It is often hard to see how new platforms and channels will shape consumer behavior while they are still in the rapid growth phase. Voice looks small compared to the web today the same way the web looked small in 1997-1998 compared to the newspaper business. New communication channels require scale to have an impact, but as they scale brands can’t afford to be absent. Why? Because their competitors are present and soaking up all of the consumer attention.
There are other reasons as well. Establishing voice SEO ranking now will be important. The need to engage with consumers to learn how to optimize for the new platform is also critical. Positioning your company for commerce and promotional opportunities is another driver. But, let’s first focus on why voice in 2018 looks a lot like web in 1998.
Consumer Adoption Curve is Faster Than Mobile & Internet
The chart above from Activate Forecast shows the adoption patterns of several popular consumer technologies. You can see that smart speakers are showing the fastest technology adoption in history. Just over one-third of U.S. consumers were on the internet in 1997 and the chart above projects about the same penetration for smart speakers sometime in 2018. However, voice assistant penetration will be much higher in 2018 due to access through smartphones, appliances and autos.
Edison Research suggests that 16% of US adults had smart speakers at the end of 2017. That is an audience of 39 million alone and will grow by more than 50% this year. Many more consumers will have access through smartphones. Somewhere between 15-19 million smart speakers were sold globally in Q4, with the majority purchased in the U.S. During the same period, Google Assistant became available to 400 million Android smartphone users. Many of those also in the U.S. In 1998, over 40% of US adults had internet access. In 2018, it is very likely over 40% of US adults will be users of voice assistants in some fashion. The numbers are getting big very quickly.
Why Brands Are Adding Voice to Their Omnichannel Strategy
Every brand must follow consumers to the popular channels for engagement. Voice is now a popular and widely used channel. Smart speakers broke the ice and are quickly becoming part of consumers daily habits. Edison Research found in 2017 that 42% of consumers believe smart speakers are now essential to their daily lives and 65% wouldn’t want to go back to life without them. However, it may be what consumers are doing with smart speakers that should intrigue brands most.
The Smart Audio Report from Edison Research and NPR in January 2018 showed that 22% of smart speaker owners had purchased a new item through a smart speaker, 22% had re-ordered an item from a previous purchase, and 29% had conducted pre-purchase research. Can brands afford to be absent from a growing channel that is already showing signs of being integral to purchase habits? Voice will be a popular addition to the omnichannel strategies for leading brands in 2018 for this reason alone.
How Do You Advertise and Engage Consumers Through Voice Assistants Today?
You may be aware that Amazon and Google currently prohibit advertising on Alexa and Google Assistant respectively. However, there are exceptions. Notably, there are no restrictions on brands building their own Alexa skill or Google Assistant app. These voice apps are ideal vehicles for promoting brands and engaging with consumers by voice.
For example, Apothic Wines has implemented a Google Assistant app that guides users through a “Flight Night” wine tasting of Apothic varietals. It also provides background information on each of the wines if consumers would like to learn more. What else does it do? It encourages consumers to purchase more than one bottle and different varietals of Apothic wines to take advantage of the wine tasting. Just as important, it can create a deeper connection between the consumer and the brand.
Each brand will have a different way to create engagement through voice. These voice app design choices will be driven by the brand’s positioning and target consumer profile. XAPP has launched over 700 Alexa skills and Google Assistant apps and we host and manage all of them for brands and media companies in the U.S. and internationally. That provides us with a rich trove of data and best practices that help our customers launch faster while learning and refining their branded voice experiences and voice SEO for maximum impact. Getting your voice app live early will pay voice SEO dividends now and solidify your position for long-term search visibility. If you would like to learn more about getting your brand on voice assistants to fill out your omnichannel marketing strategy, click here.