How Brands Can Avoid The Dreaded Voice Assistant 'Dismissal'

With 55% of all U.S. homes expected to own a smart speaker like Amazon's Echo or Google's Home by 2022, Digitas is revealing new research that explores emerging challenges for brands.

Specifically, how virtual voice assistant (VVA) algorithms present a "preferred option," a suggestion that is not always the brand initially requested by the user.

This means if a brand isn’t showing up first in voice search results, it may be boxed out of the purchasing decision, says Digitas. 

Brands risk losing visibility and loyalty through these VVAs, per the study. The vast majority of VVA users (85%) have purchased the item suggested by smart speakers, despite the fact that it may have differed from their initial intent. 

Voice purchasers ages 18–34 are more than twice as likely as those 45–64 to “always” or “often” purchase the first option selected by the voice assistant when requesting a purchase for a specific brand or product (37% vs. 16%).



“Brands should understand that there’s not one solution to combat loyalty in a voice-driven world," says Jenna Sheeran, senior vice president, search marketing, Digitas. "They need to have a cross-capability approach with a unified strategy and experience."

The report outlines three big takeaways.

First, brands need to activate current SEO opportunities immediately to increase brand visibility on virtual voice assistants. Digitas suggests providing consumers with the right content and the right search terms increasing the chance of being served first by the algorithm. 

Second, brands should create a cross-capability task force to address all areas of voice, including media, technology and content. Three in four Americans (75%) say if they were purchasing a product using a VVA with a screen, they would scroll through the images instead of just going with the first suggested voice offering.

That presents an opportunity for brands to incorporate video content and interactive imagery to help move consumers away from just voice-only recommendations, said Brett Leary, commerce lead, Digitas. "Consumers are comfortable shopping via screens and the added convenience of voice should help drive voice commerce for brands.”

Lastly, brands should focus their attention on building partnerships with the leading platforms in the category, like Google and Amazon. They need to take advantage of volume on partners’ devices to connect with their active audiences, says Sheeran. If brands are creating internal assistants, like bots on their website, they need to engage with platforms like Alexa and Google Home to maximize reach, she says.

"Events like Amazon Hack-a-thons can help drive innovation on voice platforms and offer unique branding opportunities to increase your brand’s value in voice."

Digitas finds Americans are receptive to using a voice assistant when purchasing personal care/wellness products (39%); beauty supplies (38%); small home appliances (35%); clothing/accessories (34%); technology/consumer electronics (33%); sporting goods (33%) and large home appliances (25%).

For the report, “Brand Loyalty vs. Virtual Voice Assistants,” the agency surveyed more than 2,100 adults (27% currently owning a voice assistant device) in June.

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