Emerging TechnologyAIWhat’s your Alexa strategy?: Smart speakers and their role in the customer journey

What's your Alexa strategy?: Smart speakers and their role in the customer journey

Voice commerce is projected to explode over the next few years, from $2 billion today to more than $40 billion by 2022. But marketers don't have four years to get their Alexa strategies together. Nearly everyone uses smart speakers for search queries, which means they're already part of the customer journey.

As Amazon becomes a bigger player in the advertising space, it’s imperative that brands have an Amazon strategy. But do they also need an Alexa strategy? Well, yeah. Voice commerce is projected to explode over the next few years.

The voice commerce market in the U.S. and the U.K. is worth $2 billion today. OC&C Strategy Consultants projected that voice shopping will be worth more than $40 billion by 2022. On the surface, it sounds like brands have a few years to get their voice commerce strategies together.

They don’t. While voice shopping isn’t exactly commonplace yet, voice is already part of the customer journey.

How Alexa and Google Home play into the path to purchase

Earlier this year, the Voicebot Smart Speaker Consumer Adoption Report, conducted in partnership with voice app developer PullString and digital agency RAIN, explored consumers’ relationship with smart speakers. Surveying 1,057 American adults, the report found that 19.7%—or 43.7 million adults—have access to them, up from less than 1% two years ago. And 62.7% use their smart speakers daily.

Every day, the most common questions consumers have for Alexa and Google Home (but mostly Alexa; Amazon makes up nearly three-quarters of the market) involve music and the weather. Making a purchase is at the bottom of the list; only 26% of users have ever engaged in voice commerce.

Most popular Alexa skills

The most popular daily Alexa activities are playing music and asking about the weather. But those aren’t the most common uses overall; 91% of users have asked their smart speaker a general question, one that was answered thanks to a search engine.

Today’s customer journey has more touchpoints than ever and search is a big one. That means that even if most people haven’t used Alexa or Google Home to buy something, they’ve likely at least started the path to purchase.

Engagement platform Narvar also researched how people use smart speakers. More than half have researched products, while 36% have added something to a shopping list. Narvar also found that voice assistant users are 22% more likely to opt into a brand’s email list.

Voice and the customer journey

How brands are leveraging voice

Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Dominos and Pizza Hut have developed skills that allow consumers to place orders vocally. Those four make sense; there’s not much selection, nor much need to research. Coffee is coffee.

For brands with less straightforward paths to purchase, their skills must be seamless and personalized. Voice is difficult to ignore, which makes it easier to annoy consumers with irrelevant mass marketing.

Savvy brands are already making the most of voice in creative ways that aren’t necessarily contingent on consumers saying, “Alexa, order me…” Here are a few examples:

  1. Walmart brings products to you. Through a partnership with Google, Walmart has many products available consumers can purchase, or add to their carts, via voice. The retailer also keeps track of people’s purchases and automatically recommends replenishments. Maybe you forgot you’re running low on paper towels; Walmart certainly didn’t.
  2. Campbell’s becomes part of your routine. Not many people are likely to say, “Hey Alexa, order me a case of chicken noodle soup.” Still, Campbell’s was the first consumer brand to have an Alexa skill, one designed to add value while you’re cooking. Campbell’s Kitchen has thousands of recipes to share via voice and email.
  3. Kayak aids discovery. Kayak’s smart speaker skill offers a lot more than enabling consumers to book trips. They can book, but they can also discover and research. Kayak even answers more open-ended questions, such as, “Where can I go for $400?”
  4. Macy’s recommends products in a helpful way. Macy’s Style Tips works like an artificially intelligent personal shopper. The skill helps users get dressed and expand their wardrobes and its nature makes product recommendations feel more helpful than sales-y. Macy’s also allows shoppers to feel like they have access to that closet in Clueless, kind of.

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