The following is a guest post from Mike Puffer, HelloWorld's senior director of strategy, insights and innovation.
Whether you're an Alexa advocate or a fan of Google Home, it's clear that voice has become a big part of consumers' lives. Brands have taken notice and are increasingly experimenting with voice-activated technology. Fandango, for instance, now lets moviegoers order tickets on Google Assistant while Pokémon's voice assistant app invites fans to chat with Pikachu. Soon, guests at Marriott will have a voice-powered, in-room concierge thanks to Amazon Alexa.
But despite the progress that brands have already made integrating this technology into their strategies, voice activation has largely been untapped within loyalty and promotion strategies. The in-home assistant market is fragmented, with the likes of Google, Amazon and Apple all vying for the coveted top-shelf position within people's homes. What's more, the opportunity for marketing and engagement is foggy. But what's clear is that brands need to strike a careful balance between providing value to consumers and putting the brand front and center. Here are a few ways marketers can continue to experiment and integrate this new technology into their loyalty and promotion strategies, without overtaking the platform.
Create seamless utility
The beauty of voice activation is its simplicity. Consumers are drawn to voice for the ease of completing tasks, like playing a song or getting a weather report. We're already seeing brands use this type of utility as the entry point for voice activation strategies. Uber was one of the first to jump on this trend when it created an Amazon Alexa skill that lets riders hail a car by simply asking for a lift. And Dunkin' Donuts recently introduced voice-activated ordering to drive mobile orders.
But let's take this one step further. What if we put a voice-activated spin on sweepstakes and promotions? After a consumer completes her voice order, she's prompted to answer a trivia question in order to enter a sweepstakes. All correct answers are entered into a grand prize drawing. Or, in the case of Dunkin' Donuts, where the goal of voice ordering is to encourage orders, what if the company created a campaign that rewards loyal customers with a free doughnut and coffee for every 10 orders completed on voice?
Elevate the mobile experience
Whether you're talking to Siri or Google on a smartphone — or using the Amazon Alexa app to refine your skills — voice and mobile are inextricably linked. This is a fortuitous relationship for marketers, as voice can be used to elevate the mobile experience. Specifically, as it relates to loyalty and promotions, the opportunity for voice in this environment is to inject moments of engagement into existing utility-driven features. So while customers wait for their mobile order to be prepared, perhaps they could be prompted to play an in-app game that features different chances to win or accrue rewards points.
There's also an opportunity for brands to increase consumers' use of mobile wallets. Customers can opt-in to receive early access to different deals, promotions and coupons via voice. Think of it as a voice-activated circular, or even a daily deals briefing, similar to the daily news briefing feature that many home assistants already offer. With voice commands, shoppers can direct certain promotions to be loaded onto loyalty cards stored in their mobile wallet for later use either online or in-store.
Drive real-world engagement
Beyond utility and elevating mobile experiences, voice activation tech presents a unique opportunity for brands to drive real-world engagement and reduce the friction of the in-store experience. Many retailers have already introduced voice-activated ordering, such as Target, which introduced the feature in a partnership with Google Home. While the natural assumption is that these orders are placed for delivery, there are ways voice can drive consumers in stores.
For example, by integrating with datasets like a store's popular times or traffic on a consumer's route, voice assistants can recommend specific store locations for order pickup based on how fast the consumer needs the product and what current traffic patterns look like. Taking that one step further, retailers can use their own in-store traffic data to recommend off-peak pickup times for consumers seeking to avoid crowds while lifting slow shopping times. Voice-activated shopping lists will also grow in popularity. As consumers can keep track of what they need to buy through voice commands, brands can create in-store maps that group products by aisle, developing the most efficient route for shoppers to take through the store to check things off their list more efficiently.
Voice tech is the next frontier for driving consumer loyalty and engagement. The key for marketers looking to use this technology for loyalty and promotion tactics is to take a utility-first approach. Create simple ways for consumers to use voice commands for everyday tasks, and then layer on moments of engagement to take the experience further and provide real value for customers.