Voice assistants, search and the future of advertising

Over the past few years, voice activated search has come a long way.

When Apple first integrated its voice assistant, Siri, into the iPhone 4S in 2011, it was considered more of a gimmick than anything else. Six years on, and a report by ClickZ and Marin Software reveals that 7% of marketers now mark voice search and digital assistants as top priorities in their marketing plans.

Interestingly, 4% of marketers reviewed in the same report also stated that they would be prioritising ‘smart hubs’ in 2017.

Since the launch of Amazon’s Alexa, so called ‘smart hubs’ have grown in popularity with consumers. Even more so, there is now a demand from consumers to have these as part of their ‘connected’ homes.

As AI technology gets smarter and smarter, it’s evident that we are shifting into a voice led revolution. ComScore said that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches and Google’s recent statistics show that 83% of people surveyed agreed that voice search will make it easier to search for things anytime they want.

Speaking to a machine may have felt unnatural and futuristic only a few years ago, but consumers are now embracing the revolution. Smart hubs have championed the growing possibilities of search, and they have now become genuine channels for daily activities, as consumers are excited and impressed by the speed and efficiency with which these devices can help them complete day-to-day tasks.

With this in mind, it’s clear that there is potential for advertisers and brand marketers to make use of voice assistants.

The opportunity for marketers and advertisers

In terms of search functionality, marketers need to be aware of the varying capabilities of each smart hub on the market, as each one works slightly differently and is powered by a different search engine. With each brand’s product portfolio continuously growing, this becomes even more of a challenge.

Amazon’s Echo, which has been on the market the longest, operates with Bing, whereas Google Home relies on Google to answer questions. Apple’s highly anticipated HomePod, due out in December, will have Siri integrated into the device.

The efficiencies of each search engine vary, and for marketers, these characteristics are crucial in deciding how their brands can attract the right attention.

Understandably, we need to remember that marketers are still testing the waters on how smart hubs can be implemented in marketing plans in the most seamless way. After all, as these voice assistants become part of a consumer’s connected home – and at the centre of the family – it’s natural that consumers may be slightly reticent when it comes to inviting advertisers and brands into this personal space.

This was certainly the case for Google, who was immediately hit with criticism after playing what sounded like an advert for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast film, during Google Home’s ‘What’s My Day Like?’ feature.

Similarly, there was disdain after Amazon introduced sponsored audio messages before and after conversations with Alexa. It’s inevitable that there will eventually be paid opportunities on voice assistants, but they need to be able to integrate these messages in a way that doesn’t interfere with the user experience.

How brands and marketers are tapping in

Voice assistants are now part of the omnichannel consumer experience. If used correctly, they are an effective – and natural – conduit between consumer and brand.

Although Burger King’s ‘Whopper’ TV advert caused a stir by hijacking Google Home devices by prompting the speaker to search for the definition of the Whopper burger, it won a Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Lions, and also helped the brand win overall Creative Marketer of the Year.

This nifty hack was hailed ‘the best abuse of technology’ for generating a direct response between consumer and company, and sparked conversation and awareness around the brand and campaign.

This was clearly a stunt ad, and not a long-term use of the voice activated technology. However, its success highlights the opportunities available to advertisers – and interest from consumers – in engaging with this technology.

Could this be a sign that the future of advertising and marketing is heading in the direction of voice search?

So, what could the future look like? At mporium, we know that many marketers have mastered search-based advertising, and are reaping the rewards. Soon, we could see brands bidding for the top spots on voice-activated results.

We may even see brands collaborating with the technology companies to integrate special offers that would be delivered via voice assistants, or suggest alternative solutions to specific queries.

What the future holds remains to be seen. However, it’s clear that as the technology behind voice activated search undeniably progresses, marketers will find a way to adapt to this new search reality that presents itself in the form of voice assistants.

Source: marketingtechnews.net; 4 Sep 2017

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