Winning Brands Will Be Both Heard and Seen

It’s a complex life for marketers.

The explosion in channels, platforms and media has left many marketers continually scratching their heads as to where to allocate budget and resource. And this complexity shows no sign of abating, due to the influx of voice-assisted technologies. Take smart home devices – we are told they will save us time, help us be more efficient and process transactions quicker – it seems like one is announced every other week.

An emerging trend with voice assisted home technologies is using them to shop. One research report suggests at least 22 per cent of consumers make a purchase via voice. This should be a wake-up call for marketers, as it represents another channel with which to reach a potential audience. That influx represents a shift in impetus for marketers, with more being placed on audio both as an input and output. Even though the smartphone has only relatively recently saturated the consumer base, some are making calls for marketers to prepare to advertise in a “screenless world”. The reason? Consumers’ increasingly shorter attention spans and the demise of physical interactions with our devices.

From a search perspective, this offers opportunity. It suggested that 25 per cent of consumers who own and engage with voice assistants have used it for purchases, although many think of voice search being a novelty and used sporadically (“Alexa, give me a recipe for spaghetti carbonara…”). However, the reality is that its use is becoming much more pervasive – 25 per cent of voice searches on Windows 10 take place on a desktop.

So, the decision is quite straightforward. Get ahead of the curve, forget screens and focus on voice, right? Wrong.

Visual stimulus remains one of the core cognitive functions to lock in memory and hence needs to remain an important part of marketing.

Firstly, getting a product to surface properly in voice search currently remains challenging.

Secondly, whilst there is no doubt that audio is becoming increasingly important, what’s for sure is that it is not ‘replacing’ screens. Visual stimulus remains one of the core cognitive functions to lock in memory and hence needs to remain an important part of marketing. As such, the brands that will win will be those that are both heard and seen.

With this in mind, the key to success will come through relevancy – engaging with the right content, in the right way, at the right time. Most of us would not mind being targeted via a voice assistant with product placement if the suggestion is relevant to us at that moment – this is where AI will play such a key role. Its ability to absorb information intelligently about users will enable marketers to serve the right ad and be critical to harnessing the potential offered by voice search.

Voice will grow to become an increasingly important role in the consumer journey and according to PwC, voice assistant users favour searching using voice commands (71%) over typing (29%). However, it is here to complement existing technologies, not replace them. The winning brands will be those that take a holistic view of the opportunity offered by voice as a bigger part of the digital ecosystem, coupled with AI’s capabilities. It’s not ‘just voice’, just yet.

Axel Steinman

VP EMEA at Bing Advertising Sales

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