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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BIA/Kelsey: Mobile Search Is Cannibalizing Desktop

The dominance of mobile and social is having a demonstrative impact on search, particularly at the local level, BIA/Kelsey’s latest local media marketplace forecast finds.

Local search on desktop devices will grow at a 5.7 percent CAGR. As more search activity takes place on mobile devices, mobile is cannibalizing search dollars from desktop.

As the use of Connected Intelligence via voice-activated assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Okay Google, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana continue to make the move into the mainstream, local search is only going to undergo greater upheaval. The changes wrought by mobile versus desktop will be mirrored by the shift from screen to speaking.

That said, the full impact of voice is still just gathering.

At the present, BIA/Kelsey’s report finds trends of past years fully ingrained in marketers’ spending patterns, as online/digital is projected to grow at 13.5 percent, from $44.2 billion in 2016 to $50.2 billion in 2017.

In comparison, traditional print and broadcast will combine for a decrease of 2.4 percent, falling from $101.1 billion in 2016 to $98.6 billion in 2017.

Overall, total local ad dollars in the U.S. to reach $148.8 billion in 2017, up from $145.2 billion this year, representing a growth rate of 2.4 percent.

“A range of factors will drive local ad revenues higher in 2017 and through the end of the next year,” said Mark Fratrik, SVP and chief economist at BIA/Kelsey. “An improving U.S. economy, increased spending by national brands in local media channels, extraordinary growth in mobile and social advertising, and the continued expansion and selection of online/digital advertising platforms. In fact, we are predicting that online/digital local ad share will exceed the share of print media by 2018.”

Online/digital revenues are generated by online companies that sell locally targeted advertising that includes display, search and classified/vertical advertising. The advertisements are sold by local pure-play online companies, national online companies offering geo-targeted advertising, and local traditional media groups’ online/digital efforts.

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Think With Google: 20 Percent Of Searches In The Google App Are Now By Voice

Over 20 percent of searches in the Google app are now made by voice, according to a recent report from Think With Google —  a statistic that reinforces the need for businesses to think about how their data will be consumed and discovered in the age of voice.

This increased reliance on voice isn’t surprising in light of related trends: Voice-activated device usage has climbed 130 percent over the past year, and over 50 percent of Millennial (18-34) use voice commands once a month or more. Still, the top takeaway of TWG’s “future of marketing” report is that, while consumers will continue to rely on their smartphones in “micro-moments” to decide where to go and what to buy, the means by which they will seek this assistance is evolving, “from typing on devices to speaking to them.”

The Right Answers

But as Google’s Ben Brown put it last month, while people are enthusiastically “interacting with more and more different voices in our lives, everything about how [marketers approach] voice-activated assistants is going to be centered around: It’s got to be user-friendly.”

In other words, businesses need to be able to provide the answers that people want when they make on-the-go searches via voice — meaning that the data people most often search for (hours, address, and more) needs to be listed accurately and be ready for consumption by “traditional” search engines and intelligent assistants alike. And given that for every online purchase resulting from a search Google sees multi-channel retailers receive an additional 400 in-store visits, this “new frontier” for SEO matters immensely for brick-and-mortars in particular.

“[This really is] like the new SEO,” J. Walter Thompson’s Elizabeth Cherian told GeoMarketing at Cannes Lions last month. “Brands [need to get their] underlying data layer ready for consumption by these devices.”

How? “They need to look first at the idea of algorithm optimization,” Cherian said. “The question [to start asking] is, how do you build into your product and services such as the voice assistant sees you as the best option?”

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Over 50 Percent Of Millennials Are Using Voice Commands At Least Once A Month

Over 50 percent of Millennial (18-34) use voice commands once a month or more, according to research from Mindshare and J. Walter Thompson, and Google has stated that a full 20 percent of searches on Android in the United States are now conducted by voice — meaning that brands need to think about voice search and commerce not as a distant eventuality, but as tidal wave sweeping the industry today.

At this week’s Cannes Lions event, J. Walter Thompson’s Elizabeth Cherian,  UK director of The Innovation Group, talked to GeoMarketing about why voice is more intuitive than text or swipe — and how brands can stay discoverable in the world of intelligent assistants.

Voice has just recently reached to point of viability. Per the findings in JWT and Mindshare’s recent ‘Speak Easy’ voice report, what is the state of voice and AI today? What do brands need to know?

Ultimately, there have been so many changes in artificial intelligence, and voice technology essentially fits under artificial intelligence. In particular, there is voice recognition; that’s when the computer takes in what you’re saying and turns it into text to one degree or another of accuracy. Right? Then there is natural language processing. Which is much more complicated, because that’s understanding intent — and there is more work to be done there, [but] we’re getting there.

Nonetheless, what’s incredible about voice recognition it is currently on par with human voice recognition. So, if you were writing down what I’m saying, you, on average, should have about 95 percent accuracy. That is exactly where [voice] AI is today. We’ve gotten there, and we’re quickly going to surpass that, and we’re going to be looking at something like 99 percent accuracy – which is all the difference in the world; that’s the difference between hardly ever using it and using it all the time.

So, what’s [important to know] is that this is happening now — and it’s going to be picking up even more quickly. In our report, we are already seeing, amongst our global respondents, that 37 percent of smartphone users are using [voice search or voice commands] at least once a month.

That’s a really healthy number, especially considering that in the UK, Alexa didn’t even hit our shores until the fall — so as a category, it is brand spanking new, and yet already we’re seeing [more than a third using it]. And [intelligent] voice assistants in particular are coming fast and furiously: It’s projected that there are going to be more on the planet than humans by 2021.

In your keynote at Cannes, you identify three of the major trends in consumers’ desires related to voice-activated connected devices. What are they? What are people looking for?

In [the report] we identify nine, but there are three of the nine that we’re really focusing on [talking about] today. People want voice assistants to: ease their cognitive load, help them as a ‘digital butler,’ and to create intimacy.

For the ‘digital butler,’ that just means that they want a useful service. Not just voice for voice sake — they want it to solve problems and they want it to be proactive. The more that technology gets smarter and is more effective, the more that productivity is going to be an expectation.

With easing the cognitive load, what we found is that a major reason for taking on voice technologies is how efficient it makes [users] feel; they talk about how more efficiently they can manage their daily lives. And this makes sense: We’re humans; we’re built to exchange information orally.

Swipe and text, on the other hand, are not intuitive. Actually, we thought, wouldn’t it be cool to test what’s happening in the brain when we’re using voice as apposed to text or swipe. Is it indeed easier, and could we prove this from a physiological point of view? We teamed up a company called Neuro Insight to hook 100 people up to devices called SST — they’re very much like EEG but more accurate and better measure of brain activity.

To sum up, when our respondents took in information by text [their brains] worked far harder than when they took information in by a voice. What the implications of that are is that humans follow the path of least resistance — it’s just in your nature. If you’re sitting there as a consumer and you have two ways of accessing information, ultimately, once you get used to it… you’re going to opt for voice over text because it’s easier.

So, are people actually transacting over their voice-activated devices? E.g. saying ‘Alexa, find me a sun dress’ and then purchasing it that way? Will we start to see more of that?

It’s slower, certainly. Especially through a device like Echo, right now, users are primarily listening to music, they’re asking questions. They might say, ‘send me an Uber to pick me up.’ Set an alarm.

But [the commerce element] is surely coming in terms of trying to get at what brands need to think about for the future. Really, right now, they need to think in terms of being discoverable.

53 percent of global smart phone users are excited by the prospect by their voice assistance anticipating their needs — making suggestions and even going so far as to take action, even buying something on their behalf. Like, if my [digital assistant] knows that Charmin is my favorite toilet paper brand and just orders it for me.

What works really well over voice is just one good answer. That’s scary for brands for the reason I just said: If someone loves Charmin, and the assistant knows that, how, as another brand do you get into that very loyal relationship just that keeps repeat purchasing your favorite toilet paper?

Right. How can brands approach this challenge?

What we are seeing is that there is a couple of options there. Firstly, could there be paid recommendation? Could you, as a brand, pay to have the voice assistant recommend your brand? Especially when there isn’t that bond already formed. It;s not the best option, it’s not maybe the cheapest option, but it is an option that theoretically a brand could pay to get to the top of the list.

But here’s what’s happening right now: Look at this idea of algorithm optimization. It’s like the new SEO; brands [need to get their] underlying data layer ready for consumption by these devices. The question is, how do you build into your product and services such as the voice assistance sees you as the best option? That’s something we think brands should be thinking about right now.

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Why Amazon Took Over Times Square With A 79-Foot Echo

Amazon has unveiled a billboard compete with a 79-foot-tall 3D replica of its Echo speaker in Times Square as part of a campaign to promote awareness for Amazon Music — and and subtly encourage users of its Alexa intelligent assistant to use more integrated Amazon services.

In addition to the 79-foot Echo — the largest installation by an advertiser in Times Square — the billboard reads, “Alexa, play the song that goes… ‘love is all you need.” Per Amazon, “our goal is to increase awareness for Amazon Music,” Josh Fein, head of partner and brand marketing for Amazon Music told AdWeek. “To highlight one of our unique and innovative Alexa voice features, the lyrics search functionality, we chose iconic lyrics that promoted positivity and togetherness through the power of music.”

Indeed, it’s possible that this lyric search functionality might cause more users to turn to Amazon Music to play tunes — after all, who can remember the song name every time? But it also displays a keen awareness that, as voice-activated searches continue to skyrocket, users often ask their Alexa-powered devices to play music from Apple music, Spotify, or other services. As interest in — and ownership of — connected devices of all stripes grows, Amazon is smart to draw a connection between the Amazon Echo and Amazon Music itself, even as the Echo’s functionality remains broad.

Times Square Takeover

There exists also, of course, the simple branding aspect of the installation. Much like when Snapchat did a Times Square takeover without geofilters, Amazon’s display simply aims to be different and to represent the tech giant’s rise to “connected intelligence” importance to both consumers and marketers.

And as OUTFRONT Media — which powered both the Snapchat and Amazon installations — said last year, “we can’t comment on the cost [of ads], but will say there’s incredible brand value in taking over one of the world’s most iconic, high-traffic locations,” Senese said. “OUTFRONT is proud to partner with Snapchat and other fast-growth companies [like Amazon] to provide a unique way to drive huge impact for their business.”

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Google And Amazon On The Connected Home: Services Have Staying Power

Voice-activated connected device usage is skyrocketing — but voice is just one modality in the world of connected intelligence, with image recognition and search beginning to play a vital role as well with the introduction of Amazon’s Echo Show.

In a panel discussion at last month’s CONNECTIONS conference in San Francisco, Ben Brown, Google Home & Wifi product lead and Dan Quigley, STO, senior manager for Alexa Smart Home, talked about the future of IA, visual interfaces, and why customer utility — and privacy — is issue number one. Below, excerpts from their conversation.

We’re reaching the tipping point with [intelligent assistants] and the connected home: All of these platforms in the home today. Are we going to see voice activated devices talking to each other in the future? How will this space evolve?

Ben Brown: Yes, I think it’s possible. I do think there’s definitely a desire for it, especially as we are interacting with more and more different voices in our lives.

But everything about how voice-activated assistants [talk to users or to each other] is going to be centered around: It’s got to be user-friendly, and it’s got to be an experience that can truly benefit the user. It can’t just be because an internet service provider feels the opportunity to aggregate. That doesn’t necessarily offer value unless it actually is something that someone really wants to have.

We’ve seen this in mobile phones and with mobile operating systems before: People may want to interact with multiple different devices [from different providers] in their lives, but you tend to build an affinity towards certain things over time. That will probably happen here, with [consumers choosing] Google Home, or Amazon Echo, or Microsoft, et cetera. And then purchasing [other items or smart devices] that connect to them.

Anyway, that’s why we’re all really interested in this right now. We’re all working our tails off to try to make great experiences, because it’s a pretty sticky relationship. I think we’re going to start to see that. Services have staying power.

Dan Quigley: Again, like I said, we’re at day one here in this field of experiences. By focusing on the customer and understanding what they want and listening to them, that’s how we’re going to advance the system. Think about what mobile phones were like when we first got them, and what a transformation that has been: Ten years from now, it’s going to be a very different world. A very different experience, but it is going to be driven by these [connected devices.]

I would love to have Google, Cortana, and Alexa duke it out. Let’s have a wheel-of-fortune style game-type thing. [Laughs.] I think it ultimately is going to come down to the consumer choice. At the end of the day, they’re the ones that are going to make the decision. A lot of it is going to be based on the trust that gets earned by our companies to support them and pay attention to issues that concern them on privacy.

Dan, the Echo Show just launched. Why was it developed, and where do you see the future going in that respect?

Dan: Voice is just one modality. It has crossed the threshold of being a viable modality now — in that it’s viable in day to day interactions — but there are still certain situations where [visual interfaces] are more appropriate. For example, when I go to bed at night, the last thing my wife would like to hear me loudly say, “Alexa turn off the bathroom light.”

What is part of seeing the future in the “crystal ball” here, though, is that you need look at the technologies that are behind the development of the “do what I need, not what I say” attitude.  Adding a screen to Echo or putting a camera in your closet to judge how you look — it [seemed] intuitive, natural. Again, I think it’s a consumer choice.

Ben, what’s your take from the Google perspective?

Ben: I would just say, I think we’re all approaching this in a way of just trying to have authenticity and interaction. I think that in the home specifically, it’s such a private space that everyone is trying to be super thoughtful about kind of the interactions that we bring forward.

When we start to bring in other modalities, it’s got to add a lot of value. I actually really like the way [personal assistants] are positioned because it’s actually very focused on saying, “I’m going to help you with that.” I think that’s a really intelligent way of saying, “no, this is not about being the all-seeing, all-watching eye in the room. This is very much about being able to help you in a specific use case.” And visual interfaces, visual [search] — it’s very much part of that future.

I think that’s the way we just have to approach it, which is as we do things, we just do them super thoughtfully. It adds a lot of value. I agree with you, I think it’s important that we all do that very effectively. And take privacy and security really seriously — because if any one of us messes that up, then it messes it up for everyone.

 

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Via Partners With The New York Times For Location-Based Subscription Promo

On-demand ride sharing app Via has partnered with The New York Times to give riders complimentary eight-week digital subscriptions of the paper to riders in New York who purchase a monthly “ViaPass,” letting them catch up on the news during their daily commute rides — a bid to help both entities boost exposure and discovery on mobile.

This isn’t the first time Via has partnered with digital or physical businesses in a bid to compete with the larger-scale Uber Pool and Lyft Line. But while the benefit of the promotion for riders is clear, it’s a reminder of the fact that businesses of all stripes need to do more in order to stay top-of-mind in the age of intelligent search.

On-Demand In The World Of Intelligent Assistants

While the nature of Via’s app and the NYT’s mobile subscription model give this effort a digital bent, promotions of this type are as old as advertising itself. But why is it more important than ever for brands to make a memorable impact in order to get discovered today?

As SessionM CRO Bill Clifford put it last month, “voice, AI, and platforms like Amazon Alexa or Google Home present a pretty interesting challenge. If I’m in my house and I just say, ‘Hey Google, order me a pizza,’ it’s really up to Google what they come back with. So the platforms have more and more control for operating this invisible storefront that’s driven by an algorithm. Brands need to [figure out] how they’re going to deal with that.”

In the case of on-demand ride apps like Via, that means getting customers to say “call me a Via” or “download Via” to their connected devices — rather than simply “call me a car.” In other words, as search and discovery become even more deeply tied to voice (and AI), brands of all stripes must think about how to make sure that customers ask for them when given the chance — meaning that providing personalized offers or experiences that improve the user experience are more important than ever.

“This is just a new storefront, and we don’t see it. So I think the point is, it becomes increasingly important and integral for a brand to create a direct relationship,” Clifford concluded — and while it remains to be seen if Via’s NYT partnership drives adoption, promotions that integrate digital touch points can be one integral part of that. “It’s a lasting, ongoing engagement, so that when you do ask Google, that brand is top of mind — and you’re giving the consumer control, not the robots.”

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Think With Google: Customers Want Brands To ‘Know Them Better’ Across Devices

53 percent of consumers will abandon a mobile site that takes more than three seconds to load, and 89 percent of U.S. marketers report that personalization on responsive mobile apps and websites has increased their revenue — hardly a surprise considering Think With Google’s report on the three trends shaping the future of mobile and connectivity, which sees customers asking brands to “help me faster, know me better, and wow me everywhere” with immersive experiences.

Immediacy has always been key to serving consumers on mobile, but with the advent of intelligent assistants like Amazon Alexa and Okay Google — which can answer voice queries instantly and get ‘smarter’ about their users over time — the bar for both speed and personalization across all devices has been raised even higher.

So, how can marketers deliver?

Get To Know Me

By now, marketers know that customized content is key to engaging consumers across devices. That said, it bears repeating that “personalization is a strategy, not a feature,” as TWG’s report states. “We have an opportunity to be smarter with data, using important signals about customers—such as browsing behavior or CRM data—to shape their experiences.”

As an example, TWG cites a recent Maybelline campaign: The brand was preparing to launch new products for a type of makeup application, contouring, and it used Google Insights to make “how-to” videos, which were then personalized by customer intent, demographic, and more. The result? Maybelline’s videos racked up a reported nine million views.

Don’t Forget About New Devices

Essentially, consumers are, at the base level, looking to be recognized for who they are by their favorite brands — regardless of device.

63 percent of people expect brands to deliver a “consistent experience” every time they interact. For marketers who have been paying attention to lessons learned from experiments in omnichannel, this stat should come as no surprise — but marketers now need to take this lesson and incorporate it when it comes to a new suite of devices and touch points. Anymore, it’s not just about synchronization across mobile, tablet, and desktop; as usage continues to skyrocket, connected assistants (Amazon Echo, Google Home, Microsoft Cortana) and IoT devices matter just as much.

“As consumer behaviors shift, it will be important to rethink the investments we make in the user experience,” TWG’s report concludes. “Removing friction and bridging the gaps between channels — all while treating each customer as a unique individual — will be key.”

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