While voice-powered virtual assistants have been around for several years, new advancements have been made to enhance the consumer experience. Ad campaigns for Alexa, Google Home, and Siri show how easy it is to use these devices and promote the convenience of using a voice-activated device to access information and purchase product. This week, Media Works investigates how these products affect our advertisers – specifically those who run Paid Search – and leads us to this question: “Alexa, how are you skewing my Search results?”
First, we looked at the top three products in this category:
- Siri paved the way for the voice-recognition personal assistant category, and simultaneously gave a “voice” to Apple. It was first introduced when the iPhone 4S debuted in 2011. Siri was in Beta test until recently, when Apple opened the door to developers and began to expand its capabilities. Now, Siri has a variety of voice options and interacts with calendar appointments, reminders and apps consumers check frequently. Siri watches as users browse the web and builds a profile of interests and activities to be more useful with its recommendations and notifications. Like Alexa, Siri pulls its answers from Bing.
- Alexa was introduced in November 2014, and performs a variety of tasks. It has the capability to stream music from several streaming music sources, including Amazon Prime’s Music Library, Pandora, Spotify, and Internet Radio such as iHeartRadio. You can ask questions and also give Alexa commands. Alexa incorporates third party skills through the “Alexa” app on your smartphone. This allows you to connect with other smart devices such as smart bulbs, switches, and thermostats in your home. The “always on, always listening” device pulls answers to your questions from Bing. Also, another key feature is Alexa’s capability to make transactions from Amazon.
- Google Home was released in November, 2016, and has versions of Alexa’s capabilities with a more sophisticated approach when it comes to searching the web. It can go beyond basic questions and learns more with each question asked. For complicated answers, Google Home even sends a link to the companion Google Home app on your phone. Like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home allows consumers to make purchases through the device. Instead of shopping strictly on Amazon, users can make purchases from Google Express, but a drawback is that products are limited to stores that partner with Google.
We also wanted to look at this market and exactly how many people use these devices, to estimate audience size. eMarketer estimates that 35.6M Americans will use a voice-activated assistant in 2017 – an increase of nearly 130% over last year. Amazon Echo accounts for 70.6% of users, with Google Home at a 23.8% share. Of these users, eMarketer identified the heaviest users as A25-34, making up 26.3% of users. From a generational standpoint, Millennials are the heaviest users: more than 33.5% of Millennials will use a virtual assistant in 2017.
So what does all of this mean for advertisers? Voice-search technology affects how users approach Search and how devices handle inquiries. And, due to the fact that human conversational speech is used, most questions asked require concise, simple answers. This may affect keyword lists and the way advertisers push their content on the web.
And, you don’t get to pick which search engine you use. If you are asking Alexa or Siri a question, they consult Yahoo!/Bing. However, if you are using Google Home, your search will be conducted on Google. For advertisers that exclusively use Google, they may have to consider using additional search engines to reach these voice-activated devices. Ad copy and strategy 7may also need to be adjusted to specifically target these users.
With voice-activated technology advancing so quickly, it’s impossible to predict where this trend will take us in the next few years. Yet, one thing is certain: advertisers will need to account for these new devices and adopt media strategies to reach their users.