far more influenced by personalized communications. It also costs anywhere between five to 25 times more to acquire a customer than to retain them, and there is a positive correlation between personalized content and brand loyalty. Crafting a personalized voice message from brands can make all the difference in creating that brand loyalty.