2015 was widely known as the Year of Mobile. 2016 was the Year of Voice. Now, with the first quarter of 2017 drawing to a swift close, this year is shaping up to be the Year of Home Devices. Coming out of the 2016 holiday season, Amazon reported sales growth nine times that of 2015 for the Echo device. Also, according to Voice Labs, Google Home devices saw quadruple the growth of active home users in the post-holiday season. Home devices will continue to grow in popularity throughout 2017, and users’ expectations of the relevance and usefulness of content delivered thru these devices will climb.
Crafting a successful home device experience requires that brands take a more assistive, content-first approach to their marketing strategies. Creating content connection points with consumers through informative content (instead of focusing on strictly transactional interactions) will be a key pivot point this year and next. Building a strong relationship with the consumer will be vital, and the Internet of Things (IoT) will be the medium brands use to achieve these goals.
In a recent study published by BabyCenter and e-Marketer, parents of young children were asked, “What is the number one thing you want out of an IoT experience?” A resounding fifty-seven percent said, "Make my life easier." The equation is not complex here: build content and content experiences that help people, and you will gain their trust and loyalty.
And once you have established trust and loyalty, the transactional part of the relationship will emerge organically. Amazon already has the architecture to support this kind of content, and some skills (Alexa apps) include functionality that enables in-experience purchases. Google is already also testing a more transactional model with Google Express, a shopping experience that allows consumers to buy via voice and also receive delivery of their purchase. The transition in how consumers move from engaging to transacting with these technologies will take place naturally. It will all start with brands working to build content-connection experiences that help and/or inform consumers first. These experiences will build a foundation of trust and then consumers will become more comfortable making seamless purchases through these devices. This maturation of the consumer relationship will sometimes happen all in one engagement and sometimes require multiple interactions.
What Can Brands Do?
You can start your brand’s home device journey on a positive note by evaluating your current online content experiences and determining how those might translate into a helpful voice experience for consumers. Identify the everyday challenges your customers face and then look at how you could develop a content experience to help solve those problems. Solve a problem for a customer and you will solve customer retention for your brand. Surveys are another useful tool. Ask your current audience what they do to reach your brand? Do they feel your brand is helpful and offers informative experiences to help them? Do they use voice search? Are they big home device users? Would they engage more with your brand if you built a voice experience? Once you have assessed the above then you can begin to build a more foundational strategy around voice content.
Google Home Strategy
The general questions consumers ask are a great way to identify brand-related problems and how to solve them. For instance, when they ask for information related to your brand – such as, “What is variable APR?” or “What is your (brand) return policy?” – those are clues to the kinds of content you should explore. Building a voice content strategy and optimizing for Google Search will ensure you have a share of voice in the consumer home conversation. Once again, it’s critical to focus on building content to connect. Only from there will you be able to grow the relationship to a place, where consumers will transact naturally.
From the transaction standpoint, Google Express is another product to explore. Do you have accurate location data, inventory available, and logistics to support a home buying experience? Google Express is still in beta mode, however we predict it will become a more standard form of commerce experience, which Google will build into their home device. Brands will need to be ready to pivot to meet the home consumer need.
With Amazon Echo, there are two paths to pursue to meet the consumer content need, a direct news feed or an Alexa Voice Skill. A direct news feed connection points allow you to create and optimize, what Amazon Alexa calls “flash news briefing”, and share with consumers. iProspect is beginning to experiment with this for clients with its Subject Matter Expert (SME) Voice Content Team. This approach allows you to create a consumer connection point thru a unique news experience. The news briefing can deliver consumers morning or evening content. The news feed can offer consumers product news, promotions, or other interesting and helpful stories or tips from your brand. iProspect is currently in the process of building its own Amazon Echo voice news feed, as a way to share thought leadership content with customers and marketers via the Amazon Echo. iProspect has invested in this project, because we see this as an important part of the future of the consumer content journey and meeting the needs of that individual.
As a second and more complex content connection point, brands can build Alexa Skills (Echo apps). Alexa skills can be games, interactive features, and potentially buying experiences. For example, Dominos created an Alexa skill for buying a pizza with your voice, and Johnny Walker created one that provides “Whiskey 101” information and a proximity search to find a store near you to buy. In both these examples, the voice content experience not only delivered content, it delivered content that added value or helped with a specific and relevant need. It’s important to note that just building an Alexa skill is not enough. You need to deliver actual value. This point is driven home by the fact that only one third of all Alexa skills have earned a consumer review. Build something useful and keep it updated and people will come back to it.
In closing, Business Insider recently reported that businesses will spend six trillion dollars on IoT over the next three years. As home IoT and voice become the new content connection point in an already disruptive digital ecosystem, brands that build content to answer a need will be the ones that connect with consumers. Content connects, trust transacts. Brands will align internally and with their agency partners to meet this expectation by consumers or become obsolete, as we move from the Digital Economy to the Expectation Economy.