Voice Marketing and Voiceware: What does it mean for the advertiser and digital media marketing landscape?

Voice Assistant is the new media type & voice marketing will cover more user-journey and touch points than ever.

Voice Assistants are still controversial: sometimes it is amazing how “smart” Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Bixby & Cortana are, and then they are criticised for “listening in on everything”, and violating privacy. Nevertheless, what exactly do Alexa and the other Voice Assistants mean for the user, consumer and potential customers, and how do the advertisers have to be prepared for the new voice marketing era? Let us first understand the aspects related with media planning, advertising dimensions, media consumption points and “being in the relevant set” in connection with the Voice Assistant media type with voice marketing, as a part of media and communications strategy, and the digital media and content strategy.

Voice Assistants will be omnipresent

User behaviour will change, with more dependence on Voice Assistants. When the first smartphone appeared on the market eleven years ago, nobody thought that one day it could become such an important and essential commodity and a business foundation for various commercial areas. It is now one of the main elements of point of sales, communication, advertising and marketing-related activities.

The phenomenon of the smartphone is not only found in certain age groups or socio-demographic layers but it is really “omnipresent”. We will experience the same development with the use of Voice Assistants. Alongside the smartphones came the app stores and in the same way the Voice Assistants are accompanied by the Skill stores (Action Stores on Google), making the smart speaker devices even smarter. Functionality that Voice Assistants may not yet have, can be “taught” with the help of a Skill. Although Voice Assistants or smart speakers can be used even without Skills, as one can use a smartphone without apps, the benefits are going to be limited. The Amazon Alexa Skill store, Google Assistant Action store or even the Samsung Bixby Capsule marketplaces are going to play a crucial role in user and product communication, brand perception and, in the years to come, push-marketing activities.

Voice Assistant as a new media type

The more time the users, potential customers and content consumers spend with the Alexa and Google Assistants of this world, the more critical the touchpoint “Voice Assistants and Smart Speakers” becomes for publishers, content creators and advertisers. Not to forget the whole eco-system around digital marketing which will feel a direct impact. Voice data management, voice analytics, voice marketing-based brand safety, and more will allow for an excellent return on media investment.

Voice Assistants can help users at home. They are almost omnipresent and no longer just stay in the living room but also get their own space in the kitchen or bedroom. They are new roommates and companions when we are on the road. Skills, Actions and Capsules provide valuable information to users and are therefore relevant from the marketing and communication viewpoint. Think of the changes happening in the podcast listening habits; listeners are hearing the podcasts by activating Alexa Skills. So from the content and marketing viewpoint, offering podcast contents only as an app or the website is not enough. The touchpoint has changed…marketing mindset and strategies need to follow the change. Users are using Voice Assistants and smart speakers for more and more tasks of everyday life. The usage is becoming mature and not limited to, as typically thought by many, to asking for the weather, time and travel information from A to B. For brands, product manufacturers and advertisers, this will automatically mean increased attention for the new media type “Voice Assistant”, and therefore more strategic thinking about their own “Skills, Actions and Capsules”.

It is not only about hardware or software…it is about voiceware

Don’t just think in terms of the hardware and software when it comes to Voice Marketing and the user journey. For voice marketing strategies, we need to think about voiceware, where the hardware is accompanied by “voice convenience features”. There will be a range of voice-enabled devices such as voicewares. This will not be limited to smartphones, tablets or smart speakers, more than ever the Voice Assistants are becoming integral part of a lot of white goods. The voiceware type of devices are going to understand, collect, process, analyse and deliver solid data about user behaviour, usage, habits, interests, preferences, including the right time to consume media and the right purchase time. The voiceware category is emerging as the biggest user behaviour-changer.

Voiceware is going to play a decisive part in reach, advertising and user journey as a touchpoint

Voiceware is going to be the key. It all started with Audio-Smart Speakers like the Amazon Echo Dot. It was quickly followed by Amazon Echo Show (the only Audio-Visual Smart Speaker with touch functionalities). Google, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung are still offering Audio-Smart Speakers even in 2020. But things will change…  or rather they have to! It is inevitable. Besides the smart speakers, there are already voicewares such as wall clocks, microwaves, smoke detectors, cctv cameras, door bells, kettles, and more. These are becoming part of the voiceware world. More devices will follow.

If we look at the advertising eco-system, Google has almost everything required for digital advertising, be it ad servers, programmatic buying and selling platforms, or analytics. Thus, in the advertising world, Google will undoubtedly use its current power and will surely go for its voice walled garden solutions. The biggest weakness of Google compared to Amazon is, although Google can “guess”, by doing a predictive calculation about the buying time, it still does not know the exact buying pattern, or buying point.

Amazon on the other hand, knows a lot about buying preferences, buying times, buying patterns, comparisons consumers make etc. and can push the voice commerce using its own ecosystem. For those who have seen Amazon Echo Show 5, immediately noticed that the screen size is similar to a smartphone screen size. Amazon could well be preparing for the “mobile text+image advertising” format.

Amazon will have it’s own voiceware, Voice Assistant and also programmatic advertising capabilities!

Microsoft is undoubtedly strong in the B2B world and can use its Cortana for more and more B2B solutions. Therefore, Cortana could play a significant role in the digitalisation of business processes, but is currently less relevant from the advertising perspective, and also for B2C voice marketing strategies.

Apple is strong with the Siri Voice Assistant on their Apple devices, but the active reach, as well as the usage and relevance, is decreasing. Apple could be one of the relevant players but I still see them behind Samsung.

It should not be forgotten that Samsung is the only manufacturer out of all the big five with multi-device capabilities, and has a chance to have their own vertical and horizontal integration of Voice Assistant and voiceware worlds. Samsung is present in Smartphone, Tablet, Smart TV, (Smart) Refrigerators, Washing Machines, Dishwashers, Microwaves, Monitors, Laptops and several other devices we require in the kitchen, bedroom, living room, studies etc.

Hence, in the next five to eight years, it will be surely a stiff competition with the ability to reach the user with multi-device possibilities. It will be interesting to see if Samsung, Amazon and Microsoft join hands, or are allowed to join hands by regulators, to keep Google out of the race.

The search will be much more controlled by the search doorkeepers

As advertisers, all advertising companies want to reach the right audience, at the right time and at the right price. Voice Assistants and Skills could help immensely to reach the target group. Based on the target group behaviour, an individualised brand image can be presented, and the exact “purchase time or consumption point” can be predicted. This is a dream for many advertisers: getting closer to the target group, and being able to accompany them in their everyday lives. The problem is that there is not room enough for everyone. Alexa, Bixby and Google Assistant scan the market and ultimately recommend only what they want to recommend. And this does not necessarily have to be what the user really wants to see or hear. So, the optimisation for voice search and Voice Assistant is extremely important.

As a part of their Voice Marketing, advertisers must already be thinking seriously about their existing touchpoints including their websites. How does someone who is looking for a product such as your own brand or services find it by voice command? The existing contents, content hubs or touchpoints on their own website, up to the FAQs, have to be optimised for the voice search and Voice Assistants because voice search works differently than the “type-in” search. It will become more and more relevant in the future that Voice Assistants also recommend the brands, products or services that the advertiser offers. Advertisers therefore need to think about their voice marketing strategies. Alexa may theoretically know all the brands and products on the market, but it will not mention ten brands or products, but probably only two or three products. That’s all!

It is highly recommended that you should be already present in the Voice Assistant world. With Skill and voice search optimisations, you can get started, use the lessons learned, and gain experience in user behaviour, Voice Assistant preferences, and algorithms. Advertisers can leverage this new One-To-One Media type by intelligent voice marketing strategies.