The future is here and it has taken the form of Amazon’s Echo, a combination wireless speaker, virtual assistant, and smarthome hub. What makes the Echo feel like a prop out of the Jetsons is not just its innovative hardware — Amazon has essentially created an entirely new category — but rather several new opportunities for a range of services and products. It’s no surprise that The New York Timesgave it a rave review.
With Echo, stating the command, “Alexa,” opens the doors to myriad commands and functionality — from hearing the news or weather to controlling any number of connected smarthome devices to ordering an Uber or Domino’s pizza. The possibilities are seemingly endless. And because it’s designed to be used primarily in the home or kitchen, CPG brands have plenty of opportunity to capitalize on Echo. Here are a few:
Demonstrate that restocking is a breeze
Amazon has already put its focus on automated replenishment services with “Dash," its branded ordering buttons. The Echo makes this even easier for consumers by removing the physical button. Run out of Doritos or Dasani water bottles? Just ask Alexa to add them to your Prime cart and they’ll be delivered.
While there isn’t much brands can do to actually influence interaction with the Echo, they can dedicate communications to educating their consumers. Without interactions taking place in-store at the shelf, a brand can’t really influence shoppers to add a given product to their cart. But by creating dedicated social media posts, content that comes along with a delivery, or display advertising on Amazon’s website, CPG brands are still able to get their message in front of Echo users.
Make content only a call away
Echo’s hands-free nature is particularly beneficial, especially when the user is in the kitchen. Gone are the days of dirty hands smearing the pages of cookbooks or the screen of your phone or tablet. Now users ask Alexa to read the next step in a recipe and they are well on their way to preparing a delicious feast for the family.
For almost all consumable food CPG brands, recipes are a major pillar of their content strategy. This type of content, which has resigned to living on the back of product boxes or on digital hubs, is perfectly suited to being activated with the Echo. Whether it’s to inspire new recipes using a Kraft product as the base or to just whip up some macaroni and cheese in a pinch, integrating this functionality could help the brand further its imagine of being a convenient option for you and your family.
Deliver products on a whim with other services
A hallmark of the Echo is the openness of its ecosystem. Amazon lets competitors like Spotify (which is a challenger to its Amazon Prime music service) get in on the action. Although delivery of products is currently limited to the Prime service, those gates could be opened in the future to other providers like Peapod or Jet.com. It would behoove brands to proactively push for this capability and work directly with other delivery services to spread awareness on the integration.
Integrate content with other actions
Brands should begin building partnerships with other extensions within the Echo. While Windex may not have an app or dedicated command of its own integrated with Echo, it could sponsor a cleaning playlist within Spotify (which lives on Echo). This will still allow for opportunities for brands to own a moment of engagement without forcing them to develop an entirely new platform that works with the device.
Sponsor generic tips and tricks with your brand
While advertising within Echo is virtually non-existent, it’s possible to imagine a future in which brands could bid to be included in the answers to questions. When a person asks how to remove a red wine stain, Alexa could answer with content that has been sponsored by Tide. If asked the weather report, perhaps Benadryl chimes in with the day’s pollen count. Couple this with the ability to order products instantly and this becomes an exciting possibility for CPG brands to consider.
It’s imperative that CPG brands look at the Echo and future devices in this category as a new medium and not just as an extension of existing mobile or digital strategies. Those who recognize and take advantage of these opportunities will surely find a special place in our homes.