Amazon Alexa and Branded Search

Voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home, are growing in popularity, and brands are working behind the scenes to figure out their role in the developing arena. Researchers at Gartner have predicted that screenless browsing will account for 30 percent of all browsing sessions by 2020.

The technology and algorithms that drive voice assistants are responsible for choosing what to share with consumers from a vast set of options. As voice assistants continue to grow in influence, brands will feel the increased competition. There are currently no paid ways to capture the top spots in search results. However, paying attention to both unbranded and branded search terms and doing so early will help brands stand tall among the crowd.

Branded and Unbranded Search Terms

A branded search term is exactly what it sounds like: a search term with the brand name in it. This could be anything from the brand name on its own (“Tide”) to a phrase (“Tide detergent pods” or “are Tide detergent pods safe for septic system”). An unbranded search term would be anything else (“laundry detergent”).

Unbranded searches can seem more nuanced and competitive, so there is a lot of focus on making sure the right dollars are going to the right words and phrases. It is true; brands cannot neglect unbranded search, especially when it comes to a fresh technology like voice. But don’t miss the obvious for something complex. Branded search may seem like a given, but it shouldn’t be ignored.

A Different Audience for Branded Search

Consumers are significantly more likely to make a purchase when they are using a branded search term. In fact, Google has found that branded keywords have more than two times higher conversion when compared to unbranded search terms. While it is important to capture consumers at the beginning of their purchase cycle, you want to guarantee that you are first in line for your most qualified leads.

Branded searches not only return the most qualified leads, but also increase visibility and strengthen the brand/customer relationship. It’s important to know how consumers discover your products and to respond to the data from your search campaigns. The key is to develop and adapt, remaining agile enough to stay at the forefront. As Rob Gonzalez from Salsify has said, it is a ready, fire, aim approach.

Size Doesn’t Matter

Regardless of company size, brands need to be flexible in their marketing tactics. Large, established brands have a lot to lose if up-and-comers are able to steal their spot in the voice market. Many new brands are taking a digital-first approach and seeing positive results.

For example, beverage company Bai partnered with content26 to run Amazon Advertising campaigns, and saw great returns in brand awareness. These campaigns were paired with larger national advertising efforts, and, as a complete strategy, Bai has quickly become a big player in the beverages market. With a full-fledged digital approach, smaller, newer companies have a strong chance to make a name for themselves.

With the limited space through Amazon Alexa, a complete strategy is imperative.

How Does Amazon Alexa Choose Products for Purchase?

When Alexa is asked to make a purchase, her responses are largely beyond a brand’s control in two cases, but able to be managed in the third. Alexa’s default is to purchase something a consumer has bought in the past, then to suggest an “Amazon’s Choice” product. While brands can make themselves available for Amazon’s Choice by checking all the right boxes, the process for earning the label is currently very opaque.

If these options are not available, brands have a chance to capture one of two available spots. Alexa will not list more than two products.

Toni Reid, Vice President of Alexa Experience and Echo Devices at Amazon, said, “We believe that voice will fundamentally improve the way people interact with technology because of its ability to make the complex simple.”

While consumers see the simple side, voice assistants have upped the competition for brands. They need to be prepared to contend in a fast-developing field. Staying flexible and targeting both branded and unbranded terms can help.

Editor’s Note: On September 5, 2018, Amazon rebranded its advertising platform. Amazon Marketing Services changed to Amazon Advertising and Amazon Advertising Platform changed to Amazon DSP, among other changes. This blog post was changed on October 10, 2018 to reflect those changes.