Accenture: Stand-Alone Digital Voice Assistants Are Taking Consumers Away From Smartphones

Just as marketers have widely adopted a “mobile-centric” approach to reaching consumers, people who own in-home digital voice assistant devices like an Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod are using their smartphones less often for entertainment and online purchasing, according to a survey from Accenture.

Digital voice assistant devices – powered by artificial intelligence, Connected Intelligence, and Natural Language Processing  – have been primarily used for playing music, turning the heat and lights on and off, as well as providing news, weather, and sports scores. But as these devices become more mainstream, they’re starting to impact shopping activity.

Accenture’s online survey of 21,000 consumers in 19 countries during Oct./Nov. 2017 for its report, Time to Navigate the Super Myway: Giving Consumers Exactly What They’re Looking For, indicates that two-thirds (66 percent) of consumers who own digital voice assistants use their smartphones for fewer applications in the home since acquiring a connected home device.

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of these owners said they use their smartphones less for entertainment — and more than half use them less for online purchasing and general information searches (58 percent and 56 percent, respectively).

“Digital voice assistant devices are challenging smartphones as the central hub for all activities in the home,” said David Sovie, global managing director of Accenture’s High Tech business. “These low-cost devices deliver valuable and practical benefits and are relatively easy to use, and their rapidly growing popularity is one of the most striking trends in the high-tech industry.”

Source: Accenture

Accenture’s survey also buttresses previous studies’ projections that that ownership levels of digital voice assistant devices are projected to more than double in 2018, reaching 39 percent of the online population in India, 37 percent in the United States, 34 percent in Brazil, 33 percent in China, 26 percent in Germany, and 24 percent in the United Kingdom.

In terms of what’s driving those purchases, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents said they are either using or interested in using a digital voice assistant device, with the vast majority (94 percent) of current users either satisfied or very satisfied with these products.

“Consumers are embracing the blended experiences that voice- enablement provides,” the Accenture report states. “Soon consumer interest will shift from new form factors to connected, live intelligence and success will pivot on how well companies create and sustain engaging blended experiences. Integrating natural language processing will be a key imperative for the developer ecosystem such that video, voice and various other interfaces work seamlessly together at home and on the go.”

Just as mobile search has cannibalized desktop search, the rise of voice-activated connected home devices will force brands to figure out new ways to ensure discovery by the consumers they want to reach, Yext VP of Industry Insights Duane Forrester has noted[Full disclosure: Yext owns GeoMarketing. More details on that relationship here]

“Marketers… have to adopt that long-tail, conversational phrase approach to targeting what to produce content around,” Forrester has said. “You do need to build the detailed answers. You have to think about this in terms of the common and uncommon questions that are related to your product and services. Let’s use an example: If a person buys a ‘red widget,’ inevitably, they’re going to need a widget polishing cloth, and you sell a widget polishing cloth. Well, that means you have to talk about red widgets. That’s an easy win for you.”

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1-800-Flowers CEO Chris McCann At NRF: Voice Is The UI Of The Future

There is a “fifth way of change” in technology that is transforming retail discovery and shopping, Chris McCann, president and CEO of 1-800-Flowers, told the audience at the NRF Big Show this week.

The change he referred to is the role of Connected Intelligence and voice activation and digital assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Okay Google in spurring what he calls “conversational marketing,” And for 1-800-Flowers, it represents coming full circle.

In terms of outlining the path to voice search and conversational marketing, McCann pointed to three periods that have spanned 1-800-Flowers’ retail existence since it opened its first outlet in 1976: first there was the retail store, followed by the use of telephone delivery to bypass walking into a brick-and-mortar location.

The third wave was the web, and McCann touted 1-800-Flowers as opening one of the first e-commerce features on AOL in the 1990s.

The fourth wave of retail change is represented by the impact of mobile and social media and 1-800-Flowers reacted to that by being one of the first brands to launch artificial intelligence-powered bots on Facebook Messenger that allowed customers to transact through that heavily mobile social channel.

“As we all know, the customer is always in charge,” McCann said from the podium. “And it’s the customers who are leading us into these new technologies. It’s not us looking at the technology and saying, ‘We need to get involved in it.’”

1-800-Flowers’ AI-powered concierge.

Retail Tech’s Tipping Point

1-800-Flowers could also lay claim to be one of the first store brands to launch a voice-based application on Amazon’s Alexa platform. The idea was to get involved early and learn right along with its customers, McCann said, noting that company was fortunate that Amazon chose to feature 1-800-Flowers in one of its commercials promoting the Echo and Alexa.

“I think we’re at a tipping point, as technology companies like IBM, Google, Apple, and others that are developing these capabilities at ground breaking speeds,” McCann said. “And so it’s wise, based on the culture of our company. Why, back in 2016, we saw this world emerging and though it’s time to get involved as early as we possibly can.

“When we launched our bot, we were one of the first companies who were launching fully transactional bots in Facebook Messenger platform,” he said. “And why did we do that? Because they have over a billion active Messenger users. That’s where the consumer is choosing to spend time. They’re not necessarily coming to our website. They want to transact with us in Messenger. And we were fortunate that Mark Zuckerberg featured us in his F8 Conference that year, when they really announced Facebook’s personalized time bots.”

Two weeks after that, 1-800-Flowers debuted its own AI-powered concierge built on IBM’s Watson capabilities called “GWYN” (“Great acronym,” McCann said, saying it stands for “Gifts When You Need.”) Alexa is there to help with the top of the customer experience, such as helping to choosing the right product, for the right customer, for the right occasion, for the right time.”

Speeding Tickets Are Better Than Parking Tickets

In explaining 1-800-Flowers’ approach and philosophy about new technologies, McCann emphasized that mistakes do happen, but that it’s better to fail fast rather than move cautiously, since other brands will surpass you.

“We’re feeling the pressure to go even faster and faster, because I think mass adoption of these conversational commerce technologies is happening at a speed much faster than anything else we saw,” he said. “We think that mass adoption of these capabilities is happening in a span of about 18 months, so to stay in sync with our consumers we urge the people in our company, all of our team members, to get speeding tickets, not parking tickets.”

And so, with voice activation, 1-800-Flowers is back to where it started with taking telephone orders. “It all comes back to voice.”

“Our company a couple of years from now will look radically different than it does today, on how we interact and how we engage with our customers,” McCann said. “We’re leveraging AI technologies to deliver more personalized customer experience.

“We’re continuing to move the needle forward there. Voice is the UI of the future. You see studies now that show that Google’s voice recognition is at 95 percent or better on a better recognition rate. And with those technologies behind our marketing, we believe we’re in the midst of another transformation of our company.”

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The Majority Of Amazon And Google Smart Speaker Owners Will Buy Another

Over two-thirds of consumers who currently own an Amazon Echo or Google Home plan to buy another device in the next six months — and 75 percent of Amazon Echo owners and 69 percent of Google Home owners will purchase the same brand again, according to new research from Strategy Analytics.

This degree of loyalty may suggest that consumers are highly satisfied with the voice-activated devices they’ve chosen — or it could be simply a “recognition that the technical platforms are different and that switching would involve unwanted complexity,” the report states. But in either case, these findings indicate substantial consumer loyalty to one brand alone.

Loyalty Lock-In

These findings provide two important takeaways for marketers: First, that the first device a consumer purchases and brings into their home is highly likely to set up a long term relationship that won’t be easily penetrated — something that’s key for Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and any other upstarts to keep in mind.

And, more importantly, marketers need to gain a deeper understanding of which consumers are flocking to which platforms — and how they can reach them.

Think about it: If there are “Amazon Alexa” households that rely only on Amazon devices versus Google Home households, marketers need to understand who these consumers are — and if there are any notable patterns, demographic or otherwise, in terms of which people are choosing which devices at the outset.

If, for example, a greater number of Millennial parents are proven to have purchased an Amazon Echo, it might make more sense for a company like Pampers to build out an Alexa skill first, rather than a Google Home skill. Essentially, as voice-activated smart speakers continue to proliferate, marketers need to improve their use of them as a conversational tool — and that starts with understanding who is loyal to which devices and when they use them.

In any case, it does pay for marketers to focus their attentions on commuting with consumers via the “big four” platforms: “The early runners in the fast-growing smart speaker market look set to dominate for some time,” said David Mercer, author of the report. “High customer satisfaction levels and the possibility of platform ‘lock-in’ will make it challenging for competitor platforms to carve out significant market share in the near term.”

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Amazon’s Dave Isbitski: With Voice-Enabled ‘Everything,’ Brands Must Get Back To Conversational Basics

With the rise of machine learning and cloud computing to fuel innovation, natural language conversations with AI have become an everyday reality — but even voice-activated intelligent assistants become a major factor in consumers lives, brands’ sense of how to approach them as a marketing vehicle is still in its infancy.

But “every industry can [add] value based on just having a conversation,” explains Dave Isbitski, Chief Evangelist for Alexa and Echo at Amazon. And while the technology that consumers are using to power nearly every aspect of their lives has indeed evolved, “it’s still almost like what’s old is new. We’re going to back to just having a conversation.”

Following a keynote at Yext’s ONWARD conference in November entitled Voice-Enabled Everything, Isbitski talked to GeoMarketing about the reality of marketing through conversation — and the next phase of the mass transition to voice. (Full disclosure: Yext owns GeoMarketing. More details on our relationship here.)

GeoMarketing: Amazon Echo products and the Alexa assistant have become so mainstream. But do brands have a sense of how to approach using Alexa as a marketing vehicle? What’s the top question that you get from brands about how they should use Alexa as opposed to just what people are used to (i.e., text and type)?

 Dave Isbitski: The bigger question that most brands are asking themselves, and that everybody’s coming to, is, “What does it mean to be conversational?”

In terms of digital marketing, we’ve had technology, we’ve had these screens, for a long time. But now, it’s almost like what’s old is new. We’re going to back to just having a conversation. And so, a lot of brands have conversations with customers through their support centers. But those calls sometimes have a tendency to show what the technology couldn’t solve.

So another question brands should be asking: “What’s actually working with my technology today?”

What I start to see is brands will have everyone at the table. It will be, “What kind of calls are we getting from customers in our support center? What are we hearing that’s actually working? What are our reviews in our mobile app – what do people like about our mobile app?”

After that, the questions become, “What do we want to provide? What’s in our specific industry? Where can you do value?”

Because, every industry can do value based on just having a conversation.

What other trends are influencing brands in this new era of artificial intelligent-powered marketing and assistants?

The other thing that I’ve seen is chatbots. Brands who have done chatbots have started to reach that state where they can be more informal with a customer, versus trying to go through what I call “on-ramps.”

You have these on-ramps: “This is how you get to ask a question,” versus “Ask a question,” which a chatbot will give you.

If a brand has started with chatbots, and they’ve experienced that informal conversation, and they’ve seen that customer questions get resolved — which usually, they do — you start to see that expanding their marketing strategy.

Then voice conversation is a smoother transition. What you’re doing is, you’re creating this contract of the types of questions that are going to be asked.

How so?

You can take that data you have from your chatbot. Sometimes the training questions are the same. We have that at Amazon, we have Lex, which is a service through AWS. [Amazon Lex is an AWS service for building conversational interfaces into applications using voice and text].

In fact, with Lex, you can actually take the utterances and intents you’ve built, and create an Alexa skill.

What other issues are brands having to deal with in the transition to voice?

When I was talking about the on-ramps, the worst thing you can do, and I have seen this happen, is to say, “We’ve got a mobile app, this is the parameters through my service that my mobile app calls, therefore I’m going to ask those as questions.”

That’s not conversation. People will know that right away. They’re like, “This is just a back and forth, this is the IVR system. I might as well just hit the buttons on the keyboard. That’s not how conversation works.

You spend most of the time thinking about having a conversation with your customer. So, I guess the bigger question that you’re asking is more about, “What’s the starting point for this?”

Because there are over 25,000 skills, what I tell a lot of people is, “If you’re thinking you’re going to do a finance skill, for example, we’ll see what Amazon customers are saying in reviews, because there’s real data there.” You know what your customers are telling you.

But if you’re looking for voice experience, we share all that in reviews, so you could actually go through, and you could data-mine all that and say, “You know what, I consistently see people are saying this. This one’s got four stars.”

All of that is publicly available. And we saw that in the mobile space, too. If you were going to enter an area, you looked at what was getting to the top of the charts. and the question was always, “How could you create more value on top of that?” And that’s what every brand constantly has to consider.

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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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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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