Amazon's Alexa is making it convenient to order generic products — and it poses a huge threat to brands and advertisersAugust 7, 2018
- Some major brands are in danger of being ignored as more people begin shopping using voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa.
- A new report from the ad agency Digitas found that 85% of consumers have picked the default product result — rather than asking for a specific brand — when conducting a voice search.
- Marketers need to train people to use voice search, much like they did with websites in the 1990s, the report says.
A whole bunch of brands better find their voice quickly — or risk getting wiped off the map.
That’s the dire assessment of a new report from the Publicis-owned ad agency Digitas, which finds that as more Americans use digital voice assistants like the Amazon Echo and Google Home to shop, the less inclined they will be to pick specific brands.
So brands need to start training people to voice their preferences, fast.
Digitas’ report, “A Brand’s Guide To Taking Control in a Voice-Driven World,” found that 85% of consumers surveyed have selected the default option when conducting a voice shopping search rather than picking a brand.
In other words, as people talk to Alexa or Google Home or Apple’s new HomePod to buy things, they’re increasingly using generic terms like “batteries” or “diapers” or “paper towels,” and just going with the first result the device offers up.
Here are some of the product categories people say they’re using these devices to shop for, according to Digitas:
- Personal Care/Wellness Products (39%)
- Beauty Supplies (38%)
- Small Home Appliances (35%)
- Clothing/Accessories (34%)
- Technology/Consumer Electronics (33%)
- Sporting Goods (33%)
- Large Home Appliances (25%)
That’s bad news if you sell those kinds of products. “They are worried,” said Brett Leary, Digitas’ SVP and commerce innovation lead.
There’s no guarantee that millions of Americans are ready to graduate from primarily asking their home assistants about the weather to shopping for everyday items using just their voice, of course. The Information reported that voice commerce has yet to catch on in a big way, for example.
Plus, during its most recent earnings report, Amazon hinted that marketing digital services may be a nearer term opportunity over shopping for goods, as my colleague Dennis Green reported. And agencies like Digitas are motivated to promote research that indicates how seriously brands need to take the voice opportunity, since agencies are touting their own ability to help.
“Brands’ biggest concern is, ‘How do I make sure I’m not being substituted for Amazon?’ said Ryan MacInnis, director of marketing at Voysis, an AI voice platform that works with marketers. “Nike’s not worried about people just asking for ‘shoes,’ but for home basics kind of stuff it’s a worry. And you can’t see behind the curtain.”
Right now, voice search is a black box for most brands
“[Voice] algorithms are driving a wedge between brands and consumers in the form of a preferred option,” reads Digitas’ report. “The option first presented to shoppers … often isn’t the brand initially requested by the user.”
What can brands do? “There’s a challenge in understanding Google and Amazon algorithms. It’s a murky science at best,” Leary said.
These tech companies aren’t about to invite brands in to see how voice search works, so marketers need to take a different tact, said Leary. Basically, they need to start training people to use specific brand names when conducting voice searches in their ads, he argued.
Brand loyalty is at risk with voiceDigitas
Leary likened this plan to the late 1990s and early 2000s, when marketers started prominently featuring their URLs and/or specific AOL keywords in their TV ads.
Millennials are less brand loyal using voice searchesDigitas
Leary said that marketers should also start working with tech companies like Voysis to integrate voice searches into their own websites and apps.
Voice plus screens may be the way forward for some marketers
Some categories, like retail, may need to urge consumers to coordinate voice searches with screen searches, either via laptops, phones, or eventually screens built into home assistants, Leary said.
In fact, according to Digitas research, 78% of Americans say they’d be likely to scroll multiple products during a voice search if they were also using an accompanying screen.
Brands like Target are already trying this tactic, using voice commands to drive people to shop on their mobile phones, added MacInnis.
He said the biggest mistake marketers can make is stand pat while the rules of voice shopping are being established.
“In a world where brand maybe doesn’t matter, they need some sort of strategy,” he said. “The worst move to make is not doing anything at all.”