Why the Popularity of Amazon Alexa at CES 2020 Matters to Advertisers

Why the Popularity of Amazon Alexa at CES 2020 Matters to Advertisers

Amazon

The Amazon Alexa voice assistant cast a big shadow over CES 2020, the premier annual event for showcasing new consumer technology. Amazon demonstrated a number of product integrations with Alexa. They matter because they point to a possible way that Amazon could lead online advertising.

The Battle for a Voice-First Future

Amazon is fighting a fierce battle with Apple and Google to lead the uptake of voice-based products among consumers and businesses (with Microsoft and Samsung also stepping up their own efforts). More than one quarter of Americans own voice-activated smart speakers, according to Voicebot.ai and Voicify. Amazon’s Echo leads the pack, but Google is catching up, as reported in The Motley Fool.

To win the war for voice, Amazon, Apple, and Google need to collaborate with product manufacturers to incorporate their voice assistants into product design (or through aftermarket upgrades).  And CES is where those integrations are demonstrated. For example, Bosch, the maker of smart home appliances such as dishwashers, announced an integration with the Apple Siri voice assistant. And a number of manufacturers ranging from Belk to GE announced integrations with Google Assistant, Google’s voice assistant.

But Amazon outflanked everyone. A wide variety of manufacturers ranging from bed maker Dux to helmet maker Jarvis demonstrated how they’re relying on Alexa to make it possible to use their products with our voices.  But it wasn’t just the sheer number of integrations with manufacturers that mattered – what really caught my eye was how Amazon is making it easier for people to actually purchase things.

Making Purchases Is the Holy Grail of Voice

As I wrote in a recent blog post, people still use voice to do more mundane tasks such as checking the weather. Making purchases, though, is the Holy Grail of voice. Voice commerce is a far more complicated undertaking. And at CES 2020, Amazon showed that it is up for the challenge. Amazon announced that in 2020, automobile drivers will be able to use Alexa to purchase gasoline. As Amazon said, “Later this year, customers will be able to say, “Alexa, pay for gas” to easily purchase fuel at all 11,500 Exxon and Mobil stations. The transactions for this new Alexa feature are made through Amazon Pay and powered by Fiserv, a global financial services technology provider.

The ability to pull off voice-activated purchases requires Amazon to work closely with ExxonMobil – an example of the collaboration required to make voice a reality. If Amazon and ExxonMobil can make the purchase of gasoline as easy as making a voice command, then manufacturers and retailers will be encouraged to adopt voice for purchases, too. (Think of appliance makers turning the Amazon Dash device for order replenishment into a consistently reliable voice-first experience.)

Why CES 2020 Matters to Advertisers

Why do these announcements matter to businesses that advertise online? Well, here is a telling statistic: even though Amazon leads voice, Google pretty much owns online advertising. Google commands 37 percent of digital ad spend. The next largest competitor, Facebook, has 22 percent of the market. Amazon lags behind with 8.8 percent. But – Amazon is still very new to online advertising. It did not start dipping its toes into online advertising until 2008. Within 10 years, Amazon had become one of the big three of online advertising.

Amazon is rapidly threatening Google’s and Facebook’s leadership by offering new tools that help businesses advertise on Amazon – and off Amazon. We’ve written about some of those tools, such as my colleague Samantha Coconato’s posts on Amazon Video Ads, Amazon Display Ads, and Amazon Sponsored Ads. Those ad services capitalize on the reality that Amazon has become an increasingly popular way for people to search for products – even more popular than Google.

But Amazon knows the world is changing from text-based to voice-based search. Voice search is not “taking over.” But voice is becoming more common. Per a Microsoft study in 2019, 72 percent of people surveyed had used voice search the previous month. Amazon is preparing for the time when voice will reach a tipping point, and businesses will have no choice but to employ voice-based advertising and search engine optimization tactics into their game plans.

And that’s why the product integrations matter. By making Alexa the de facto voice assistant in everyday products, Amazon wants people to be more comfortable using their voices to use and buy things. Encouraging the uptake of voice among consumers helps Amazon position itself as the premier advertising partner for businesses.

Whether Amazon succeeds remains to be seen. But as Google and Apple compete with Amazon to integrate voice, it’s clear that advertisers need to be ready to adapt.

Contact True Interactive

To make online advertising work for you, contact True Interactive. We’re an independent agency that optimizes branded interactions to drive traffic and increase sales.

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What Advertisers Should Do about the Rise of Voice Search

What Advertisers Should Do about the Rise of Voice Search

Search

We’re living in an era in which people are using their voices to do everything from shop to check the weather. Signs continue to indicate that the rise in voice is more than a passing trend. In fact, recent data shows that businesses need to pay closer attention to voice search and the impact it can have on advertising and organic content.

What Are the Latest Statistics about Voice?

  • According to a 2019 report from Microsoft, 72 percent of people use voice search through a personal digital assistant, and 75 percent of households will be outfitted with at least one smart speaker by 2020.
  • A 2018 BrightLocal study reveals that over a 12-month period, 58 percent of surveyed consumers used voice search to find local business information. In addition, Forbes notes that consumers want voice search to help them with myriad tasks, including:
    • Making reservations.
    • Gathering price data on services and products.
    • Confirming whether an item is available.
  • According to estimates from eMarketer, more than 74 million Americans — almost 27 percent of the U.S. population — will be using smart speakers in 2019, a 15 percent uptick from 2018.

What Should Businesses Do about Voice?

In short, it’s becoming a world in which businesses must be prepared to use voice for advertising. As Jelli CEO Mike Dougherty shared with Forbes, voice will “open up opportunities for marketers and brands to get creative and interact with customers in new ways . . . The goal of any marketer is to establish a genuine connection with customers. Voice is their chance to get one step closer.”

Jennifer Hungerbuhler, the EVP and managing director, local video and audio investment, at Dentsu Aegis Network, concurs. She also notes that voice search will not only be important in the marketing, advertising, and media worlds, it will continue to evolve.

How Should Businesses Prepare for Voice?

Part of staying relevant in a world of voice search means understanding voice, and creating content that optimizes how voice works. For instance, as we have discussed on our own blog, advertisers should evaluate voice search queries and pay attention to the conversational text that occurs.

Conversational text, which tends to be more complicated than simple Google searches, is a clear indicator of how people express themselves during voice search. It can be an excellent resource when companies want to write copy consistent with how people are using their voices to search. “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How” are great words to focus on. Long-tail queries that include natural phrases such as “near me” or “can I get the number for” can also be useful/telling. These queries can help identify what consumers most want to know about a company’s products or services—and how they parse their request via voice.

As Hungerbuhler notes, “Advertisers will need to get better at understanding how consumers want to find them in voice, the language they will use to do so, and how they can get onto a shopping list.”

The bottom line? Search behaviors are different when consumers use voice. Because brands, increasingly, want voice assistants to find their site, savvy businesses will tweak their advertising and organic content accordingly.

What You Should Do Next

What are next steps in this brave new world?

  • Prepare now by rethinking your approach to content.
  • Don’t panic. Realize that even though people are using voice assistants, it doesn’t mean they are doing so in droves. According to research firm Stone Temple, voice assistants still rank behind other choices such as mobile browsers or search engine apps.
  • But do act. Voice search isn’t going away. Andy Franco, the founder of Facebook advertising agency Live Surge, explains, “Just like search has become second nature to people who used to use card catalogs, voice is likely to be well used by those who are multitasking and need hands-free tools.”

Contact True Interactive

Contact True Interactive. We can help you better understand voice search as you craft your strategy.

Photo by Sebastian Scholz (Nuki) on Unsplash

Apple Showcases Its Augmented Reality Tools at WWDC

Apple Showcases Its Augmented Reality Tools at WWDC

Marketing Mobile

When is the next Pokémon GO going to come along to make everyone love augmented reality (AR)?

This is the question on the minds of many technology watchers who are waiting for another AR breakthrough. But applications like Pokémon GO don’t happen very often. The real value of AR comes from people and businesses using it to share immersive experiences that complement our lives rather than making us drop everything and focus on AR.

Perhaps that’s why Apple has been careful to sell AR as an evolutionary tool that will enrich how we live, whether through practical application or content that engages. At Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) Apple accentuated tools that should make AR easier to use – perhaps not glamorous developments, but important ones.

ARKit Update

For example, Apple announced an update to ARKit, its software development toolkit for AR (and competitor to Google’s ARCore). Among other improvements, ARKit will capture the motion of a person in real time with a single camera. As Apple noted, by understanding body position and movement as a series of joints and bones, you can use motion and poses as an input to the AR experience — placing people at the center of AR. Apple also announced human inclusion, meaning that AR content realistically passes behind and in front of people in the real world, making AR experiences more immersive.

Those improvements matter because for AR to attract advertisers and consumers, it has to offer something different beyond what anyone can experience in a 2D world. As it stands, AR is catching on with advertisers. According to eMarketer, global augmented reality ad revenues are expected to rise from $779 million in 2019 to $1.2 billion in 2020 and $2.6 billion in 2022 – not a huge number, but higher than $166.7 million generated in 2017. Most of that money is coming from display advertising. Making AR more powerful and immersive will build more momentum.

Making AR Easier

Apple did something else: made AR easier to develop. With new Reality Composer and RealityKit tools, developers will be able to create AR apps easier on Apple’s operating system. As Apple noted, Reality Composer helps anyone create AR apps even if you lack 3D experience.

But responses to the news have been underwhelming, partly because Apple is restricting these tools to its own operating system. But another reason is that journalists seem to be waiting for that next AR killer app to capture their imagination, and software development tools are not going to do that. Perhaps the AR version of Minecraft will be the next killer app. Meanwhile, advertisers will continue to create AR that engages, such as Toyota’s new AR experience and Snapchat’s ongoing AR features. People may not use AR every day, but when they do, they remain highly engaged. Apple isn’t creating engagement – but it’s giving businesses tools to do so.

For more information on how to build advertising that engages consumers through digital, contact True Interactive.

Image source: https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2019/06/highlights-from-wwdc-2019/

Apple Offers a Glimpse of an Augmented Reality Future

Apple Offers a Glimpse of an Augmented Reality Future

Branding

Apple’s September 12 special event was mostly about hardware product launches, as it usually is. But Apple also reminded us of the company’s commitment to building an augmented reality future.

First, let’s recap a few of the big announcements:

  • Pushing into healthcare: Apple also revealed the latest version of the Apple Watch 4, which features a slew of personal wellness features such as the ability to monitor and report when the wearer experiences a fall and better heart monitoring/reporting. The Apple Watch is one essential element of Apple’s growth as a healthcare player, with the development of wellness apps being another essential element. In coming months, watch for Apple to make more announcements about healthcare as part of a broader strategy to develop its services.

The above announcements have dominated the news. In addition, two developments caught my eye:

  • Augmented reality for learning: the launch of a new iPhone app, HomeCourt, which uses augmented reality (AR) for basketball training. As reported in GeekWire, HomeCourt uses AR to track basketball shots. According to GeekWire, “AR tech built into the iPhone — including the newA12 Bionic chip— and artificial intelligence technology developed by HomeCourt maker Nex Team can detect a hoop and basketball to measure kinematics, trajectory, release times, and number of shots made.”
  • Augmented reality for play: the announcement about a new real-time augmented reality game, Galaga AR. As VentureBeat reported, “This AR adaptation of Galaga comes from Directive Games. When you look at your iPhone screen, you can see a bunch of alien-bug spaceships that you have to shoot down. You’re not only trying to survive, but you’re also trying to beat the other players. It was a pretty cool demo, with a lot of blasting onscreen and loud sounds.”

These launches are not so much about sports and gaming – they are signs of Apple’s continued growth as an AR leader. CEO Tim Cook has made no secret of his passion for AR. It’s telling that Apple demoed two very different forms of AR – one for training and one for entertainment. Both learning and entertainment comprise the sweet spot for AR.

As I noted earlier this year, various AR apps and games are currently being introduced into the App Store and Google Play, and many more are in the process of being developed using Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. Consequently, incorporating AR technology into new tools or games for phones, tablets, and laptops will become the new norm.

You can take it to the bank: AR is going to continue growing for both business and pleasure – and Apple will have a leadership role in that growth. For more insight into how businesses can use AR to build their brands, contact True Interactive.

Apple Plays Catch-up with Voice at WWDC

Apple Plays Catch-up with Voice at WWDC

Marketing

At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple showcased a new and improved Siri voice assistant, which was a must-do for a company that pioneered voice only to fall behind competitors such as Amazon and Google.

As we have discussed on our blog, voice is without question an important wave of innovation fueling how businesses interact with their customers. In her widely read Internet Trends report, Kleiner Perkins Venture Capitalist Mary Meeker said, “With voice, we’ve hit technology liftoff with word accuracy, and we’ve certainly hit product liftoff with Amazon Echo’s install base estimated to be around 30 million plus.”

Indeed, adoption of smart speakers alone has skyrocketed in the United States. According to NPR/Edison Research findings, 39 million Americans owned smart speakers in January 2018, an increase of 128 percent from January 2017. Businesses such as Jim Beam are literally figuring out their brand voices through voice assistants. Jim Beam, for instance, offers a playful bourbon container that relies on a voice assistant.

Apple knows voice is the future, but the company has struggled to shape that future. Its Siri voice assistant is widely viewed as a weak alternative to Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, and the HomePod smart speaker didn’t launch until 2018 (to tepid reviews). At WWDC, Apple did not unveil any dramatic breakthroughs in voice, but it did showcase some tangible improvements to Siri.

First off, Apple has made Siri more efficient by incorporating short-cut commands through an app known literally as Shortcuts. With Shortcuts, users can rely on commonly used commands that Siri learns to act on. The idea is to make Siri more convenient. As Mark Vena of Moor Insights & Strategy noted, “Shortcuts could also be used to help proactively plan for your day. For example, if you were about to go to the beach, Siri might suggest that you check the weather and remember to bring a beach towel with you.”

But as Vena also wrote, Amazon and Google have already developed a short-cut capability in their own voice assistants. The more interesting development from WWDC is how Apple is making Siri smarter. The voice assistant can actually learn from the way you use Siri to suggest to you activities based on your habits. For instance, Siri might suggest to a cup of coffee at a time of day when the user often seeks coffee. But here again, Apple is achieving status quo instead of leading. As Kevin C. Tofel wrote on Stacey on IoT, “If you open the same exercise tracking app at roughly the same time and location — say at the gym at 5pm — Siri will eventually pop up a suggestion to open the app at the same time and place for you. This is similar to Google Assistant, which I love, but it’s just Siri starting to catch up since Google’s product  has done this for nearly five years now. In fact, I get my contextual alerts on the Apple Watch from the Google Assistant app today, although I’ll test Siri in this capacity once watchOS 5 arrives.”

Amazon is leading the marketplace for voice-based products and experiences and possesses a formidable platform with which to integrate voice to search, discover, and buy. Google and Microsoft are strong challengers. Apple is still catching up. But don’t count out Apple. The company has the money, talent, and patience to get where it needs to be.

 

 

ARe You Ready for Augmented Reality?

ARe You Ready for Augmented Reality?

Marketing

Glasses. Lenses. Apps. Games. Ads. These are all examples of products and experiences being shaped by augmented reality (AR). While not entirely new, AR will become an increasingly popular tool used to engage shoppers throughout 2018.  Various apps and games are currently being introduced into the App Store and Google Play, and many more are in the process of being developed using Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. Consequently, incorporating AR technology into new tools or games for phones, tablets, and laptops will become the new norm.

The last few years have brought a glimpse of what augmented reality can do. Popular apps such as the Pokémon GO game, Ikea Place, Fitness AR, and MeasureKit introduced the world of augmented and virtual reality to our actual reality. Unlike VR, which creates a false reality, AR enhances your surroundings and adds to your current reality.

Snapchat

One example of a brand already incorporating AR is Snapchat. Snapchat introduced AR advertising features through its lenses and is launching a new AR Lens Studio. Brands are able to use these lenses to advertise their products as well as their brand name on social media in a more interactive setting. What sets these lenses/filters apart is the more engaging and lively nature of the tool. Customers are generally more inclined to convert when they are given an actual experience. The lenses also make for a more memorable and fun way to target millennials.

Shopping Ads

Augmented reality will also enhance how shopping ads operate. Online shoppers sometimes miss out on the in-store experience when searching for a product or service through the web. The use of AR will help create this virtual experience for online shoppers, increasing engagement rates, building brand awareness, and potentially drive conversions. AR will enhance these ads to be more interactive and memorable because AR makes it possible for users to view much more than a flat image. Imagine being able to view a product in its actual setting, sampling clothing without having to drive to a store, or even taking a 360-degree tour of how furniture will look inside your own home before you decide to make a purchase. In fact, the Ikea Place AR app provides this functionality already. Place allows for users to sample furniture within the comfort of their own homes.

Another app similar to Ikea Place is from Houzz. Its app allows the users to virtually remodel or redecorate their homes before actually committing to these larger, more permanent changes. AR makes it possible to configure a potential purchase from the comfort of your own home, saving you time from having to make returns when a product doesn’t work well, or even previewing renovation changes before they take place. Experiences such as these represent the future of shopping ads.

What to Expect

Apple and Google have already created their own AR software kits and introduced them into their operating software — Apple’s ARKit in iOS11 and Android’s ARCore. Many resourceful apps have already been launched using this technology. In January 2018, Apple announced that many “customers are now enjoying close to 2,000 ARKit-enabled apps spanning every category on the App Store.” From these platforms, we can expect to see more apps include AR features. From games, fitness tracking and coaching apps, to shopping tools and travel apps that include interactive maps — the list of uses for augmented reality goes on and on.

The technology to improve these apps will still be developing well into 2018, but we can expect to see more and more businesses incorporate AR into their marketing strategies. ARe you ready for what 2018 and the world of augmented reality will bring?

 

Apple Event Underscores Popularity of Emoji

Apple Event Underscores Popularity of Emoji

Branding

One of the more interesting announcements from Apple’s September 12 special event was the unveiling of the animoji. The animoji is a new type of emoji in which your facial expressions animate an emoji. The iPhone X, when available in November, will track your facial expressions and make your favorite emoji, whether unicorns or aliens, become even more dynamic through your personality.

According to Apple Vice President of Software Craig Federighi, who demonstrated animoji onstage, animoji will make it possible for you to record an audio message, resulting in your animoji becoming synced with sound. He said that with animoji, users can “breathe our own personality” into your favorite emoji, which evoked reactions such as “fun and maybe a little creepy” from Anthony Ha at TechCrunch.

My take: the unveiling of animoji is another sign of how emoji have rapidly taken hold as a legitimate way for people and businesses to communicate. Consider these usage statistics, aggregated by DMR:

  • Nearly eight out of ten women online consider themselves frequent emoji users, and 60 percent of men online do as well.
  • About half of Instagram comments contain emoji.
  • Nearly six out of 10 of the top 500 brands have tweeted an emoji.

The popularity of emoji has certainly increased since the data was reported in 2015. In fact, according to a report published by platform provider Emogi, in 2016 people sent to each other 2.3 trillion mobile messages that incorporate emoji.

Brands have taken notice and are incorporating emoji into their digital marketing. For example, Toyota recently launched an ad campaign that incorporates users’ tweeted emoji into short-form video content. General Electric famously created an #EmojiScience campaign consisting of a website, emojiscience.com, which contains emoji as a periodic table of the elements. By clicking on each emoji, site visitors learn more about science, a topic that is at the core of the GE brand.

Meanwhile, Emogi is among the companies developing tools to help businesses incorporate emoji into their branding. For instance, Emogi introduced a way for businesses to embed branded emoji into text messages, which is important because texting is a huge vehicle for emoji sharing.

Our advice to you is to first know how emoji-centric your audience is. Use tools such as social monitoring to understand how your audience uses emoji, when, and why. Then start experimenting with emoji. Test ads and organic content with and without emoji and determine which are most effective. But don’t ignore emoji. As the Apple special event demonstrated, emoji are not going away. They’re becoming more and more sophisticated and common. Contact True Interactive to understand how to incorporate content such as emoji into your marketing. 😀

Lead image source: REUTERS/Stephen Lam