As reported in a recent analysis by This Week in Voice, 52% of the 50 biggest companies in America (by revenue) have adopted Alexa, and 42% have adopted Google Assistant by building voice apps on their platforms.
The result is bloated app marketplaces, filled with many sub-par efforts from indie and corporate publishers alike, which can drive huge problems in discoverability of the minority of well-conceived, well-executed experiences, and potentially turn users off to the medium.
With the shifting customer behaviors spurred by the pandemic, these apps have enjoyed increased exposure. In May 2020, MoonPie, the popular sweet treat, released its MoonMate Alexa skill that acts as a virtual roommate providing entertainment and conversation. While we quarantined in our homes, MoonMate was a welcomed companion that elevated MoonPie’s brand voice. Another company looking to engage its consumers with voice is General Mills. Its Lucky Charms brand introduced Lucky’s Magical Mission, a voice-led smart speaker adventure for kids, highlighting how voice can reach a demographic primed for new experiences. Other companies such as Sony Music UK have also released Alexa skills providing gamified voice experiences.
This year, RAIN has also launched numerous voice apps across a diverse array of use cases, for companies ranging from Autotrader to Wynn Hotels to Age of Learning (publisher of ABCmouse). With the Autotrader skill and action, users can seamlessly browse the company’s vehicle inventory to find the right car. Our partnership with Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Resort saw the opportunity to utilize voice technology to not only enhance the guest experience, but to also optimize staff experience by creating an in-room Alexa voice concierge. And in October, we launched the ABCMouse action, which immerses children in a fun alphabet adventure making full use of Google’s Interactive Canvas feature set.
Voice experiences also increasingly incorporate sonic identity elements. GlaxoSmithKline’s Voltaren decided to incorporate audio into Pandora music advertisements, creating a holistic experience illustrative of the arthritis brand’s identity. The campaign consisted of dynamic audio ads with positive and upbeat music, calls for the users to shake their phones to unlock listening, and branded playlist for activities.
Our personal products, including cars and toothbrushes, are getting voice upgrades too. Buick’s new campaign for the 2021 Buick Envision branded the car as a “new Alexa,” showing its bet on personal assistants to reach tech-savvy consumers. Oral-B’s new electric toothbrush embedded Alexa into its rechargeable base, allowing users to play music and news during the daily brushing ritual.
We expect to see voice-led brand activations grow in these areas:
Even as many brands continue to invest in voice apps, we predict that a growing number of companies will start to treat voice experiences as frictionless entry-points to other platforms and modalities. As voice channels solidify and become permanent aspects of the marketing plan, social and TV will begin to include drivers both to and from voice, where voice apps are but one part of a bigger experience plan.
Many new voice-enabled devices being launched and purchased by consumers now include screens, be they smart displays or OTT systems like FireTV, Chromecast, or Apple TV. With multimodal and screen-augmented devices reliably driving more sticky and delightful voice interactions, we expect brands and platforms alike to lean into this modality and design their voice presences to be inclusive of visual content—not as a checkbox, but as a core design pillar. Speaker-only devices will maintain the most market share and utility for things like timers and music, but they may not be the devices through which brands really care about reaching consumers.
As voice continues to grow, so does its potential to generate money and sales, especially through third-party voice apps on mainstream platforms. For too long, brands have come up relatively empty-handed in looking at voice as a way to generate significant direct revenue, or at minimum, a way to advertise in new, creative ways. We expect mainstream voice assistants will get more aggressive in building out both monetization and advertising opportunities to sustain brand attention and investment.