Why Businesses Need to Step up Their Digital Advertising in 2021

Why Businesses Need to Step up Their Digital Advertising in 2021

Advertising

When COVID-19 first took hold in 2020 and the world entered a time of seismic change and uncertainty, we urged businesses to stay in the ring with a strong digital presence. We wrote, “You don’t want to be caught flat-footed when consumers shift their behaviors again as the current disruption subsides. And subside it will; not knowing when is different from not knowing if.”

As we look to the new year ahead, this truth resonates more strongly than ever. Here’s what you should know about why digital advertising remains important, how digital presence relates to consumer—not to mention competitor—behavior, and what you can do going forward:

Consumer Behavior Has Shifted Online — Have You?

IBM’s U.S. Retail Index indicates that the pandemic has deeply informed the way people shop: the shift from visiting brick-and-mortar stores to shopping online has in fact been accelerated by approximately five years. The types of goods consumers deem essential has come into sharper focus, too. Clothing shopping, for example, has dipped in an era when more people are attending school and working their jobs online. By contrast, sales in categories such as groceries, alcohol, and home improvement materials have all accelerated.

The question to ask yourself: when people go online to shop, will your brand be present with targeted online advertising, such as paid search, that is relevant to what consumers are looking to buy?

Your Competitors Are Connecting with Consumers Online — Are You?

Ad revenues for the Big Three—Amazon, Facebook, and Google—can also shed some light on what a successful path forward can look like for brands. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the Big Three are enjoying a surge of online revenue: Amazon and Google have reported strong quarterly sales, and Facebook has also enjoyed record revenue. All three had a great third quarter, evidence that businesses continue to connect with people, online, on multiple levels, from retail to social media to digital advertising. Even the StopHateFor Profit ad boycott did not seem to take a lasting bite out of Facebook’s advertising revenue, which was up 22 percent in the third quarter as compared to a year ago. (It’s worth noting that changes in consumer habits have manifested themselves not just in terms of venue—e.g., the move online—but timing. As Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos notes, “We’re seeing more customers than ever shopping early for their holiday gifts.”)

Social media ad spend overall is also on the rise. In the third quarter, global social media ad spend increased 56.4 percent. According to The Drum, that’s almost double the average spend recorded during the COVID-19-related spending nadir of late March.

In short, brands that understand where, and when, to connect with consumers will benefit. If you are ignoring trends in online advertising, you are probably falling behind competitors who are speaking to these tendencies. Are you taking the prevailing trends to heart?

What Businesses Should Do

To stay competitive, we recommend that you:

  • Keep focused on digital. That’s where the action is, according to the data.
  • Invest in creative advertising. As more people go online and interact with brands, it’s going to be harder to stand apart from the pack. As we’ve blogged, it’s critical to invest in strong creative—and creative that is consistent across all your touch points.
  • Keep growing as digital tools evolve. An understanding of—and investment in—new technology helps brands communicate that what they have to offer is cutting edge. And that new technology is out there for the taking. For example, Consider Google’s new visual search tools:
    • Google Lens allows shoppers to tap and hold an image in the Google app or Android Chrome browser in order to find it in an online store.
    • AR Autos will soon allow shoppers to look for a vehicle in Google Search, then see it rendered in 3D or augmented reality. The result? A more immersive look at key features before consumers even arrive at a dealer lot. This advance “peek” is particularly beneficial at a time when many shoppers are trying to limit in-person contact during the pandemic.

Google’s offerings are just a taste of the new opportunities out there. The headline is this: staying on top of new technology can help position you for success.

Contact True Interactive

The changes brought by 2020 won’t go away with the flip of a calendar page. Rather, they have invited brands to adapt. Curious as to how digital can elevate your brand in 2021? Contact us.

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No More Shopping Stampedes: How Black Friday Is Changing

No More Shopping Stampedes: How Black Friday Is Changing

Retail

Black Friday is changing radically in 2020.

A Google-commissioned Ipsos survey found that 74 percent of U.S. shoppers said they plan to shop online more than they have done in previous seasons. And people who shop in stores will rely on services such as curbside pickup to limit their contact with other people. In response, retailers are taking a hard look at their Black Friday experience.

Retailers Reinvent Black Friday

Consider what some of the heavy hitters are doing to re-imagine what Black Friday means during a year when many people simply don’t want to go into stores.

As noted in RetailWire, “Walmart has long been one of the retailers noted for performing at a high level when facing down natural disasters and economic tumult.” The retail monolith’s response to Black Friday is no exception. As reported by CNBC.com, Walmart is taking an innovative approach, staggering three holiday sales events through the month of November. Each sales event will begin on the Walmart website. Brick-and-mortar stores will continue the sales a few days later, after some demand has presumably been satisfied online (thus mitigating crowds). On the holiday sales days, stores will open at 5:00 a.m. local time. Shoppers will encounter COVID-era precautions: single-file lines; limits on the number of shoppers inside at any given time; sanitized shopping carts; and store “health ambassadors,” who will greet shoppers and remind them to wear a mask. Bargain hunters who prefer to bypass in-store shopping can shop online, or take advantage of Walmart’s curbside pickup.

As Scott McCall, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., shared in a news release, “By spreading deals out across multiple days and making our hottest deals available online, we expect the Black Friday experience in our stores will be safer and more manageable for both our customers and our associates.”

Walmart’s not the only one to re-think what Black Friday looks like this year. Many other retailers have announced that they are redefining the traditional in-store Black Friday sales as a digital experience that occurs over days, weeks, or even months. Home Depot set the tone early, announcing in September that Black Friday prices would be available throughout the entire holiday season, both online and in-store. Though a few “unique deals” are planned to launch later in the season, the store is orchestrating a campaign that consciously sidesteps that single day of crowded, feverish shopping.

Retailers are also capitalizing on opportunities like Amazon Prime Day to generate a surge in sales that businesses often associate with Black Friday. This year’s event ran for two days, October 13 and 14, during which marketplace sellers netted $3.5 billion+. Third-party merchants on Amazon generally reported good results. As noted in practicalecommerce.com, along with the increased sales came increased advertising costs. At the same time, the results speak for themselves: for one of our clients, we secured 44 percent more revenue and a 33 percent increase in return on ad spend on Prime Day — with only an 8 percent increase in advertising costs. We were happy with the outcome, as our client was.

Shipping during the 2020 Holiday Season

As retailers respond to a changing retail landscape, they must also face the reality that with a surge in online ordering throughout November comes the potential for shipping delays as businesses send more packages. More packages being delivered puts more of a strain on shipping services – and possibly a strain on retailers’ fulfillment capability. On the other hand, FedEx has said it is hiring 70,000 seasonal workers to manage an expected surge, and bellwether retailers such as Target are hiring aggressively to ensure they can handle the increased volume in online orders.

What Should You Do?

How do you plan to stay competitive during an unprecedented year? We recommend:

  • Don’t wait for Black Friday to promote your holiday deals. Activate your display advertising, search marketing, and paid social media programs now.
  • Consider creating events of your own. Don’t worry about creating a blowout on the scale of Amazon’s Prime Day. Instead, take a page from Walmart’s book and ask yourself how you might create your own “Black Friday” digital events. Learn from the bellwether brands!
  • It goes without saying, on the operational side, prepare yourself for the expected uptick in orders. Assuming you have done so, promote any deals you’re offering on shipping (something we’ve blogged about here). In addition, set expectations with your customers. Let them know that waiting until the last minute to order and ship may incur additional delays this holiday season in particular.
  • Be mindful of tone in everything you do. People want to shop, yes—but as we’ve blogged here, they are also under stress. Many shoppers will be ordering gifts for loved ones from whom they will be socially distanced this holiday—and feeling a sense of loss as they do so. Others may be overwhelmed by COVID-19 news: fearful of a spike in the virus, or a lockdown of stores and businesses. Be sensitive to these anxieties in your messaging.

Contact True Interactive

In a year like 2020, even traditions like Black Friday are going to look different. We can help you maximize digital and rise to the occasion. Contact us.

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Three Ways Retailers Can Succeed during the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

Three Ways Retailers Can Succeed during the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

Retail

The 2020 holiday shopping season will be unlike any other as people plan amid the reality of social distancing. And yet in a few important ways, the season will reflect the direction that consumer shopping behavior has been headed already, especially with people putting digital at the center of their shopping experience. Here are three ways retailers can prepare:

1 Be Digital-First

A Google-commissioned Ipsos survey found that 74 percent of U.S. shoppers said they plan to do more online shopping than they did in previous seasons. These findings should surprise no retailer. The holiday shopping season has been going increasingly digital for years. According to Salesforce data, there was an 8 percent increase in digital spend overall for the 2019 season, with $723 billion in digital revenue worldwide. The difference in 2020: digital will dominate.

If more people are buying online, that means they’re spending more time online searching for things to buy. In the past, we’ve counseled retailers to aggressively embrace digital advertising tools to prepare for this shift in behavior (for more insight, see this post from 2018 and a sample post of mine from 2019). What’s different about this year is that online advertising where your audience is – such as on Amazon, Facebook, and Google  – is essential, not optional, especially as social distancing has created a surge in people spending more time on digital.

2 Level up Your Mobile Game

Consumers prefer digital, but they have not abandoned in-store shopping by any means. According to a new survey of more than 1,400 U.S. consumers by CodeBroker, 53 percent of shoppers intend to shop at physical locations. Among those who said they were not planning to shop at their favorite stores’ locations, 61 percent said they would change their mind if they received a high-value mobile/digital coupon for a product in which they were interested.

In addition, the Google/Ipsos research says that 53 percent of shoppers that plan to shop this season said they’ll choose to shop at stores that offer contactless shopping. And 47 percent of said they’ll use options to buy online, pickup in-store, or use curbside pickup.

These findings tells us that retailers that use mobile wisely to improve the brick-and-mortar shopping experience will win. Here again, this trend is not new. Holiday shopping has been going mobile for some time, and as we blogged in 2019, retailers that had already responded to the rise of mobile orders were already enjoying a distinct advantage over those that had not. What’s different about 2020 is that retailers need to prepare for a surge in curbside pick-up orders with consumers using their mobile phones to manage the process of ordering and picking up their purchases. Moreover, retailers can and should deploy advertising strategies that use mobile coupons where possible and appropriate.

3 Adapt to a Different Shopping Mindset

How shoppers feel about the holiday season will be radically different. Consider these realities:

  • Many shoppers will be planning for a holiday apart from their extended families as they practice social distancing. As shoppers inevitably order gifts for shipping abroad to their socially distanced loved ones, their moods will be affected.
  • Shoppers are already planning amid a threat of COVID-19 cases spiking again during the winter and possibly triggering state-by-state lockdowns. The ongoing news reports about COVID-19 are likely creating a sense of urgency among shoppers as they work around the possibility of their favorite stores closing. Moreover, shoppers are likely experiencing understandable anxiety and fear.

Retailers should respond by:

  • Activating holiday shopping campaigns now. If ever there was a year when shoppers are planning ahead and are receptive to holiday campaigns that promote services such shipping and curbside pickup, 2020 is that time.

In addition, be ready for a surge in queries from shoppers about details such as product order status as people shop with caution. The Google/Ipsos survey found that 67 percent of holiday shoppers will confirm online that an item is in stock before going to buy it. This means retailers should expect more customer queries everywhere you interact with customers, including email and your socials.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed this holiday season with online advertising, contract True Interactive. We have extensive experience helping businesses thrive with digital.

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Walmart Takes Aim at Amazon, Facebook, and Google with Online Advertising

Walmart Takes Aim at Amazon, Facebook, and Google with Online Advertising

Advertising Amazon Facebook Google

When Walmart recently announced that it was joining Microsoft in a bid for TikTok, the news had many people scratching their heads. But the bid makes perfect sense in context of Walmart’s growing online advertising business, an aspect of the Walmart empire that is beginning to catch more attention among brands. Read on to learn more.

The Growth of Walmart Advertising

You might not know it, but Walmart operates its own digital advertising business under Walmart Media Group. Under CEO Doug McMillon, Walmart Media Group has been building an advertising business to compete with Amazon, Google, and Facebook (the Big Three of online advertising). As reported in The Wall Street Journal, “deep-pocketed companies with large amounts of data on their customers are in the best position to mount a challenge” to these competitors.

Walmart feels ready to play in that sandbox. The retail behemoth aims to tap into its own trove of shopper data (about purchases made both online and in brick-and-mortar stores), and sell advertising services to businesses with products in Walmart stores and across the entire digital world, on sites including Walmart.com. As Steve Bratspies, the chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., has noted, data can give advertisers a leg up by providing insight into what a consumer might really want and need.

For example, as noted in The Wall Street Journal, a customer might buy a bicycle in a Walmart store, then subsequently see ads for bike helmets on platforms like Facebook. The ads would direct the shopper back to Walmart.com to make the purchase. It’s a win/win, with consumer needs being anticipated and met, and brands making the connection to a motivated shopper.

Walmart’s Advertising Services

How does Walmart propose to make those connections? The retailer currently offers advertisers services such as:

  • Sponsored Products ads, which consumers encounter when they are browsing Walmart.com. These ads can take many forms:
    • A brand’s products can get premium placement on the first page of a shopper’s search results.
    • An advertiser’s logo might appear, along with a custom headline, at the top of relevant search results.
    • Products can appear as part of a product carousel of relevant alternate purchase options.
    • Items can be highlighted in a “Buy Box” as the most relevant alternate purchase option on a product detail page.

Walmart Sponsored Product Ad

  • Visually compelling display ads, which keep a brand in the forefront:
    • Across Walmart’s digital properties. Content and advertising can be seamlessly merged on Walmart.com, pickup and delivery, and Walmart apps.
    • Offsite, across the web and social channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. As noted earlier, relevant ads will re-engage customers and send them back to Walmart for products.

Walmart Display Ad

Where Does TikTok Fit into All This?

Walmart’s motivation for acquiring TikTok probably has much to do with digital ad dollars. As Mark Sullivan of Fast Company points out, TikTok is a prime space for digital advertising. And Walmart clearly recognizes that, sharing in a statement that TikTok might represent “an important way for us to reach and serve omnichannel customers as well as grow our third-party marketplace and advertising businesses.”

Sullivan elaborates:

TikTok is itself in the early stages of selling ads on its app, and it has data on people’s video content choices, but it lacks data on the things people buy. If Walmart owned TikTok it could use its ecommerce user data to help advertisers put ads in front of the right TikTok users. And Walmart could be the exclusive seller of targeted ad space on TikTok.

One advertising industry insider told me that a brand—say a car company—might use a cookie to capture data on a consumer that came to its site to look at cars, then use Walmart’s ad-tech to show an ad to that same consumer on TikTok.

If Walmart had an ownership stake in TikTok, Walmart could connect its advertisers with TikTok’s young demographic, too. And let’s face it — TikTok is hot. In early August 2020, the video-sharing social networking service reported about 100 million monthly active U.S. users, a figure that is up nearly 800 percent from January 2018. Walmart clearly sees the opportunities inherent in connecting its brands with that audience.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Twitch Is Hot: Here’s Why

Twitch Is Hot: Here’s Why

Marketing

As the COVID-19 pandemic roared across the globe in 2o2o, social distancing guidelines closed down stadiums and theaters everywhere. Suddenly Amazon-owned Twitch, already popular, took on an even greater resonance: the streaming platform represented a way to connect and experience, virtually, events and the sense of community that had been eradicated by the virus. Savvy brands understand the opportunities inherent in Twitch—a platform that’s currently filling a need, even as it continues to grow. Curious? Read on to learn more.

What Is Twitch?

Twitch is an online platform for livestreams, on which users can broadcast a livestream or watch other streamers. The platform was introduced in 2011, and while the focus has traditionally been on video games, Twitch is constantly evolving. It currently features music and lifestyle content, as well: Twitch users can watch anything from video gaming to music festivals, cooking shows, live tutorials of artists drawing (a la Bob Ross!) or professional sports. According to Ad Age, Twitch’s Just Chatting channel—essentially streamers chatting with the audience—has been the platform’s most-watched category in the second quarter. Sean Horvath, the chief revenue officer at StreamElements, notes, “We are starting to see a rise of streaming stars who don’t game at all . . . [T]hink of it like any talk show you watch on TV, but the difference is viewers can also make comments directly to the hosts.”

That’s right. Twitch’s interactive nature is supported by chat features; spectators can interact with one another and with the broadcasters (streamers), too. The platform has been described as a sort of virtual return to the social experience of arcade gaming. In the arcades, crowds would form around someone playing a certain game well, and people would talk about the game while they waited for their turn—and possibly pick up some tips and tricks from the player. Livestreaming on Twitch brings this interactive experience online, regardless of whether the point of discussion is a game—or a new recipe for chili.

Who Uses Twitch?

As Ad Age recently reported, Twitch hit a new milestone in spring 2020: Twitch exceeded 3 billion streaming hours in the first quarter of the year.

The audience skews younger. Kayla Carmicheal’s recent post on the Hubspot blog identifies users as teen gamers, with the largest group (22 percent) coming from the United States. Of the 28 million unique users per month in the U.S., she says, 80 percent are teen males. According to brand24.com, Millennial gamers also make up a significant portion of the Twitch audience. To be specific, Twitch reaches 50 percent of Millennial males in America.

Furthermore, Twitch users have been described as socially conscious and passionate about important causes. This year, the platform made headlines when it became a hub for social activism, with users creating Twitch channels for the express purpose of livestreaming Black Lives Matter protests. As Brielle Villablanca, a Twitch spokeswoman, told the New York Times, “[W]e’ve seen creators livestreaming content from the protests and engaging their communities in open conversations around race, inequality and how to effect change.”

And the platform attracts an audience open to advertising. According to brand24.com, 82 percent of Twitch users believe sponsorships benefit gaming. And 80 percent are receptive to brands sponsoring gamers and teams.

Advertising Options on Twitch

In short, the platform provides fertile ground for advertisers who want to connect with passionate, driven consumers. Marketing exposure on Twitch can take several forms, including:

  • Partnering with an influencer. A streamer might include a brand in a sponsored stream title or on a tile on their channel page.
  • Brand placement on the stream itself, or behind the streamer on their webcam.
  • Branded emotes, like the “DoritoChip,” which between November 2, 2017, and January 8, 2018, was used by viewers an average of 17,330 times a day.
  • Pre-roll ads, which can run before a stream.

What Brands Use Twitch?

Some savvy brands have already recognized the potential Twitch offers to connect with a young, engaged audience. And they’ve done so in creative ways. For example:

  • Totino’s Pizza Rolls created an attention-grabbing game within the game during a sponsored stream. After each win, streamers rewarded themselves by eating pizza rolls live.
  • Monster Energy Drinks sponsored Jaryd “Summit1G” Lazar, who streams with a stocked Monster mini fridge situated right behind him. During streams, viewers have asked him about his favorite drink flavors, and new flavor releases, calling even more attention to the brand.
  • 1,000 Dreams Fund (1DF), a non-profit dedicated to providing 1,000 university women with grants, partnered with Twitch to give financial assistance to female streamers currently attending college. The aid could be applied to conventions like TwitchCon, or even new hardware, and the campaign introduced the non-profit to a completely new audience (the campaign also highlighted that Twitch doesn’t exclusively draw a male demographic).
  • Nissin Foods partnered with influencer Pokimane, who demonstrated how noodles are a clear fit to the gaming lifestyle when she made Nissin instant noodles during a stream. Pokimane, who draws more than four million followers to her channel, added a layer of whimsy by incorporating a “Slurp Meter” graphic onscreen to measure how loudly she ate her meal.
  • Career search engine Indeed used a pre-roll ad to demonstrate how a Twitch streamer and a digital artist used Indeed to connect—and ultimately collaborate.

Contact True Interactive

Eager to reach out to a Millennials audience? Interested in incorporating Twitch into your next campaign? Contact us. We can help.

It’s Amazon Advertising’s Year — So Far

It’s Amazon Advertising’s Year — So Far

Amazon Facebook Google

Good news for Amazon. Bad news for Google. According to a new report from eMarketer, Amazon’s share of online advertising continues an upward trend. Google, by contrast, continues to lose marketshare. Read on to learn more.

The What

Amazon’s share of online advertising, which has been rising every year, will reach 9.5 percent in 2020, eMarketer says. Google’s share will drop to 29.4 percent, as Google reports its first-ever decline in advertising revenue since eMarketer began tracking advertising revenue in 2008. Meanwhile, Facebook’s share of online advertising is predicted to rise to 23.4 percent (note, however, that eMarketer published its analysis before an advertising boycott of Facebook took hold—those numbers will likely be re-evaluated).

The Why

Why is Amazon Advertising increasing its share, while Google sees its marketshare drop?

  • Amazon’s advertising unit, known as Amazon Advertising, is probably benefitting from people shifting their purchasing online during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. As we have blogged, Amazon without question became an especially attractive place to make purchases as shelter-in-place mandates took hold. And Amazon was prepared to help advertisers build their visibility during this surge, with a tool kit including products such as Sponsored Ads and Display Ads.
  • Meanwhile, eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, Nicole Perrin, explains that “Google’s net US ad revenues will decline this year primarily because of a sharp pullback in travel advertiser spending, which in the past has been heavily concentrated on Google’s search ad products. Travel has been the hardest-hit industry during the pandemic, with the most extreme spending declines of any industry.”

What the News Means

The news creates some nice press for Amazon Advertising, but as we have blogged, Google’s ad business remains healthy and solid. And as eMarketer points out, Google is being hit by the economic downturn in travel. There is nothing inherently wrong with Google’s ad products, however.

In fact, Google continues to make its ad products better. We have blogged about some of its innovations lately:

Facebook likely has more to worry about than Google. An advertising boycott is gaining traction with big brands such as Unilever and Starbucks pulling their ad business because they believe Facebook is not doing enough to police hate speech, among other grievances. As reported by cnbc.com, the big names already responding to the #StopHateForProfit campaign have the potential to influence more companies to join the boycott.

Our Recommendations

We suggest that regardless of your platform of choice, businesses continue advertising online. Despite the turbulence among the big online ad players, we know that businesses that continue to have an online ad presence are best positioned for success.

Contact Us

Do you need help sorting your digital ad presence? Contact True Interactive. We can help.

How Brands Are Succeeding with Voice Technology in 2020

How Brands Are Succeeding with Voice Technology in 2020

Branding

In December, I predicted that voice search would become smarter and more useful in 2020: “I continue to see more people using their voices to find things with their smart speakers, phones, and in-car devices,” I wrote. “But what’s changing is that people are getting more comfortable buying things, not just searching for things, with their voices.” Of course, I had no idea that a global pandemic was about to radically change our behavior, including how we use voice assistants. Let’s take a closer look at what’s been happening during the first half of 2020.

Voice Assistants Are Gaining Even More Currency

The pandemic has moved the needle when it comes to consumer openness to voice assistants. The Wall Street Journal reported,

Euromonitor earlier this year noted that consumers were buying more AI-enabled home appliances and virtual assistants, like Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa. But now, such devices have a new draw, says [head of Euromonitor’s lifestyle research Alison] Angus. “Voice-control technology limits the need to touch surfaces so much, so that’s why they are appealing,” she says.

Though states are starting to lift COVID-19-related restrictions, many consumers will remain cautious. Concerns about health and safety going forward will make voice’s touch-free nature ever more attractive.

Voice Assistants Are Increasingly Becoming An Integral Part of Daily Life

In a national survey published by Edison Research and NPR, 1,660 adults across the United States were asked about their use of voice assistants. As Voicebot.ai reports, the survey demonstrated that during the COVID-19 pandemic, voice assistant usage jumped: results reveal that more than 50 percent of smart device owners are using voice commands at least once a day now—an uptick that occurred between the start of 2020 and the beginning of April. At the same time, there is a drop in the number of people who are using voice commands less frequently. Habits are indeed changing, and the change started during the era of COVID-19.

Voicebot.ai also reports that:

  • In 2019, smart speaker owners used voice requests for an average of 9.4 different tasks a week. In 2020, that number has inched up to 10.8 different tasks.
  • Fifty-nine percent of smart speaker owners who also own a smartphone voice assistant perform different voice-related tasks with each device.

Changes in work/commuting habits during the pandemic have also informed voice assistant usage. “With tens of millions of Americans no longer commuting, smart speakers are becoming even more important as a conduit for news and information,” Tom Webster, Edison Research senior vice president, said. He believes those habits will persist, and evolve, noting that “this increased usage and facility with voice assistants will likely increase demand for this technology in vehicles once our commutes resume.”

The Business Response

Some businesses are reading the tea leaves and responding by making voice an ever more useful utility:

  • Snapchat, for example, will be rolling out a new way to sort through the million+ augmented reality (AR) Lenses that Snap makes available through its Lens Studio platform. As TechCrunch reports, “the app’s new voice search will allow Snapchat users to ask the app to help it surface [Lenses] that enable them to do something unique.” Potential applications here could range wide: imagine asking Snap to show what you will look like wearing a particular brand of makeup, say, or how a specific television might look on your wall.
  • Google, meanwhile, has launched a new voice assistant called Diya. Diya’s mandate? To help kids learn to read. According to Voicebot.ai, Diya is part of a new educational app for Android, Read Along, that aims to help parents home-schooling their kids during the COVID-19 shelter in place. Diya “listens” to kids read, correcting errors and offering encouragement and congratulations. Students can also ask Diya for help pronouncing words they don’t know how to say.
  • For Dunkin’ Brands, having a voice search strategy was already a priority at the beginning of 2020. Then the pandemic hit. Coronavirus changed the rules for food and beverage availability, and as Ad Age notes, “Dunkin’ saw a 10x rise in people using voice to search for open locations with access points like drive-through, delivery or curbside pickup.” The company adjusted to the new normal, tailoring its paid online search results to respond effectively to the uptick in voice requests. As Keith Lusby, VP of media at Dunkin’, noted, consumers were often already driving when they made their request, and couldn’t type on their phones to determine whether a nearby location could in fact serve them. “When you think about our business pre-COVID, it was nice to know when I got to the store and they had a drive-through,” Lusby says, “but now it’s determining whether I go or not. We were able to modify our results to make sure we matched what the person was looking for.”

What You Should Do

Lusby’s comment is a perceptive one, and echoes what we’ve discussed on our own blog. Brands looking to optimize voice in ads and websites will want to evaluate typical voice search queries and pay attention to the conversational text that occurs. As Lusby notes, “That’s our view of voice—meet the customer; they’re giving us more info, so let’s give them a better result.”

But how to achieve this? To begin with, advertisers want to pay attention to the nature of conversation, which tends to be more complicated than the verbiage used in a simple Google search. In short, people express themselves differently in voice search than they do in Google searches. Google searches are more brusque. Advertisers hoping to connect well with voice searches will want to write copy consistent with how people speak. “Who,” “What,” Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How” are great words to focus on. Queries that include natural phrases such as “near me” or “can I get the number for” can also be useful/telling. In the end, sites or copy that match conversational tone are likely to help brands looking for hits from voice-based searches.

Finally, consider how you might use voice to improve the customer experience overall. As brands like Dunkin’ demonstrate, businesses can use voice technology to create a more pleasant customer experience as people continue to look for ways to avoid touching screens.

Contact Us

How can you implement voice? Contact us. We can help.

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