Smart speaker advertising: 5 ways to leverage voice to sell your brand

November 6, 2018

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As voice technology moves to the forefront of the human-internet interface, we look at 5 key ways brands can leverage this exciting technology.


We have written quite a lot about the meteoric growth of Digital Assistants and smart speakers. They are certainly the technology that will impact ecommerce more than any other in the next few years. But don’t just take our word for it.

Canalys reports that smart speaker shipments will top 50 million in 2018, making the devices “the fastest-growing consumer technology – faster than any other recent consumer technology, including AR, VR or wearables”, according to Techcrunch magazine.

In addition to this, the voice technology embedded in them is becoming ubiquitous, with 66% of American adults using Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant or text-driven chatbots, and 21% reporting that they trust the technology with complicated ecommerce tasks like bill payments, according to new research from Mastercard and Mercator.

As this technology continues to conquer the marketplace, let’s take a look at how brands can sell themselves on this new frontier...


Unique Opportunities Bring Unique Challenges

smart speaker advertising

With Google and Amazon both selling their smart speakers at a loss in order to gain a greater market share, Apple’s recent entry into the market with the launch of their HomePod, and Samsung poised to enter the fray, competition is extremely fierce. As the technology is establishing itself, its makers have tried to optimize the user experience, and part of that is minimizing the number of ads users are subjected to. Forrester analyst Satish Meena notes that there are currently around 20 million of the devices installed, and he expects advertising on smart speakers to grow enormously by 2020, when 100 million of these devices are in use. Meena claims "I believe the focus remains on building a user base before bombarding the smart speakers with advertisements, which is not good for customer experience."

A recent article on TechRepublic does a good job of breaking down Amazon’s current rules for advertising through smart speakers:

The audio nature of smart speakers may draw clear parallels to advertising on radio stations. However, due to Amazon's rules on advertising in Alexa skills, radio-style ads may not be the answer, Michelle Kubot, marketing director for Ambrosia Treatment Centers, said. Ads are banned on Amazon Alexa skills, with a few exceptions.

Music, podcast, and flash briefings can have audio advertisements, and skills that enable people to order things can promote those products or services. If a user asks for offers, skills can respond with promotional deals, and skills specifically designed for promotion can play ads.

Despite the market growth, the advertising rules won't change.

"There are no plans to add advertisements to Alexa," an Amazon spokesperson said.


What Is A Brand To Do?

smart speaker advertising

How can brands market themselves when ads are banned? This is the crucial question for marketing on smart speakers, and we are going to look at 5 key ways you can ensure that your products and promotions are blasting out of smart speakers and reaching consumers who are primed to purchase.


Number One: Position Zero

Position Zero is the first, featured answer to a Google query which usually provides, in the form of a snippet, more information and context than the other search results. If you want to know more, here is an excellent article. A lengthy study by Dr. Peter Myers for Moz determined two key factors that allow you to gain this placement: your site being on the first page for the search, and your content providing a relevant and effective answer to the question asked. When users aren’t looking at a screen, the result in Position Zero is likely to be the only one a consumer hears. Therefore, you should tailor your SEO strategy to answer specific questions consumers will ask. “If your content is provided in a question-answer form, you are more likely to rank highly on Google and gain Google's coveted answer snippets," Nate Masterson, marketing manager for Maple Holistics, said.


Number Two: Skills to Pay the Bills

While Amazon has largely banned ads, their device relies on “skills”, voice based apps which their devices will download at the users behest. Consumers can download skills to learn about promotional deals, or skills that are specifically designed to play ads. Making sure that product promotions reach consumers looking for them will be crucial for success. Also, similarly to Position Zero, brands should focus on making sure their skill is the first to reach consumers looking to accomplish a task. When a user asks for a skill that will deliver groceries, the retailer at the top of the search list is likely to be chosen more often. This position could be worth more to a brand than any amount of traditional advertising.


Number Three: Questions Could Be Your Answer

While traditional radio ads are banned, neither Amazon nor Google discourage brands from answering user questions. By providing information, you can provide a valuable service that will build brand awareness and loyalty. Whether a consumer is looking for makeup tutorials, recipes, travel tips, arts and crafts activities, or a low-carb alternative to pasta, giving them relevant information that makes their lives easier will bring them closer to your brand. A 2018 Google consumer survey found that 41% of users felt interacting with a digital assistant was more like interacting with a friend than a technological device. By offering helpful information you can be their friend too!


Number Four: Who Doesn’t Love A Sale?

We’ve already mentioned this in skills, but everybody loves a bargain, and ecommerce consumers are even more inclined than traditional shoppers to hunt down deals. Google’s own research found that 52% of digital assistant users wanted information on deals and promotions, 48% wanted personalized tips on products and services, and 42% wanted to hear about upcoming events. Using skills, personalized messages or other approaches to let consumers know when they can save money is guaranteed to be a popular strategy.


Number Five: Content Can Make You Happy

You can’t reach out into the living rooms of consumers with traditional advertising, but you can convince them to invite you into their kitchen for a cup of tea. Robb Hecht, Adjunct Professor of Marketing at Baruch College, notes that “The brands that will stick out the most in this vast new marketing channel will be those that provide interesting and unique content like storylines, mini soap operas, quizzes, games and password interaction scenarios should all win with customers who have a new friend in their home to talk to." People are going to develop close relationships with the devices that answer all of their questions and order their pizzas. By providing something of value, you can build trust and loyalty as well.

We at Adimo are fascinated by the challenges and opportunities smart speakers and digital assistants are poised to present. We are dedicated to developing and utilizing their ecommerce potential, and we’d love to take you along for the ride!

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