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13 Jul

If you’re targeting a family audience, is your marketing strategy ready for an audio-led world?

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We take a look at how this pioneering technology is quickly becoming mainstream and how advertisers can reach their target audience in new and exciting ways.  

Voice command devices maybe something you know a lot about – in fact your household may make up one of the 9% which already owns one in the UK. Or you may know very little about them, whichever camp you fall into, the rapid growth of this emerging technology is making advertisers sit up and listen. Technology research company Gartner predicts 75% US household penetration by 2020. In the UK, stats from Radiocentre’s recent ‘Getting Vocal’ study suggests household penetration of these devices could hit 40% by early 2018.

But what is a voice command device?

A voice command device (VCD) is a screen-less device controlled by the human voice. Users can easily operate these gadgets with their hands full or whilst doing other tasks as the need to use buttons, dials and switches has been removed. Through these devices people can play music, get a news update and place online orders. The more the device is used, the more it adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary and personal preferences. Google Home and Amazon Echo are a couple of the most recognised products in this sector.

The speed at which consumers are snapping up these products firmly demonstrates that this is the way the future is heading so it’s essential for marketers to be ready as a shift in focus is needed to take full advantage of the platform. Historically advertisers have focused their efforts on reinforcing the visible aspects of their brand. Strip back everything visual from your brand and how does it sound? Does it sound as good as it looks? Probably not.

Our love affair with these devices is also linked to their immobility as they need to be continuously plugged in. Before VCDs, much of our experience with voice assistants was via our smartphones which came with an embarrassment factor of talking to your phone in public. In the privacy of our own home, we are much more comfortable with talking to a machine.

Taking into account the market penetration forecasts, it’s safe to say that the convenience that these devices offer seem to outweigh any concerns we have about privacy as the information collected by these devices no longer belongs to you.

It’s an old cliché that people don’t like change so innovators like Microsoft, Google & Apple have been playing a clever game by slowly introducing us to voice assisted features with the likes of Siri, Google Now and Cortana. They give us new features, make sure we’re comfortable with them then take away other features like the headphone jack and touchscreen.

Adoption of these new features and reliance on them to perform day to day tasks helps these technology companies pave the way for a future where artificial intelligence is part of everyday life and no longer confined to science fiction.

Take up forecasts for voice command devices are comparable to the smart phone. Thanks to the convenience and connectivity it offers consumers, market penetration in the UK leapt from 52% to 81% in the four years to May 2016 according to Deloitte’s Mobile Consumer Survey 2016. And with speech input being three times quicker than typing on a mobile device, is going to be interesting to see if VCDs enjoy a similar market penetration.

In the case of the Amazon Echo, there are currently no paid-for advertising opportunities. However, brands are capitalising on the marketing opportunity the platform presents by working with app developers to develop ‘skills’ for the Echo. Skills are essentially apps which sit on the device and help to answer the user’s questions. The user asks the device a question and a two-way conversation starts where the device asks further questions to help fully understand what the user wants to know. The device then audibly relays specific content to the user from the relevant app / brand.

It’s no surprise that listening to radio or on-demand music services dominates what these devices are being used for. In Radiocentre’s ‘Getting Vocal’ report, the results showed that 71% of Echo users were listening to more audio entertainment. Within this, radio listening dominates, accounting for 72%. 63% of heavy radio listeners say they use the Radioplayer ‘skill’ to listen, while 53% say they use the default TuneIn interface. The study shows that Echo has already become widely established and predicts that it will become mainstream technology in the UK within the next 12 months, challenging the mobile phone’s dominance as the first and last device used during the day.

With radio being so well placed to capitalise on changing consumer behaviour thanks to the likes of the Echo, it’s worth reminding ourselves how effective radio is at reaching the ‘main shopper with kids’ target audience. According to RAJAR, the figures show that the radio audience in this demographic continues to grow. Looking at the figures year on year, the average hours per listener in this demographic have grown from 12.4 (Q1 2016) to 13.6 (Q1 2017) and TSA share has gone from 54.7% (Q1 2016) to 58% (Q1 2017). Fantastic news if you’re targeting a family audience with a Days Out or Entertainment offering.

Despite the current lack of advertising opportunities on the platform itself, over half of daily Echo users recall hearing advertising on the device, with radio cited as the main source. With that in mind, developing a consistent brand sound now will benefit advertisers in an audio-led world. Brands will need to develop a distinctive brand sound to help them stand out from the crowd. Consistent use of straplines, music, and voice – over time and across different platforms – helps drive brand recognition, likeability and deeper engagement.

Voice technology has come a long way in recent years but there are still limitations to what problems these devices can solve – developers have not yet built a speech recognition system which understands the world we live in. It can control your smart home, play music and provide cooking tips but it can’t book a flight for example. However, as company’s websites catch up with the technology as consumer demand grows, the opportunities are endless and a world dominated by artificial intelligence grows ever closer. Does your brand sound as good as it should?

To download the full report from Radiocentre’s ‘Getting Vocal’ study, please click here. If you’d like to find out more about creating a distinctive brand sound for your business, call the Kalua team on 0161 933 7800.

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