I just returned from CES and it is abundantly clear that audio is well on its way to becoming center stage for marketers. Music and podcasts are cornerstones to smartphone usage, for some users, it is up to 80% of their weekly activity, and if last week’s showing in Vegas is any indication, audio will be a key delivery vehicle in our homes, cars, stores, and other places people move through throughout the day.
Today’s media is moving beyond our mobile devices and wearables to home appliances, automotive applications and voice-activated devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, to offer constant, ambient connectivity. They have no keyboards, often no screens, and rely on voice activation and speech recognition instead. All of this underscoring the role audio and voice will have as a primary point of contact for consumers in the next few years.
For marketers, audio’s ability to deliver highly impactful messaging in contexts where other digital media struggle, such as while a consumer is driving, exercising, working or even housecleaning, is an exciting opportunity. It is by nature cross-channel and highly mobile. This year’s CES shows that marketers must start to assess how they will use yet another new set of channels.
Coincidentally, marketers have been engaging audiences without screens for a longer period of time than they’ve been engaging audiences on them. The resurgence of podcasts and proliferation of digital audio over the past several years has provided the foundation for newfound interest in the medium. Now, for the first time, marketers have an option that offers the promise of being ambient and interactive.
These new systems will change the paradigm of how consumers expect to search, consume media, activate services, engage with brands and even buy, order or purchase. This delivery of impressions, whether the screen is on or off, and the impact these messages can have on active, mobile consumers will encourage advertisers to invest more dollars into audio-centric advertising.
While many of these systems are just entering our homes, cars and stores, brands need to begin to assess these new environments and trial new experiences to figure out how their brand will extend to this new audible mode. Each brand’s experience will be different, but there are some actions that most brands can consider taking in order to get there.
As marketers, we need to be nimble to evolve our plans as consumers’ multi-device behavior evolves. Testing these new devices and formats with high-utility branded experiences will lead to success. Fandango created a useful Alexa Skill that enables users to browse movie times, discover new films and can even help guarantee tickets, all without the consumer having to lift a finger. Many entertainment brands have been slow to capitalize on the new trend, which means there’s plenty of opportunity to make a big splash.
Secondly, marketers need to resist planning their trials on historical data. Real-time insights will be game-changers. Real-time data can help marketers capture where and what consumers doing at a given point in time. This precision is the key to targeting specific audiences and placing impactful messages that will help entrench brands into their lifestyle.
Finally, brands that are leveraging cross-device user identification technologies should continue to push for industry standard accuracy and accountability. As connectivity grows across a greater number of devices and new opportunities are created with innovative formats, consistent measurement and addressability will be critically important.
A new world is opening up for marketers, keep your ears open for the opportunities.