Alexa May Give Voice to Targeted Marketing

We’ve seen a rapid evolution in shopping interfaces, ranging from letting our fingers do the walking on our keyboards, to letting them swipe their way to what we seek on touchscreens. The next big thng, it seems, is a touchless interface made by possible by voice-activation.

As people are coming to expect the convenience of talking to their devices, companies like Google and Amazon are accommodating that form of navigation, and exploring new ways to monetize it. Amazon is looking into the possibilities of product promotion voiced by Alexa on Echo devices, according to a CNBC report.

Brands like Procter & Gamble and Clorox are apparently talking with Amazon about the possibility of advertising via Alexa, rather like the sponsored results that browsing on Google retrieves.That would be a significant shift for Amazon, and a welcome move for brands who consider improving their position in voice search to be particularly advantageous. CNBC explains, “shoppers are more likely to select a top result on a voice assistant than they are on the web, where it’s easy to scroll down or ignore written suggestions.”

While Amazon hasn’t yet issued a public statement about this move, the fact that Amazon recently began experimenting with different forms of advertising to roll out this year is suggestive. Some of these are based on nudges that build on established patterns, like recommending that someone who buys one product from a brand consider a complementary product from the same brand.

Alexa could give voice to what Amazon and other online sellers are already doing online — offering related products, or letting the shoppers know what other shoppers bought in addition to that product. But Alexa’s suggestions may not be limited to that. As CNBC suggests: “Someone asking the Echo for help cleaning up a spill might be nudged to use a specific brand.”

Such auditory product placements would be far shorter and less intrusive than full-blown commercials. Voicebot.AI interprets the initiative as foreshadowing ads that simply prompt product awareness. But why stop at that? What brands particularly like about digital ads is that they are immediately actionable. There is a big advantage in an ad that can lead to purchase completion is a few steps over an ad that merely makes you aware of a product that you may — or may not — choose to purchase further down the road.

While more relevant ads may be considered a good thing, both for the brands looking to target effectively, and the consumers who are looking for relevant messages, there are always people who just don’t like the idea of ads creeping in everywhere. 

Accordingly, an Android Central article on the Alexa ad news ended with this question: “If/when advertisements come to Alexa, will you be inclined to get another smart speaker over one from Amazon?” For myself, I’d likely say yes — or at least that one might look for the development of ad blocker software for voice. But then I’m the type of person who shuts off my car radio when I get tired of hearing commercials. What about you?

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