Leveraging Voice: A Path for Brand Marketers

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This post is the latest in our “Beyond the Screen” series. It will be an editorial focus for the month of February, and you can see the rest of the series here

Amazon, Google, and Apple own voice, and their control over the market is only growing stronger.

Surveys show that consumers are incredibly loyal to their preferred voice assistants. Despite the increasing number of manufacturers getting into the space, an incredible 97% of smart speaker households stick to just one brand for their voice devices. On the surface, that means that someone who purchases a Google Home device for his living room is unlikely to purchase an Alexa-powered speaker for his bedroom. It also means that brand marketers need to start thinking about how they’re going to make voice a part of their larger loyalty strategies as consolidation within the industry continues.

“To make voice an effective part of a larger loyalty strategy, companies need to be able to identify their customers wherever they engage. If customers make a purchase through their preferred voice assistant, Alexa for example, and that transaction goes through Amazon’s marketplace rather than an owned channel, that could negatively impact a company’s ability to know who its customers are and how they purchase,” says Nicole Amsler, vice president of marketing at Formation, a firm that helps companies to achieve personalization at enterprise scale.

Amsler believes it’s important that companies can see who their customers are and what transactions are associated with each customer via voice assistants. This sort of knowledge is necessary for brands to make the channel a valuable part of an overarching loyalty strategy.

Given that voice is currently owned by just a few select companies, it’s important for brands to figure out how they will leverage voice differently from company to company or device to device. Will retail brands keep the same strategy with Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, or will they find unique ways to take advantage of these platforms across differences?

Alexa currently leads the market. If its lead increases, and households with voice-controlled assistants remain brand-loyal, brand marketers will have to shift their focus from a more general voice strategy to a strategy that’s specific to Amazon devices.

Given the role that Amazon’s marketplace plays in the larger retail space, it comes as no surprise that some brands are already leveraging Alexa differently than other voice-controlled assistants. Amazon’s Alexa is known more for its “skills” that consumers can use to make purchases and orders, whereas Google devices are known more for their ability to control smart home products, like lights and thermostats, through commands.

Some retail brands are opting to develop special skills for Amazon devices that funnel purchases through Amazon’s marketplace, while others are still attempting to send customers back to their owned channels to complete their transactions.

A survey by OC&C Strategy Consultants found that 85% of consumers select products that Amazon suggests, presenting an opportunity for brands to leverage Alexa to increase the odds of ranking highly in the reviews, ratings, and pricing algorithm.

“As brands figure out whether they’re going to leverage voice through agreements with other companies, or if they’re going to create their own voice channels, it will become more clear how brands can make the most of how consumers are using voice,” Amsler says.

Across channels, it’s clear that consumers expect experiences to be relevant, personalized to them, and consistent. In order to maximize the impact that voice-controlled devices have on marketing and loyalty, voice needs to be well integrated with the larger brand experience. It also needs to provide relevant experiences and offers in order for customers to see it as valuable.

“Brands need to constantly test and analyze how their customers respond to different experiences,” Amsler says. “They can then adjust and fine-tune new experiences, like voice, in order to increase their relevance for individual customers.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.