Over 60 Million People In The U.S. Will Use Voice-Enabled Assistants On A Monthly Basis This Year

Approximately 60.5 million of U.S. consumers will use voice-enabled assistants monthly or more often this year, according to an eMarketer forecast — and the heaviest usage occurs on voice-enabled speakers powered by these intelligent assistants, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home.

The fact that 65 percent of smart speaker owners use their smart speaker’s assistant daily or multiple times weekly isn’t surprising — and marketers are beginning to understand the importance of ensuring that their brand is represented when users ask their assistants to carry out tasks from “order dish soap on Amazon” to “call me a car.”

But more “novel” uses for the technology has yet to catch up to adoption as a whole, according to eMarketer’s research: Most of the skills and apps for smart speakers downloaded by consumers are not used again after two weeks.

Do Skills Work At All?

This isn’t to say that brands should explore the idea of creating skills for these devices: For example, to promote its year-old Patrón Cocktail Lab, Patron enabled its “Patrón skill” in the Alexa app on Amazon Alexa voice-enabled devices, allowing 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.

The liquor marketer launched the effort concurrently with turning to Foursquare for targeted ads — and while execs wouldn’t reveal sales figures, VP of marketing Adrian Parker said that Patrón’s business saw “double-digit growth.”

Additionally, even if such a skill isn’t widely used after two weeks, it can still generates value for the brand loyalists who stick with it — as well as showing that the brand has a presence on a platform that consumers are relying on to power more and more aspects of their daily lives.

That said, given current usage trends, marketers may do well to first focus their energy instead on improving their listings and data such that they show up in the knowledge graph. As consumers make more searches by voice expecting these kind of structured answers, the importance is only growing — and brands who prepare now will be ready for the next phase of connected intelligence.

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40 Percent Of Millennials Use Voice-Activated Assistants For Purchase Research

Approximately 40 percent of Millennials turn to voice-activated intelligent assistants like Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri and Google Assistant before making a purchase, according to Salesforce‘s 2017 Connected Shopper report — and a similar percentage say they turn to messaging apps and video chat for their customer service needs.

These findings reinforce what marketers should largely already know: There is no longer a linear consumer path to purchase — and in 2017, more devices are involved in the ultimate decision to buy something online (or in stores) than ever before.

And the research stage of buyer journeys isn’t the only one undergoing a digital revolution: “When buying products online, the No. 2 channel shoppers turn to, second only to traditional websites, is now a retailer’s mobile app. Social
media has also entered the top five channels for online purchasing,” the report states. What’s more, “millennials are more than three times as likely than their baby boomer elders to leverage video chat when making online purchases, and at least twice as likely to use social media, messaging apps, and SMS/text, among other emerging channels [like voice.]”

Marketers Prepare For Messenger, Voice

So, what does this mean for marketers? First, that prioritizing one-to-one communication via the interfaces customers are shifting to — here, namely messenger and voice-based means — is of critical importance.

As we’ve written before, this means that businesses should look to begin readying their underlying data layer for consumption by voice-activated assistants — making sure that they’re up to date on all SEO best practices, ensuring correct and current listings, and utilizing effective visuals — so that they’re discoverable whether searches are made by text, voice, or image.

“Bots, voice assistants, smart homes and other AI-informed communications are top of mind for nearly every retailer today,” said Amit Sharma, CEO of Narvar. “The technology innovation complicates what we already know — that customer communications are never one-size-fit-all.”

Secondly, there is a lot of potential for marketers to build relationships via text-based communication in messaging apps, particularly by using chatbots to answer the most popular consumer queries quickly and seamlessly — so long as they remain transparent about what the bot can do (and not do) as well as making the conversation as straightforward and relevant as possible.

In fact, “85 percent of consumer mobile time is spent in the top five apps,” said Stefanos Loukakos, Head of Messenger at Facebook, during an Advertising Week panel. “That’s why using Facebook messenger [or] Whatsapp can be a great way to [interact] and build business. But every experience has to be valuable — not only for the business, but for the user.”

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