How Voice-Activation Is Becoming The New ‘Touch’

The adoption rate of smart speakers with voice assistants grew 140 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to a survey from music streaming service Pandora and Edison Research.

In particular, Pandora usage on these devices grew by a 282 percent year-over-year.

Wit that growth in mind, Pandora sought to get a sense of how the rise of devices such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana is opening up new opportunities for marketers to reach multiple household members in contextually relevant ways they couldn’t before.

The research bears out much of what NPR found in its recent examination of the role of voice-activation and consumers’ media usage. Roughly 65 percent of people who own an Amazon Echo or Google Home can’t imagine to going back to the days before they had a smart speaker, and 42 percent of that group say the voice-activated devices have quickly become “essential” to their lives, NPR’s research said.

Among the obvious points both NPR and Pandora’s separate studies found: listening to music was the initial reason people sought these devices for. But the use cases of have quickly mushroomed.

With Apple emphasizing entertainment as part of its marketing behind its Siri-powered smart speaker, Homepod — which is set to be released in December — the next phase of audio and voice activation may be only just emerging. But it is emerging at a rapid rate.

From Touch To Talking

As Keri Degroote, vice president of research and analytics at Pandora, notes,  it is critical for brands to align their strategies accordingly.

“Voice-activated-everything is spreading like wildfire,”Degroote says. “From what we’ve seen, yes Smart Speakers have just surpassed any fad or experimental phase. The demographics of users (particularly the high proportion of 55+) suggest that this is no longer early adopters, but has hit the mass market. And the frequency with which these devices are used amongst consumers show the true value of bringing them into their homes.”

There is still room to grow in terms of users, functionality and integration – look back on the iPhone’s launch a little over 10 years ago, she adds.

“What brand can you name that doesn’t have a presence on the app store these days?” Degroote says. “And how many brands wish they were on the top of app-store charts in the early days to secure that prime home-screen positioning? It is important brands don’t play catch up in two- or three years’ time and find themselves in the same position.”

Still, Larry Rosin, president of Edison Research, notes that the adoption curve may be different from some of the other technologies and platforms that consumers have popularized since the iPhone emerged.

For example, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, as well as fitness trackers and wearables, have tended to be driven first by younger tech aficionados. The rise of voice-activation has been driven by people who are older and more affluent.

“This is not just a ‘young people’s technology’ like video gaming, for example. It’s much broader in terms of its appeal. So the adoption curve is going to be a bit different than with previous technologies. To start, connected home devices are not the cheapest products. But it depends on how you consider them: if you think of them as a computer, they’re generally not that expensive. If you think of them as a novelty, then you might consider them a bit pricey. For people who can afford these devices, voice-activated devices are quite practical.”

Here are some of the topline findings of Pandora’s study, which was based on interviews with 444 U.S. adults who own a voice-activated smart speaker: Amazon Echo, Dot, Tap, or Google Home:

  • Voice-enabled home devices are creating a rise in audio consumption and music. On a weekly basis, 69 percent of people are regularly tuning into audio content on their voice-enabled smart speakers with 58 percent tuning into music for an average of 4 hours and 34 minutes per week.
  • We now search, make inquiries and buy with our voices. 46 percent of people are checking the weather, 42 percent get a joke, “Easter egg” or converse, and 40 percent are asking general questions on where to find a store or how to cook a particular recipe. 29 percent plan to make purchases with top items being technology, household goods and beauty products.
  • Adoption is beyond fast. While it took many years for there to be multiple TVs in the home, 1 out of 3 people already have 2 or more voice-enabled devices across different rooms in their home.
  • These devices are not just for the young and tech-savvy. 40 percent of these device owners are between the ages of 35-54 with younger Gen Z and Millennials, 18-34 (35 percent) coming in second (35 percent). 
  • Voice-activated devices are also social. 77 percent of people are listening to music on these devices with friends and family: creating new ways for advertisers to engage multiple members of the household at home.

What Does Voice Mean For Marketers?

When looking at the the most popular usage patterns Pandora’s study notes, it’s worth considering whether voice-activation is for all marketers — or just some who can meet a direct question-and-answer response that depends on a certain immediate need.

Can voice-activated assistants have greater impact on the purchase a consumer packaged goods product, as opposed to, say, buy a car or real estate?

“From a short-term perspective, yes it appears that brands that serve immediate needs (like CPG products) are best positioned to capitalize on Smart Speakers,” says Degroote. “This is another way of search functionality, only this time done through voice. Users are already turning to smart speakers and voice assistants to talk, search, entertain, shop, etc in moments where they may have used a screen in the past.

“However, data from a follow up study on the Pandora Soundboard suggests that Voice Assistants are going to be key referral sources for a whole range of consumer needs,” she adds.

Around 60 percent said that they’ll use Smart Speakers to find stores and business locations, suggest entertainment content like TV shows and movies, and make restaurant recommendations in the future.

“We can easily see this evolving to Voice Assistants being the first ‘port-of-call’ on how to maximize tax deductions, or develop a training routine or physiotherapy exercises –a perfect opportunity for more service-based industries to deliver their messaging and offer their services to consumers,” Degroote says.

Advertising And The Company Of Others

As Pandora’s research suggests, the use of voice may have a more social aspect to it as opposed to the smartphone, which has come to represent the most personal of “personal computing.”

Does that mean the advertising we’re used to seeing on mobile and social channels will need to reflect that the voice-activation experience is not necessarily “solo.” What impact is that social aspect likely to have — or should have — on marketing strategies aimed at leveraging smart speakers?

“Brands need to be aware of messaging to consumers on Smart Speakers, or any Connected Home device for that matter (Smart TVs, Fridges, Games Consoles),” Degroote says. “On Pandora, the majority of our listening is on mobile which usually dictates a one-to-one creative approach.”

If a listener is in their car listening via their Connected Dash, the situation changes — they could be with their children or by themselves, which may change the way a brand wants to communicate with them and “show them they know them,” Degroote notes.

“We estimate that over 50 percent of listening via Connected Home devices is done in the company of others, which gives brands the opportunity to reach many listeners at once during a number of moments and occasions,” she adds. “Being able to serve a contextual message to a father playing with his kids on the weekend, or a couple hosting a dinner party for their old college friends on Saturday night provides marketers a great opportunity to reach consumers at key moments that create relevance for their products.”

For Edison’s Rosin, who notes he’s something of an outlier among digital assistant owners: he has one voice-activated device in his kitchen and one in his bedroom. Most people tend to have them in their living room. And that will have a significant affect in the experience that people expect from the media and ads they receive from these devices.

“There is plenty of evidence that most people are using these devices while they’re together, as opposed to being alone,” Rosin says. “Audio has been hot for awhile, and the combination of audio and shared interactivity, suggests that voice and listening is only going to become more central in the way people use computers.”

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Age of Amazon: Stores’ Lack Of Responsiveness Is A Prime Problem

Pretty much all brand marketers agree that “responsiveness: the ability to source, understand and then quickly react to feedback, preferences and needs” is crucial to the delivery of an exceptional customer experience as expectations driven by Amazon and the on-demand economy have shaped consumers’ views.

But all too few can say that their businesses can meet those expectations.

In a CMO Council survey of 153 senior marketing executives (54 percent of whom are CMOs), 90 percent concede responsiveness is important, if not critical, to attracting and retaining customers and maintaining competitive viability.

However, only 16 percent of marketers feel their organizations are extremely responsive to the consumer, failing to make changes to products, packaging, services and experiences based on real-time consumer requests and feedback.

Is Anyone There?

The CMO Council study, The Responsiveness Requirement: Meeting the Consumer When and Where It Matters to Drive Growth, was conducted with Danaher Corporation’s Product Identification Platform companies, examined the level of success (or lack thereof) when it comes to responding “in the moment,” whether it is a physical or digital touchpoint.

“Customers fully expect for brands to engage at the speed of light—after all, it is exceptional customer experiences from brands like Amazon and Starbucks that have proven that rapid response, personalization and real-time (or near real-time) omnichannel engagements are possible at the push of a button or click of an app,” said Liz Miller, SVP of Marketing for the CMO Council. “This is engagement at the speed of digital, and the customer expects a similar level of responsiveness across all experiences, regardless of whether the channel is physical or digital.”

In general marketers feel they are able to respond or react to consumer feedback, requests, suggestions or complaints specific to marketing campaigns in less than two weeks — which to app-centric consumers may feel like a lifetime.

For the most part, 78 percent of marketers surveyed are able to meet that expectation, with 43 percent actually saying that they are able to respond to the consumer within 24 hours, effectively setting the expectation with consumers that responsiveness is possible.

In those cases, the averages are skewed by online interactions, which are naturally immediate. When it comes to brick-and-mortars, though, that’s when the problems of immediacy show themselves.

About 77 percent of respondents admit it can take up to 90 days to respond and react to customer feedback, suggestions or issues, with 36 percent needing up to three months to respond. In other words, the equivalent of several lifetimes as far as consumers are concerned.

Source: CMO Council

Among the solutions the CMO Council is proposing to spur marketers to ramp up their level of responsiveness:

  • Starting strategic conversations internally to bring product packaging and physical touches like POP displays and promotions into the customer experience dialogue. This isn’t just about printing and getting packaging made; it must be discussed as a critical touch in a multi-touch, connected experience.
  • Setting the expectation that procurement must act as a strategic partner and not just a cost-cutter. Together, marketing and procurement must identify vendors that can meet responsiveness goals, not just budgetary ones.
  • Demanding transparency. Marketers need to develop supply chain relationships that provide continuous data streams with the intentional goal of total transparency across the supply chain to track everything from creative iteration and collaboration to works- in-progress.
  • Broadening the meaning of omnichannel to including everything from social posts to product packaging. It is time to bring physical and digital together, if for no other reason than this: The consumer thinks of us as one brand—not a physical brand and a digital one.

“With recent great advances in digital media delivery, unfortunately, the capability to make changes to physical media has been a laggard,” says Joakim Weidemanis, Group Executive and Vice President, Product Identification at Danaher Corporation. “Many people simply don’t know what’s possible until they decide it will be so. Advances in technology today allow business leaders to demand more speed, higher quality and greater transparency from their partners and vendors than ever before. Even more powerful for global brands is that such technology is available all over the world.”

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Amid Declining Ad Revenues, Twitter Aims To Prove Offline Sales Effectiveness

Twitter’s second quarter earnings last month revealed an interesting disconnect: on the plus side, advertising engagement grew 95 percent compared to the same period the year before; but ad revenue slipped 8 percent.

The competition for the ad dollars not claimed by the digital ad hegemons Facebook and Google is a problem all online publishers have to contend with. But Twitter’s ubiquity as a mainstream social media tool has put a spotlight on its challenges more than most companies, though Snap is starting to feel some heat as well.

eMarketer has forecast Twitter’s ad revenue will grow 1.6 percent this year, to $2.28 billion — driven by almost entirely — 90 percent — from mobile. By being so heavily mobile, the microblog hopes to capitalize on the kinds of micro-moments that have propelled spending on its online rivals.

To help make its case to marketers, Twitter has enlisted analytics partners Foursquare and Nielsen to make its case to brands, particularly when it comes to driving offline foot traffic and sales.

Among the stats Twitter is highlighting involves the sale of mobile devices at telcos’ brick-and-mortar locations.

“For carriers and manufacturers focused on generating in-store foot traffic, Twitter proves to be an effective partner,” Twitter says. “Research shows that Twitter not only drives in-store foot traffic, but it also compels buyers to spend more overall. In fact, people on Twitter are more likely to research a smartphone while in-store compared to those who don’t use Twitter.”

Specifically, Foursquare and Nielsen say that buyers spend 6.8 percent more with mobile wireless carriers after seeing ads on Twitter.

Nielsen and Foursquare’s research also offered analysis of the kinds of people who are more likely to make purchase in brick-and-mortar stores.

Twitter users tend to frequent big-box stores and budget-friendly travel locations, and their tastes include fast-casual food. While that sounds a lot like the general population, it does indicate the connections of when those brands should advertise. For example, in-store shoppers love sports — again, like pretty much everyone else — so brands can activate during major sporting events when people are the most engaged on Twitter.

“On Twitter, people are in a unique discovery mindset,” the report says. “They are curious, leaned in, and looking to learn, be inspired, and act. This means that because users are in the right mindset, people on Twitter are more likely to see and remember ads.

“Competition in the telco industry is fiercer than ever, and marketers need to make their ad dollars work harder,” Foursquare and Nielsen note. “Whether you are looking to drive offline sales, online sales, or both, people on Twitter are especially receptive to ads and motivated to buy. Brands that leverage customer insights to reach different audience segments based on their interests, passions, and behaviors on Twitter will be able to more thoughtfully and creatively reach and win customers.”

Of course, given that Twitter’s rivals recognize the micro-moments and user attention, Twitter will have to make a concerted effort to specifically target the brands who are considering how much to spread finite ad dollars around.

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What Do People Use Smart Speakers For?

Roughly 65 percent of people who own an Amazon Echo or Google Home can’t imagine to going back to the days before they had a smart speaker, and 42 percent of that group say the voice-activated devices have quickly become “essential” to their lives.

Still, it’s the earliest of “early days” for this Connected Intelligence technology, as a mere 7 percent of the population actually has a smart speaker in their home, a report by Edison Research commissioned by NPR suggests.

Given that smart speakers and the connected home are only starting to reach mainstream interest — and Apple’s first speaker, Homepod, isn’t even due to hit the market until December following its June preview —  it’s not surprising that just 7 percent of U.S. adults own one.

NPR’s Smart Audio Report was based upon a national online survey of 1,620 Americans ages 18 or over, including 15 in-home interviews in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Allentown, PA.

About 800 respondents indicated that they owned at least one Smart Speaker (160 Google Home, 709 Amazon Alexa-enabled, and 69 who owned both.) 820 respondents did not own a Smart Speaker device, and were “surveyed for comparative purposes.”

Amazon Prime Time

While Amazon Echo’s dominance of the space is no surprise, NPR’s report puts it in a bit more context: 82 percent of the smart speaker owners subscribe to Amazon Prime, the e-commerce’s giant’s discounted sales and shipping membership program; 44 percent of those surveyed who don’t own a smart speaker subscribe to Prime, indicating that Amazon Echo has plenty of room to go grow — as do its rivals.

It’s remarkable to gauge the speed with which voice-activation, although it’s been around popularly through Apple’s iOS assistant Siri debuted on the iPhone in 2011, Still, it’s one thing going from using Siri to open an app on a device, to using a digital assistant to book restaurant or hotel reservations.

In 2017, 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month for sudden rise of 128.9 percent over last year, says eMarketer.

At the moment, Amazon’s Echo device has a huge lead with a 70.6 percent of users in that space. Google Home, which only launched last October, will have to catch up as it has just 23.8 percent of the market.

Earlier this summer, a Raymond James survey of 500 consumers found that 14 percent of iPhone owners are interested in buying Apple’s Homepod. To put that into perspective, three years ago, when the Apple Watch was first announced, iPhone owners’ purchase intention of that product was only 6 percent.

Source: NPR and Edison Research

What Are Smart Speakers Used For?

In looking at over two dozen use cases, just 13 percent of smart speaker owners use their smart speakers to find a local business, according to an NPR survey.

Again, considering the relatively small penetration, and Amazon’s particular push to use Echo and its voice assistant Alexa to push products through Amazon Prime, that low number is not a surprise. As consumers get used to the idea of using their smart speakers to connect them with places in the physical world, that number will rise quickly.

 

While most of the people surveyed said they used their smart speakers to play music (68 percent) or check the weather (58 percent), most of the uses offer additional points of connection for brands.

For example, the calendar and appointments use case (23 percent) might allow OpenTable to make better restaurant suggestions through its existing Alexa skill.

“As these platforms where people are actually spending their time adapt, and allow you to stay within the platform more and more, that, to me, is [the future],” Birchbox CEO Katia Beauchamp recently told GeoMarketing‘s Lauryn Chamberlain.

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How Patrón Used Alexa And Foursquare To Expand Online-To-Offline Marketing

For spirits marketer Patrón, every day is “International Tequila Day.”

But to make sure consumers stay connected to the brand during and beyond, the company put artificial intelligence and location targeting to extend its reach from bar-to-home.

To promote its year-old Patrón Cocktail Lab, a cocktail recommendation engine that was launched online and apps, and its bot-tender that answers the questions of home mixologists, the liquor marketer turned to Foursquare, the location intelligence company, for targeted ads and unveiled “skills” for voice-activated digital assistants Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana.

For Adrian Parker, VP, Marketing at Patrón Spirits Company, the effort was about forging a direct relationship with existing and potential consumers.

“We migrated to the platform-based model that put the customer in the center,” Parker said, speaking at the Innovation Congress in New York earlier this month. “Most organizations don’t say the word ‘customer’ enough. They say ‘user’ or ‘purchaser.’ Think about Uber or Lyft, which created about 500,000 limos, or Airbnb, which has created 3 million hotel rooms. Think about Blue Apron, which has created 8 million chef’s tables.”

Patrón’s Adrian Parker at Innovation Congress

With that in mind, Could Patron Tequila create over 500,000 bars in kitchens across the U.S.?

“We think so,” Parker said. “So we started to think about making our conversations with consumers more meaningful. We started thinking about creating ‘experiences’ that we could deliver through automation and bots.”

Alexa Is Just The Beginning

To make the Patrón Cocktail Lab easier to use, Patrón became one of the first spirits brands to explore voice technology. By simply enabling the “Patrón skill” in the Alexa app on Amazon Alexa voice-enabled devices, including Amazon Echo, users can ask for cocktail recommendations, recipes and tips – everything from the perfect brunch recipe to the proper way to shake and strain a cocktail. Future voice platforms will follow.

“At Patrón we didn’t invent tequila, but we perfected it, and that includes our longstanding commitment to product and technological innovation,” said Lee Applbaum, Global CMO at Patrón Spirits. “Engaging voice communication is just another way that we’re creating simply perfect experiences for our consumers through the tools that we deliver and the tequila that we proudly handcraft. We are excited to be the first luxury spirit brand on the Amazon Alexa platform, which is really the start of a broader initiative that will leverage platforms like Alexa, Cortana, Siri, and future technologies to be able to more seamlessly deliver content to people when and how they want it. Alexa is just the beginning.”

As Parker explained, the decision to develop an Alexa skill, as well as ones from Google Home and Microsoft Cortana, was about answering the question of “how could we start to have these conversations in a way that was a little more meaningful?”

The answer was to “connect consumers to experiences” through chatbots and Connected Intelligence-based voice-activation.

“How do you even start to look into voice technology?” Parker told the InnoCon attendees of Patrón’s exploration. “How do we connect consumers in cocktail culture to behavioral analytics? It involves social intelligence and thinking of our brand as a platform.’

The Patrón Bot-Tender in action

From Static Experience To Connected Community

As brands explore the role for AI and voice as a part of their marketing programs, the central idea is to create a range of complementary and personalized use cases that reach customers at different points of their day and mindset.

For example, someone might be in one mindset at home, while another mindset might strike them as they leave work in the early evening. The idea is to continue the conversation through those stages and be ready when the consumer is.

“With Cocktail Lab as our leading ‘magic cocktail experience,’ we have consumers wanting to connect with bartenders, which is great,” Parker said. “We’re at the center of that equation, and it’s become a really new way for us to not only learn from our consumers, but use location and data intelligence to make sure they’re getting the right cocktail at the right time.”

The Cocktail Lab started as kind of a “static experience” pumping out recipes and eventually became  actually a connected community, Parker said.

Since it began, Patrón was able to attract over 270,000 users with 32,000 users interact over voice and had people engage with 110,000 bot messages.

While Parker wouldn’t reveal sales figures, he said that Patrón’s business saw “double-digit growth.”

Patrón’s Alexa skill extends its Cocktail Lab from its online site and mobile app to the voice-activated assistant.

Patrón-ing The Summer

The use of voice-activation in the home is also having an impact on Patrón’s social media and online advertising.

Throughout the summer, Patrón has been working to bring the brand’s Cocktail Lab to 30 different cities in the U.S. and U.K.

This Patrón The Summer tour is serving up drink recipes powered by local trends and Foursquare location data, Parker told GeoMarkting. The campaign launched over the Memorial Day weekend, and runs through Labor Day (Monday, September 4, 2017).

“The goal of the campaign is to educate consumers and spirits enthusiasts on the versatility of tequila, outside of just margaritas and shots,” Parker said. “This data helps us to curate unique content and bespoke recipes for targeted regions around the globe, that we know our consumers will love.”

Additionally, the cocktail recommendations are being distributed across Amazon Alexa, Google Home, as well as on a custom-built chatbot on Facebook and Twitter.

Additionally, the cocktail recommendations are being distributed across Amazon Alexa, Google Home and even a custom-built chatbot on Facebook and Twitter. Patrón will be launching on Microsoft Cortana soon.

“It’s really a tremendous undertaking championed by all of our agencies,” Patrón said in a statement. “We’re in the third year of a 5-year journey to re-imagine how spirits drinkers discover, create and consume drinks. While we’re focused on growing tequila’s share of consumer stomachs and wallets, we’re also accelerating our participation in emerging platforms like Virtual/Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence as ways to share our handcrafted production process.”

Patron The Summer map is based on Foursquare data

Putting Patrón On The Map

Patrón first worked with Foursquare in 2015 to run its first Pinpoint campaign around National Tequila Day, where we served in-app ad units promoting Patrón content guides.

“Foursquare was able to identify taste trends in over 100 markets by analyzing top flavors/tastes, cocktails, alcohol and venue preferences of 21-34 year olds in cities across the globe,” Parker said. “We also tapped top bartenders and mixologists to both create and evaluate each unique cocktail.”

For the Patrón the Summer campaign, the tequila brand tapped into Foursquare’s unique location-based taste database to uncover taste trends in more than 100 cities across the globe.

By using Pinpoint, the Foursquare ad technology, for custom rich-media ads across mobile and web to help target a core set of consumers and provide real-time recommendations, the reach goes beyond users of the City Guide app and platform.

Based on a key list of accounts identified by Patrón, Foursquare is also providing its Attribution technology to understand who has seen the targeted Patrón ads. The location intelligence provider can then measure the effectiveness of driving consumers to on- or off-premise locations where Patron is served or sold.

“One of the major benefits of the Foursquare Pinpoint technology, and what sets us apart, is that it is platform agnostic and reaches more than 150M devices,” a Foursquare rep told GeoMarketing. “Pinpoint is used to reach consumers outside of the Foursquare network based on where they go in the real world.”

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Will Voice-Activated Assistants Change Search Advertising?

With sales of voice-activated devices rising rapidly, marketers and platform companies face a big question: what will Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana mean for the search advertising?

In a panel moderated by The Drum’s Lisa Lacy, the question of Connected Intelligence-powered assistants and agents’ impact on SEO ads was put to a panel of executives who think about this daily: Purna Virji, Senior Bing Ads PPC Training Manager, Microsoft; Mike Grehan, CMO of Acronym and CEO SEMPO; Larry Kim, founder of Wordstream; Christina Connor, Global Product Lead, DoubleClick Search; and Duane Forrester, VP of industry insights at Yext (Full disclosure: Yext is GeoMarketing’s parent company. More details on that relationship here).

Distinctions Between Assistants And Agents

Understanding how people are using voice-activation is the first step, noted, Grehan, who cited a study that found 60 percent of voice queries are from people seeking a service, not search,

“When you look at the patterns that you go through, voice is about recommending and suggesting, and then you have discovery, and then you have all those keywords that are not being used to find something on the web,” Grehan said, at the panel event, The Drum Search Awards USA, which was hosted at the Yext offices in NYC.

Another point of distinction: understanding the differences between “agents” and “assistants.”

“Bill Gates did a paper where he talked about the difference between personal assistants and personal agents,” said Yext’s Forrester. “We’re all used to personal assistants, where you ask Cortana, ‘Get me an Uber’ and it opens the app and with one click, you’re ready to go. That’s versus the agent, which is actually empowered to take actions on your behalf. That fits in the world that Mike’s talking about, where it knows my affinity programs.”

Businesses are going to have to develop systems and skills they want to be a part of the “virtual conversation.”

“The way to participate is for a business to develop a ‘skill,’” said Bing Ads’s Virji. “To use the travel example, if Expedia had a skill that it creates for Cortana, I could talk to Cortana to book me a flight. I could say, ‘I’m going to Boston next week, can you get me a hotel?’ Expedia would know that the last time I stayed at a Hilton and ask me if I want to stay there again and if it wants to use the same credit card. Because Cortana is my agent, it can do all that activity in less than 60 seconds.”

The Future Of Advertising

A report from Forrester this past spring warned that it was high time for CMOs to face the facts that digital advertising has not worked when it comes to engaging consumers and that the emerging role of voice-activated digital assistants and the connected intelligence that powers the devices by Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft will lead to only further breakdown of traditional marketing models.

The report, The End Of Advertising As We Know It? by Forrester analysts James McQuivey and Keith Johnston, posits a “great unraveling” of advertising that’s coming with the new models taking as much as $2.9 billion away from display advertising in the next year.

Lacy put the question directly to Google DoubleClick’s Connor: Can search advertising even exist in this voice realm?

“The answer is ‘not yet.’ We’re still trying to figure out what voice search is like, what’s a good experience versus a bad experience, what kind of questions people are asking, and how that conversation evolves over time,” Connor responded.

Bing Ads’ Purna Virji and DoubleClick’s Christina Connor

“Until we get to the point where we understand how people engage with voice search for the long term,” Connor added. “Then, we’ll be able to take steps in terms of commercializing it. Until the art of voice search has been figured out, we won’t be able to fully commercialize it.”

Wordstream’s Kim interjected that this challenge is not exclusive to pay-per-click advertising.

“If what you’re saying that a voice is going to read out a direct answer to a person’s query, then that obliterates both paid and organic search. What you’re saying is that I’m just going to get one answer, instead of 10,” Kim said.

AsVirji cautioned, it’s impossible to predict what format voice-centric advertising will take. Kim was dubious that the marketing models would quickly disappear.

“I would imagine that Google would not want to destroy a $70 billion revenue stream,” Kim said. “So I would think there could be a ‘voice ad’ before the ‘voice answer.’ Would they want to list out 10 organic answers? Probably not. ‘We want to annoy our users by speaking three answers.’ I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Connor then suggested that the current cross-channel/multi-channel approach would naturally incorporate voice-activation and Connected Intelligence.

“We’re so used to thinking in single channel formats,” Connor said. “We’re talking about voice-to-voice right now. However, there’s also a conversation happening about cross-channel, cross-screen, the Internet of Things. What if you ask your Google Home a question and the response comes up on one of your screens? There are infinite possibilities for commercialization. You might ask a question and your Google Maps app pops up. Who knows where we’re going to be in two- to five years?”

Consumers Want Many Answers, Not Just One

For Kim, there’s still more doubt about marketers having to make any drastic changes when it comes to voice-activation.

“This is the Kool-Aid that I hear: you have to optimize for a gajillion long-tail queries for voice SEO,” Kim said. “Well, no, all these algorithms can infer the intent. So you don’t have to create a billion more keywords for every query.”

In Connor’s view, which emphasizes the notion as voice-to-voice operating within a range of connected marketing channels, when it comes to someone seeking a quick answer, voice will make traditional interruptive forms of advertising difficult, if not impossible.

But marketers can continue to count on the fact that consumers aren’t always going to want a single answer. They’ll always want choices.

“When you’re in the discovery phase — ‘show me my options for the best Thai restaurants within a three-block radius’ – I don’t just want one answer,” Connor said. :I want to be able to see all of them. I want see all the various price options for a hotel in Miami. You want to be able to visualize it as well.”

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Coors Light Taps Local Music Acts To Connect With Local Audiences

Coors Light is updating traditional radio ads by rolling out a promotion to highlight emerging and under-the-radar artists in 10 key cities across the U.S. as a way to reach streaming music fans.

The beer brand is working with Music Audience Exchange (MAX), a data science provider that maps specific audience tastes to a database of 765 genres, 2.4 million artists on streaming musical outlets like Pandora and Spotify.

The campaign, “My Climb. My Music,” is intended to promote artists, their music, and their stories on streaming services, top FM radio stations, and social media in Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Antonio and State College, PA.

The artists Coors Light is featuring in the campaign are from these local areas. Not only is Coors Light featuring the artist in a meaningful way, a MAX rep says, but they have a unique local component with the artist and an existing fan base. This offers a unique local lens and connection.

“By partnering with local musicians and celebrating their journeys, Coors Light is able to bring its brand values to life locally, while connecting with consumers through the passion point of music,” says Anne Pando, marketing manager at Coors Light.

Local Hip Hop act Crooked Stillo is participating in the local Coors Light promotion.

Coors Light says its goal is to shine a light on up-and-coming artists in these markets and be a part of their “climb” by providing a larger platform for them to share their music with the world.

The effort comes as a “renaissance” is occurring in the role of audio as a marketing tool, with interactive speakers and online streaming become more mainstream.

As J. Walter Thompson’s Elizabeth Cherian noted at last month’s Cannes Lions event, speaking and listening is the oldest means of conversation; the human mind is inherently designed for this type of interaction — far more than the artificial motion of swiping at a smartphone.

With that in mind, Coors Light and MAX have established 26 unique artist partnerships, “with many more to come,” the companies say.

“We’re thrilled to partner with a great brand like Coors Light,” says Carlos Diaz, Cofounder and CRO at MAX. “And it’s been so exciting to see the impact of Coors Light’s support for emerging artists. It’s been a win for the brand, artists and most importantly the fans.”

DJ Chose, a Houston-based artist, found his partnership with Coors Light to be beneficial for his career.

“Things are crazy now that Coors Light is backing me,” says DJ Chose. “I never thought I’d see the day I would have a beer supporting my brand! The campaign with Coors [Light] has my fans blowing me up on social media responding to Pandora and Spotify commercials. I’m receiving so many ‘I’m proud of you’ text messages…it’s overwhelming!”

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Travel Trends In The Twenty-Tens: What Marketers Need To Know

Back in 2009, the travel industry looked as though it needed a vacation of its own. Millions of families and businesses were hit by the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and the first kinds of budgets to be cut were those allotted for vacations. However, it’s been a while since then, and a lot has happened — people are finally letting loose a bit, and spending more on travel. In fact, if we check the travel industry growth between 2015 and 2016, we can see a staggering 46 million increase in the number of tourists worldwide [UNWTO World Tourism Barometer].

These are fantastic numbers and figures, but one might ask why? It seems that many people, 72 percent in fact, have come to grasps with the transitory and superficial nature of material objects. Instead, all signs point to people opting for the immaterial, and sometimes more profound, experience of travel. What’s driving this movement? On one hand, it’s a phenomenon sprouted from our social, interconnected lives and the illustrious “FOMO” that comes with it. On the other hand, it’s the virtual validation that individuals receive from posting about their experiences. In 2017, 55 percent of travelers said that they publicly posted holiday pictures from their respective trips to receive praise and validation amongst their peers , as opposed to taking photos for the sake of privately capturing memories from the destinations for  themselves. [Expedia Travel Survey]

Although these clearly suggest that social is at the heart of the modern travel experience, data is telling us more about the new mindset of travelers and what they’re prioritizing. Five big trends came from our research, all presenting valuable opportunities for travel, hospitality, and tourism brands.

 1.     Sustainable Tourism

71 percent of travelers plan to make eco-friendly choices in the next 12 months, in contrast to what was only 45 percent one year ago. In addition to this, 58 percent of travelers said their choices are affected by whether or not the hotel gives back to the local community, and 66 percent of global consumers prefer to buy products and services from brands that give back to society [TripAdvisor]. Why? It seems that in this age of political turmoil and ecological crisis, individuals support only the companies whose values are aligned with those of their own, especially when it comes to luxury purchases and consumerism. It’s in these particular cases that marketers must take social responsibility into account. By advertising the charitable aspects of the brands, you’re telling people why they should want your product, as well as why they should also feel good about buying it over the competition – a strategy that will be especially effective with millennial travelers. 

2.     The “Bucket List Effect”

75 percent of travelers say they’d like to visit travel destinations that none of their friends have visited before. Additionally, 80 percent of travelers expressed interest in escaping the usual tourist traps on their next holiday [Experiential Travel Survey]. It turns out that people enjoy having unique experiences they can claim as their own, as opposed to traveling to the same popularly visited destinations that will provide them with the same basic pictures that everybody else has in their photo-albums or social platforms. This means that people are always on the prowl for a trendy destination – giving marketers an opportunity to showcase “under-rated” locales which enable their ads to stand out more and drive curiosity; a powerful duo that can exponentially increase sales.

 3.     The Experience Connoisseurs

As we all should know by now, one thing that social media does best is bestow its users with an inflated sense of importance. We clearly see this when confronted with the fact that 70 percent of connected travelers see themselves as “experience connoisseurs”, and believe that their ambassadorship of places can reach new markets to influence others. They can believe what they want to believe; it’s better for us that way, because this mentality is what has been driving social media towards the center of the vacation experience. 40 percent of travelers use social media to store their memories from their holiday experience –  a strong sign that we should be targeting travelers, particularly those with a large influential following, via social media sites.

 4.     Airport Dwell time

The average Global airport dwell time is 137 minutes – a large chunk of time that’s essentially wasted for most people. It’s both our job, and an incredible opportunity, to create meaningful stimulation(s) in an often hectic and mind-numbing environment. One innovative solution recently carried out by New Zealand Tourism within the country’s airports was to roll out Wi-Fi and data services for foreign tourists so they could download content and information required for their airline travel. It goes without saying, the possibilities are endless when you factor your audiences and the locations/situations they may find themselves in!

 5.  Mobile-first

Finally, we arrive at the subject of mobile devices. More than 50 percent of travelers’ research, planning, and way-finding is performed solely on mobile devices [Amadeus]. This is a number that we shouldn’t be surprised to see, as trends indicate that these statistics will only continue to shoot upwards.  We should take this into account when we develop plans and strategies. Thanks to location services, many social applications and map services will have data to  tell you when a person is stationary or traveling out of town. Tapping into this data is crucial towards understanding and mapping the entire traveler’s journey, and further building upon the ways in which we can contextually drive transactions.

*Anne Lim is the global head of product strategy for Aviator Worldwide at WPP’s Kinetic agency.

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Why Audio Is Having A Renaissance

With voice-activated connected device usage having jumped 130 percent over the last year and over 50 percent of Millennials using voice commands at least once a month, voice and audio are having a moment — and marketers should take note.

In a panel at last week’s Innovation Congress execs from Mobiquity, WNYC, and more explained why audio is having such a renaissance.

“By its nature, audio is very engaging,” said Peter Weingard, CMO for WNYC radio. “It leaves a lot of information off of the palette that is otherwise given to you in, say, video. You have to fill in the blanks in your mind to imagine, ‘What is the scene here?’ for example. And the fact that your brain has to engage with that content — [and potentially] speak back to it — makes you much more engaged with it overall. So it’s a very powerful combination.”

As J. Walter Thompson’s Elizabeth Cherian stated at last month’s Cannes Lions event, speaking and listening is the oldest means of conversation; the human mind is inherently designed for this type of interaction — far more than the artificial motion of swiping at a smartphone. So, what can marketers do to engage with this natural behavior through consumers’ connected devices?

Going Hands-Free

The “Alexa, play my music” use case is fairly well established and understood when it comes to voice-activated devices. But panelists encouraged marketers to think farther outside the box when it comes to thinking about Alexa and Google Home skills: It’s crucial to ask the questions, “when might a consumer have their hands busy? When might voice or audio make the most sense to communicate with them?”

For example, Mobiquity launched an Alexa cooking skill for Nestle’s GoodNes brand as part of creating an engaging audio-first experience. Why? Well, it’s a bit difficult to swipe through on a smartphone while up to your elbows in flour.

“If you’re in the kitchen, your hands are busy, and maybe you’re pressed for time,” said Joel Evans, co-founder and VP at Mobiquity. “This made is so users [could actually] interact with it via voice. It takes you through all the different steps; You can ask, ‘Okay. What are my ingredients? What’s next?’

“We ended up creating a visual that aired with it [as well.] So you’ve got two different tracks. When [a user] enables the skill, they put their name and their email address in, and we could send a link — which, when opened on any web browser, becomes a companion digital experience. And the audio track itself actually changes because now it knows that you’ve got a visual guide going along with it. That’s something that’s been very successful for us.”

In other words, audio can be a key to engaging customers as they go about their daily lives in their homes. And what’s more, it can be an even stronger experience when paired with corresponding visuals. As Evans  put it, “we can think audio first — not audio only.”

And marketers, take note: By 2020, 50 percent of search in general will come from images and voice.

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Understanding Marketers Top ‘Pain Points’ When Using Geo-Data

About 38 percent of marketers say they have difficulty deriving context from the historical insights about consumers when using location data, a survey by Verve and Forrester have found.

At the same time, another 37 percent say they can’t achieve the expected “granularity” when attempting a geotargeting campaign. In Verve’s analysis, those findings suggest that brands are not able to take advantage of “the unique characteristics of mobile in the effort to maximize advertising value for the consumer.”

The study, Pursuing the Mobile Moment, was conducted in June and was based on an online survey of 203 “marketing decision makers” in organizations that spend $250 million or more annually on advertising in North America.

On the positive side, the idea of location marketing has clearly achieved mainstream marketing acceptance. About 74 percent of the advertisers surveyed say they appreciate location’s value in helping to craft and deliver more “relevant” ads, particularly when it comes to “micro-moments“— those on-the-go periods when a need to satisfy an impulse (coffee, a place to eat,) come up.

Additionally, nearly half the respondents value location data’s omnichannel usefulness in driving incremental in-store visits. But closing the gap between recognizing location’s importance and the ability to get the greatest ROI out of these marketing methods is something that the industry can’t simply ignore, says Julie Bernard, Verve’s CMO.

“It’s not enough to point to the successful outcomes that leading global brands are achieving with location-powered mobile marketing; we have to strive for even deeper insights into what advertisers across the spectrum of mobile-marketing maturity are experiencing,” says Bernard in a statement.

As Forrester concludes in its recommendations, understanding that the quality of location data depends on the source, and how it differs in accuracy, scale, and access, is the first step that brands and their agencies and vendors need to be clear on.

“Limiting these differences means asking a few questions,” Forrester says. “Where does the location data come from — for example, a first-party SDK, a publisher, and/or a beacon? How accurate is the data and how is it validated? What types of location tracking are available for gathering historical insights, cross-device tracking, measurement, and attribution?”

In terms of the discussions that brands, agencies, and location data providers need to have, Verve CEO Tom Kenney recently discussed the ways platform companies can build confidence and stability in their offerings.

“For location-powered leaders and their brand and publisher partners, the high king is the technology that we use to make all this data and media and expertise come together in a unified way. It’s this unification that drives real-world sales,” Kenney wrote in an contributed piece this past month. “It’s the platform. It’s the result of the engineering inventions that empower us to execute with accuracy, speed, and overall excellence as we create meaningful and responsive mobile moments for the consumer.”

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