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The importance of voice assistants in marketing: Over-hyped or crucial?

According to the main players in the space, the current installed base of virtual assistants now exceeds 1.5 billion devices worldwide. Previously, Google had reported that its assistant had reached one billion devices (mostly smartphones) and Apple have said that Siri has 500 million active users. In addition, Amazon has stated that they have sold more than 100 million Alexa-enabled Amazon Echo’s to date.

Many brands have already entered this space, finding creative ways to utilise the ‘new’ technology. Some examples include:

  • Tide, the US detergent brand, has created a voice app with step-by-step voice instructions on how to remove over 200 types of stains.
  • Dominos have an app that allows Amazon Echo users to order pizza, with a “fun and cheeky” AI, perfectly in line with their brand personality.
  • Frank Health Insurance has an app to help consumers with answers to health issues.
  • Spirits brand, Patron Tequila has come out with its ‘Cocktail Lab’ recipe library, which enables consumers to make their own concoctions via voice activation and an AI ‘bot-tender’.
  • Similarly, Johnnie Walker provides practical whisky tips and recommends using unique cocktail recipes.
  • Ocado released its app for Amazon’s Alexa to enable customers to add groceries to their shopping list by voice command.
  • Uber allows users to request a ride and receive real-time updates on their journey.

However, although the sales figures are impressive, are people actually using them? Is it worth the investment to expand into this space?

According to YouGov data (gathered in Jan 2019) reports that people mainly use smart speakers as talking radios and alarm clocks rather than for commercial use. The most common uses of smart speakers in the UK are:

  • 85% Playing music
  • 63% Asking general questions
  • 60% Setting alarms
  • 13% play games
  • 12% order products – no respondents said they would shop for higher value items (over £50) using voice search
  • 8% use Hive

Nielsen has reported similar figures across the USA.

All Response Media viewpoint

Considering how much time people spend using a voice assistant each day, it does not seem to be as much of a commercial opportunity, as sales figures or suppliers suggest. This is probably why the major providers of voice (Amazon, Google, Apple etc.) have previously focused on product ownership rather than revealing any usage stats.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t change the fact that voice is an exciting way to connect with our customers. Although usage is still quite limited, as the technology gets better and users become more comfortable with it, the willingness to use voice for more tasks and commercial intent will likely grow. Brands who do not plan to invest in voice risk will, therefore, get left behind.

Amazon has now rolled out Skill Blueprints, a free tool with thousands of templates that can be adapted to easily make a voice app without any coding needed – allowing brands to test the waters without having to make a huge investment.

We predict that we will see a large increase in brands branching out into connecting with their customers through voice in 2019.