Voice marketing: new opportunity or buzz?


Alexa, Google Home, Siri: fancy names, aesthetic voices. More and more people are using these digital voice assistants in their everyday lives. In the United States, smart speaker owners grew 40 percent in 2018 and today amount to 66.4 million. In other words, 26.2 per cent of the US adult population or one out of four Americans has a smart speaker at home. In July 2019, eMarketer projected that 31 million people in the US will shop using a smart speaker by the end of the year, a 31.6 per cent increase from 2018. Adoption rate is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 48 per cent to include over 76 million users by 2020 – next year! Going even deeper into this trend, ComScore predicts that by the year 2020, 50 per cent of all online searches will be through voice commands. 


The trend clearly shows increased consumer interest in buying products and services through these digital assistants, and the world of marketing will have to adapt quickly because a high percentage of the population will be using them by the end of next year!

A new way of marketing

Marketers will be forced to adapt their strategy to include audio or voice-related searches. The 31 million people shopping in the US with their smart speaker are for the moment consuming digital audio services more than physical products, which makes sense since a smart speaker is usually connected to a flat screen or similar device. 

Consumers are so used to seeing a product (and even a service) nowadays, that this new rise in voice technology brings new challenges for marketers, as well as new opportunities. Just to give you an example that we are going to talk about later on: the fact that the smart speaker will give only one answer instead of millions on Google changes the perception of things, but will create space for those who will be more creative along the way

Where does this leave radio marketing?

Radio is one of the oldest forms of media around, and, for obvious reasons, has always included voice advertising in its marketing strategy. According to market data, radio advertising spending in the United States is expected to reach 17.9 billion in 2019, projecting steady growth over the next four years. The radio is well established, with precise ad spending positions and rotations, which is not yet the case for smart speakers. The fundamental difference between radio and smart speaker advertising is interactivity. On the radio, you receive the signal without having the opportunity to respond. With the smart speaker, it’s a conversation between you and the speaker. This distinction is important because it will heavily influence the way a product or service is marketed.

Audio advertising

Voice advertisements via smart speakers will be completely different from radio because of the nature of the technology. Alexa only speaks if you ask it to, at least for now. According to a spokesperson from Amazon, “there are no plans to add advertisements to Alexa. Skill, the development platform for Alexa, requires specialized developers to create a unique and compelling voice experience and we encourage continued innovation within our policy guidelines. We will continue to explore ways for developers to monetize their skills in the future while maintaining the best possible experience for our customers."

Advertisers will need to think and plan ahead, using their experience in “visual” advertising for the last decade as a solid foundation. 

Google claims that this report was a part of its “My Day” feature in which it summarizes the events of the coming day, and that the devices do not run paid ads. The video seems to indicate otherwise, which is why we believe that voice advertisements will become part of smart speakers for good and brands should prepare for this.

Getting your content right

For the past 10 years, marketers have been pushing for richer, more “colorful” and detailed content in order to rate highest in Google’s almighty algorithm. Well, in order to stay ahead, it might be time to slightly shift content strategy to include VEO, voice engine optimization. 

In the “smart speaker craze”, the user is no longer browsing. His actions can be separated into two categories: asking questions and giving orders. Let’s look at some examples: “What’s the weather today?”, “Who won the last Superbowl?”, “How many people are living in Norway?”, trivial questions. “Where’s the best Italian restaurant in town?”, “What is the best racket to start playing tennis?”, “How to prepare a burrito?”, still trivial questions, but these could also require information from businesses. Quick example, if we take the best racket to start with in tennis, the answer may come from a tennis blog, but if a brand decides to do some great content on how to compare their racked from beginner to advanced, and work on a great content piece, this article might be the one chosen by Alexa or Google Home! 

Businesses that include VEO and that provide the best answers to the most commonly asked questions will have a better chance at being selected by the digital voice assistant. While it sounds simple, the competition is tougher than when consumers were behind their screens. Google studies show that around 35% of users click on the first answer of a Google search. In the case of smart speakers, it’s the digital voice assistant that selects the most relevant answer, which means only the top choice will be presented, based on the algorithm. 

There is no need to destroy content marketing as it is, but we definitely need to adapt to this new reality.

Pushing creativity at its best

This opens a huge market for advertisers wanting to develop new creative ways to reach their audience. A great example is the voice skill HBO created for Amazon Alexa called Westworld: The Maze. It’s a choose-your-own-way adventure-style game for superfans of Westworld. A dramatic trailer for the game ends with the narrator saying, “Alexa, open Westworld.” While this is an obvious advertisement to promote the new season of the sci-fi/western series, the audience is made aware of it through the introduction of an audio-game adventure. 

Innovative, immersive and totally out-of-the-box, this is what brands need to aim for if they want to win audience’s hearts and capture the attention of the professional world. In fact, Westworld: The Maze has been such a success that the prestigious Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity awarded them with the Grand Prix in Radio and Audio.

It’s time to get involved

Some might argue that we still are at the onset of this new technology and that the future of its everyday use is uncertain, but being a sound marketer also means tuning in to the trends and getting involved as soon as possible in the process. According to a study done early 2019 by the Adobe Analytics team, 91% of 401 business decision makers said they were already making major investments in voice technology and 94% said they were planning on increasing their investments in it for the following year. 

The next right question for you is how to integrate voice into your strategy. The answer is not quite as simple and depends on what product or service you are trying to promote, the space for creativity, and how this new way of reaching an audience can be implemented. But the good question is: where to start? You will find a few clues in this article. One thing is clear, however: there’s a new gold rush and you should be a part of it! 


A The Consultancy Group article, written by Alessandro Di Benedetto

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