Marketers are only now getting a glimpse of the many approaches that will be required for the many kinds of voice interactivity.
Every new marketing delivery system — such as TV, websites, social media, or mobile — starts off with a single approach. In the early days of web or mobile, for instance, marketers would contemplate if they had “a web strategy” or “a mobile strategy.”
Eventually, they discovered that many kinds of strategies are required for the many different kinds of web experiences or the different kinds of mobile experiences.
And so it will be with the voice-controlled intelligent agent and interface. Now, it’s generally looked at as a voice-mediated channel, but soon, the variations inside this voice channel will result in a wide variety of strategies.
Voice interactions will follow a route similar to social media, CallRail Director of Marketing Nancy Lim Rothman told me. Her company offers a phone call tracking solution.
After a while, she said, marketers realized there was no one “social channel,” but that Facebook, Twitter and the other platforms had different points of view, different modes of communicating and different missions.
Similarly, it’s time to begin assessing the differences between Google’s voice-enabled intelligent assistant, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri, she said.
Rothman noted that Amazon is built on customer-centric commerce, so one approach could build on products available in the online megastore or its subsidiaries, like Whole Foods.
Some marketers think Amazon’s real game, as signaled by some of its acquisitions, is to understand and possibly control the datasphere in which consumers live. Since voice is the most natural form of interaction for humans, Alexa is key to that mission.
Victors: The brands
With this view, marketers may learn to look at Alexa not so much as another voice agent for making sales or promoting products, but as the front door to an unprecedented consumer data machine. In other words, marketers may use the Alexa platform as much for its data as for its sales.
For Google’s agent, marketers may build strategies around its omnisearch engine. Amazon’s search, by contrast, can be expected to look first at its store products before looking elsewhere.
Voice-driven search can be expected to evolve, but already there are directional signs. A new study from retail search marketing firm NetElixir, for instance, shows that a large majority (71 percent) of voice-search users don’t use it to make purchases, and only 29 percent employ voice-search for research.
This makes sense, since it’s difficult to process the results needed to make a purchase or research decision when it comes to you through a voice, and not as a page.
NetElixir CEO Udayan Bose noted in a statement a few possible elements in a voice-search strategy:
I predict that brands will be the victors with voice search as consumers are likely referencing specific brands when buying via voice. For example, they’re asking to buy more Colgate toothpaste, rather than toothpaste from a particular retailer. In order to maintain market share, retailers should create voice search opportunities [employing brand names] on their ecommerce stores.
The NetElixir study also has some other strategic suggestions. If you create featured snippets for your website, Google Home will read the snippet as part of its response to a voice-delivered query. And it’s possible that users will employ voice search in conjunction with text-based search, so marketers would be wise to imagine them in tandem.
The World Wide World
Additionally, NetElixir points out, the keywords employed in a voice query can give some sense how far the consumer has traveled on their customer journey. Using the word “where,” for instance, would probably indicate they’ve already figured out the “what” or the “who.”
There’s also the fact that Alexa, Google, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, voice-enabled IBM Watson and others are now becoming embedded into what you might call the World Wide World.
Cars, appliances, heating/cooling systems, home security systems and countless other devices are beginning to employ voice interfaces, often powered by intelligent agents. Undoubtedly, a marketer’s goal of developing and maintaining customer relationships has to factor in the wide array of device types where voice agents will live.
All of the above applies only to the realm where Amazon, Google and others supply the voice agents. There will also be countless strategic variations required for the voice-specific new applications — or existing applications with new voice interfaces — that marketers are beginning to create, with easy-to-use and non-technical tools like the ones Adobe will develop from its recent purchase of voice toolmaker Sayspring.
In other words, marketers’ new strategies will need to include how to pitch a new software product that can now be marketed — literally — through its own voice.