Why brands need to build their Voice assets

Industry heads say it is time for brands to work on content using Voice assistants and use them to find ways to connect with consumers

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Updated: Oct 1, 2019 11:03 AM



Just when brands thought they had mastered weaving strategies around digital innovations, comes the next marketing medium – Voice. It has now been established that voice tech is the next big disruptor, the next big digital trend. However, as brands scurry around to find ways to connect to consumers using voice there is still ambiguity about how to best use the technology.

Can brands advertise using voice? Have brands been successful with their voice campaigns? What is the ROI potential? Will it only remain an urban phenomenon? We took these questions to experts to understand where things stand in India when it comes to using this new tool.

“Voice advertising is still to take off…What brands need to do is not think of advertising first, instead they first need to think of asset creation,” says Shamsuddin Jasani, Group MD, Isobar South Asia. It is not yet an option on popular voice assistants like Google Home or Amazon Alexa, he said.

“Right now content will drive it, asset creation will drive it. However, advertising to its fullest extent will come when the volumes are there. So, right now, it’s at the stage of preparing ourselves for what is coming up in the next one year. All platforms, whether it’s Alexa or Google Home, will start monetising voice. Right now they are not monetising it to its fullest,” Jasani added.

Isobar India recently launched its ‘Voice Playbook’ to help marketers understand what voice can do for their businesses. A survey conducted in partnership with InShorts to understand voice users threw up these findings: around 49 per cent of respondents said Google Assistant on their Android devices was their preferred voice assistant; Google Home and Google Mini were second at 24 per cent, followed by Amazon Alexa at 17 per cent and Siri on iPhone at 10 per cent. Around 35 per cent of respondents used voice assistants for entertainment and 35 per cent for news and weather forecasts.

The study also found for 52 per cent respondents the preferred platform for voice search were voice-assistant devices and 30 per cent said they opted for voice searches on search engines. A small percentage of voice searches were also made on third-party apps, it has been found. The report underlines that ‘voice technology will tremendously change how consumers interact with brands’.

Despite the lack of advertising options, brands can find ways to connect with consumers from an engagement point of view, says Nihal Nambiar, AVP-Strategic Solutions, iProspect India. “Ad units are yet not available on voice. It is a very early stage. We are probably one to two years away before advertising units are available on voice devices. Today, the primary utilisation of voice is majorly from content. It is more of a post-customer engagement, it is not an acquisition channel per se. It is more of an engagement retention medium. Voice is used as an extension of the current functionality for apps.”

How can a brand then leverage this technology? For voice assistants, the answer lies in Google Home Actions and Alexa Skills. We found some interesting examples of how brands are using them to engage with consumers.

A popular one has come from detergent brand Tide. Using Amazon Alexa’s skill format the brand offers step-by-step voice instructions on how to remove over 200 types of stains.
Another great example is that of IndusInd Bank’s IndusAssist, a voice-based banking system, which allows customers to conduct financial and non-financial transactions on Alexa-enabled devices like Amazon Echo.

Music brands like Gaana and JioSaavn have perhaps made the best use of these devices. They have become the go-to music platforms for music lovers through Voice Assistants. Many news publishers, too, can be found on these devices.

Last year, Flipkart in collaboration with Google Zoo developed an immersive voice-based bot called Hagglebot. During their Big Billion Day sale, Flipkart allowed its customers to haggle for bargains using voice-based conversations on Google Assistant, an experience that delighted customers thus establishing a strong brand recall.

Krish Ramnani, Co-founder and Director of Technology & Innovation, Togglehead, says: “With Google, Alexa and Siri improving their voice assistants daily, we are seeing a gradual shift from traditional interfaces to Voice. To capitalise on this change, marketers must understand that the need of the consumer is very specific while communicating with voice. So much so that, Google, Alexa and Siri have opened their SDKs for encouraging developers to create skills. While creating a skill for brands could be one way of ensuring its presence in a voice search, maintaining a voice-friendly website and a voice-enabled chatbot are a few measures a brand must look into.”

With the next wave of internet growth expected from smaller towns and cities, voice assistants are gearing up to adopt regional languages. While literacy may get in the way of typing on devices, voice on the other hand will be an effortless adoption. In fact, Google reported 270 per cent year-on-year growth in voice queries in India and a large percentage of this was from non-metros. Indian language internet users are expected to account for nearly 75 per cent of India’s internet user base by 2021. Therefore, it goes without saying that brands need to have a strong voice search strategy.

And for the ROIs, as the scale and size of voice grows brands that have their voice assets ready will effortlessly ride this next big wave of change. The return on investments will be worth the wait, say experts.

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