Finding Your Voice: How Amazon Echo and Google Home Are Changing Marketing

June 1, 2018

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[shutterstock]

Voice search is rapidly changing consumer habits. A recent study from NPR and Edison Research reported that 39 million Americans own a smart speaker, marking a 128 percent increase since January 2017, while data from consulting firm Capgemini shows that Amazon Echo and Google Home users will spend 18 percent of their total expenses via these voice assistants in the next three years.

To learn about how brands are accommodating voice search in their marketing plans, Strategies & Tactics spoke with Ewan O’Donnell, a senior search activator at marketing agency Bader Rutter.


How is Bader Rutter integrating voice search into its advertising/media campaigns?

In our analytics platform, we can capture what terms people are using to search our clients’ products. Voice queries are typically longer, more conversational and are indicated with the initial hail such as “Siri, can you…” or “Hey Google.” Also, “how,” “why” and “what” queries signify voice searches.

From there, our team works to understand common themes users are using to search. We optimize campaigns by filling in any gaps in content. If a common theme is to ask for both a product and a service, but our content strategy only delivers product information, then we can use our search analysis to develop a content campaign that also covers the service users are asking about.

The lesson voice search teaches us is that our search strategy overall must constantly adjust descriptions to be very literal, focusing on how a user asks a question.


What are some key things you’ve learned about the possibilities and consequences of voice search through these campaigns?

We have learned that many voice searchers are acting on what Google calls “micro-moments.” The car breaks down, they need a tow. Few ask Google for “Joe’s Towing Service.” In that moment, a user asks based on a raw need, not a brand. “Google, call a tow truck.” What’s more, artificial intelligence is helping systems recognize tone and inflection in your voice. Search algorithms can adapt to voice searches that anxiously ask for help or that calmly ask for “that tow truck service I used before.”


When Amazon users order products through Alexa, they’re often directed to one specific item or brand. Is this common in voice search or is it the exception?

This is an exception. Amazon is the end, or near-end, of the buyer’s journey. The buyer has already learned a brand, a solution or a product they’re interested in. Then, the user enters Amazon’s database. Its machine learning capabilities mean that it’s been watching that user’s overall habits and has refined the options it delivers based on much more data than what emerges in this singular purchasing visit.

Brands can affect voice search in other ways, most importantly by anticipating customer needs and planning to approach before the moment of purchase. Every action we take online provides search engines signals about our choices and behavior. Great brands target signals early and address user needs further upstream. For example, tracking a user’s behavior as they read up on engagement rings and are shopping for diamonds means you can address that user’s wedding planning needs in the future. 


What do brands generally think of voice search? Do they view it as an important, helpful innovation or just something they must accommodate because of pressure from competition?

Voice search can give a deeper connection to a customer and a brand. It delivers more human connection and can build empathy and trust, which is paramount to purchasing decisions.

It is an important added tactic and offers unique new pathways. For example, traditional branded content can now emerge in more spaces. Tide has a skill on Alexa that offers instructions on the removal of stains. It’s functional for the user while at the same time promoting the use of the brand. That’s a space activated by voice that a brand can own.

It’s not hard to adapt to voice search opportunities because they follow the same basic rule of search: Give customers the content they’re asking for. The principle is the same; own your corner of the space with content relevant to your audience that also addresses intent, understands needs and enhances your credibility.


Can we expect voice search to radically change strategies for communications disciplines like content marketing and SEO? How can brands and businesses prepare for an uncertain future?

We’ve learned to never chase one tactic. We constantly reevaluate to learn from the new ways customers are using search engines and adapt. Customers are a barometer. How are they interacting with the search engine and what do we provide for them?

Again, great search always circles back to content and context. Content isn’t just an extension of your brand conversation; it’s additive. It provides solutions. Empathetic content directed at solving users’ unique problems helps search strategy do its job. Because good voice search adaptions are part of an overall search strategy, the same content rules apply.

Dean Essner

Dean Essner is the editorial assistant for PRSA’s publications. A former resident of Washington, D.C., he holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English from the University of Maryland. Email: dean.essner@prsa.org.
 

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