How Brands Can Build A Compelling Voice Strategy

It's not enough just to build an Alexa skill; discoverability is the name of the game in this 'new world' of SEO.

As adoption of voice-controlled devices skyrockets, marketers are eager to find a way to communicate with consumers via this medium — especially because it’s inherently more personal than text/swipe.

This has led to an uptick in brands quickly building out skills for the likes of Amazon Alexa — but the problem is that “there’s a zombie skill graveyard already developing,” said Jared Belsky, president of 360i, in a panel at last week’s Ad Age Next conference. “[Too many marketers] went out and built one, but without a discovery strategy.”

In other words, a “cool” voice skill won’t lead to greater brand loyalty — or to a purchase — if it isn’t both easily discoverable and optimized/updated to keep users coming back, rather than abandoning the skill after one or two uses.

Panelists agreed that to succeed in an increasingly voice-first world, brands need both a paid strategy and an SEO strategy.

“Brands have to focus on discoverability, or else it’s 2011 all over again — people building apps with no strategy for how people would find and use them,” said Doug Robinson, CEO of Fresh Digital Group. “And have a voice strategy [specifically]: Don’t build something just because someone said ‘quick, let’s build an Alexa skill.'”

GeoMarketing: How has the voice space evolved since the launch of the Amazon Echo in 2015? And what do brands need to be thinking about? 

Doug Robinson: Obviously, brands have to figure out what works for them based on their vertical and their audience they are trying to reach.

We know that consumer expectations are growing by leaps and bounds every month, every week. I think that no one really understands how fast this is moving: The things we were thinking about in June versus the things I was thinking about in September versus things I’m thinking about now are all so different.

And not because the audience is growing per se, but because we know that what we can develop [for these intelligent assistants] increasingly makes more sense for more different types of brands. So, that’s super important. I’m not saying this because we develop skills [at Fresh Digital]; I’m saying that from a brand perspective, you need to take what the customer wants — and they want to have a device that they can talk to.

So, what’s the “right way” to go about making a skill? You said in the panel that it has to deliver a real, compelling experience — what are the “do’s and don’ts” for brands thinking about this?

Firstly, you must consistently update and optimize.

You need to have a consistent service, layer, [and] plan. We obviously think that you should have all the bells and whistles of a full marketing piece around it, but there are other opportunities too. So far, no one has really tapped into how a brand could get to the next level with the consumer knowing that they could say “Okay Google this” or “Alexa that” and there’s a “hidden” skill or experience [to help them with that request] — almost like the In-N-Out Burger secret menu, and things like that.

You also talked about how voice assistants are functionally making recommendations for consumer; Matt Pritchard from Campbell’s mentioned that a major hurdle is someone [asking Alexa] for cream of mushroom soup —but not Campbell’s cream of mushroom.

How can brands get these intelligent assistants to see them and recommend them as the top option in an unbranded request? What is the “new SEO” of voice search?

I think one of the things that is really critical is [having and optimizing] reviews. These different assistants do have slightly different algorithms. But we do know specifically [that to] Amazon, reviews are very, very important.

I think they are still developing that algorithm, but contextually, it’s just super interesting; context matters so much. One example is that we have [skills for] all of the national anthems. So, for whatever reason, we’ve built out a National Anthem for United States, and it really, really took off. So we thought, fine, we’ll just develop one for every country. Anyway, from doing this, now we know that  if I say, “hey Alexa, do you know any Turkish recipes,” she goes “no, but I can play you the Turkish National Anthem.”

We were able to bake ourselves into that SEO. I think we’ll see [lots more] of brands creating content to try to do that — to answer users’ questions, and [much  more.]

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.