Voice-based assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant are transforming how brands will need to think about their digital strategies for the future. In 2016, around 5.2 million Amazon Echo units with Alexa were shipped worldwide, more than double the number sold the year before.
Currently, Echo owners are mainly using the digital assistant for productivity and entertainment: setting timers, adding items to shopping lists, and playing music. But the foundation is laid for Alexa to be monumental in affecting online sales, as voice prompts make shopping easier than ever. Echo owners increased their spending on Amazon by nearly 10 percent after purchasing the device.
Amazon is Becoming a Hub for Outside Businesses
For companies looking to stay on the cutting edge of ecommerce, now is the time to start integrating with Alexa content functionality. Even for brands that don’t sell their products directly on Amazon, creating Skills for Alexa at this nascent stage is a forward-thinking move that could pay dividends.
“Skills” are pre-programmed voice prompts that Alexa is able to understand and respond to. There are currently around 13,000 Skills available for the digital assistant, with many companies outside of Amazon utilizing the platform. Alexa users can order Domino’s Pizza, call an Uber, and check their credit card balances with Capitol One, for example.
Tide, who does sell products on Amazon, has expanded Skills on Alexa beyond simply appearing as a result in the search function. In addition to finding and buying Tide detergents, users can also ask Alexa how to remove different types of stains from clothing with Tide products.
Understanding Alexa Content at the Point of Sale
Alexa connects directly to the point of sale, giving brands that sell on Amazon a direct line to purchases. Yet missteps with product-level content can result in a horrific Alexa experience.
Content26 recently tested a handful of pet, home, and consumer electronics products on Echo Show and Echo Dot to determine how Alexa shares product page information. When searching on Amazon for items like “wooden hangers,” “Bluetooth receivers,” or “puppy training pads,” the first information Alexa shares is the product title and price for the top search result.
We were interested in what information Alexa would share when we asked the devices to tell or show more information.
Echo Show made use of its screen, displaying the title and bullets for each product. But Echo Show was unable to provide additional detail with commands such as “show me more” or “tell me more.”
When used with the Echo Dot, Alexa responded competently to the command “tell me more.” Here’s what information Alexa gave (in order)
- Product star rating
- Number of customer reviews
- Packaging size (pack of 3, 100 count, etc).
Alexa Content Recommendations
Our test uncovered a small amount of specialized, Alexa-only content. For example, puppy pads had an added a reminder to “remember to always get your indoor dog outside for plenty of fresh air and exercise.” Yet this content appeared to have been added by Amazon, as the phrases were identical across brands for all three of the puppy pad products tested.
Generally speaking, products with short, concise titles and bullets fared best in our Alexa text on both the Dot and Show. On average, Alexa stopped reading bulleted information after 22 seconds.
For the verbose RND USB Cable, Alexa only got through the first bullet before stopping. On the other hand, Echo recited all 5 bullets of the Topline Classic Wooden Shirt Hangers in under 20 seconds, giving a helpful audio overview of the product.
Brands will need to revisit product page content to make sure it’s optimized for Alexa. As we mentioned above, the length of the bullets is a major factor. Beyond that, brands will also need to make sure that their product page content sounds natural and conversational when read by an AI like Alexa.
Beyond the Product Page
Though Alexa will be instrumental in future search functions, one of the main benefits of the voice assistant is that it can bypass searching altogether. If a customer asks for something general, like, “Order paper towels,” Alexa will use a combination of previous orders, top-sellers, highly rated products, and more to fill in the gaps and offer a suggestion.
Focusing on making your highest selling, Prime-eligible products compatible with Alexa is going to be a key factor in successful Amazon marketing campaigns. Starting the process early gives brands valuable insight into the process, and they can use that information to improve future strategies.
It’s already time to start thinking about holiday advertising on Amazon. With more and more shoppers are turning to voice-prompted interfaces, brands need to begin the process of integrating voice compatibility with existing ecommerce strategies.