Forrester – Marketers Need an Intelligent Agent Strategy for 100 Million Consumers

Jennifer Wise of Forrester published a blog post last Friday on a new case study she wrote related to Patron’s Amazon Alexa skill. I don’t have access to the full case study, but she made some important points in the blog post that marketers should take into account. Wise reports that, “in 2015, 45% of US online adults used at least one” intelligent agent such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant. That represents over 100 million consumers and a year later the number must be even higher.

A Fast Growing Consumer Market

With numbers like these and an expected holiday rush by consumers to put Amazon Echo or Google Home under the tree, marketers need to be thinking about their strategy to address this trend. Consumers are now using these services in large numbers. All of those omni-channel marketing strategists must be thinking about how to approach this as a new way to reach and connect with consumers. Wise suggests  several points for consideration:

  • Does your brand lend itself to interacting with consumers through these channels?
  • How committed is your brand to digital channels?
  • What does your data tell you?

I found the second point particularly interesting. Consider your marketing budget and resource availability. If you are not fully funding your other digital initiatives, should you really be jumping into voice interaction? Many would say no. A point that Witlingo CEO Ahmed Bouzid made in a recent Voicebot interview was that too many Alexa skills today are neglected or orphaned. The were launched by enterprises but, “we are not seeing discipline of releasing products with a planned cadence of upgrades.” You may well decide that voice interaction matches your brand objectives and have data to back it up. That may not matter unless you have the organizational and budget commitment to make it a success over time.

To Build a Skill / Action / App, Or Not

The key point that Wise lands on is for marketers to thoughtfully consider whether it makes sense to rush out and launch a skill, action or other intelligent agent compatible application. Well, of course. That is not exactly an earth-shattering recommendation coming from an analyst. The question we should all have about this recommendation is whether that is actually the biggest risk. It would seem that inaction has more potential downside for marketers than a failed attempt.

The argument is that many company’s might have been better off had they not launched mobile apps and presumably expended their resources elsewhere. I think everyone will agree that some companies ranging from Nike and L’Oreal to Charmin and Oreo have had substantial marketing wins with mobile apps and other companies have not. It is not clear that any of these wins could have been predicted with any degree of confidence. The market is fickle and some of these represented potential brand risks — I’m talking about you Charmin.

The Importance of Presence

However, mobile may actually be the wrong analogy. Brands could have a mobile web presence and still be reachable by mobile audiences even if they didn’t launch an app. That is not true for voice assistants and the World Wide Web may be the better parallel for comparison. I argued in a Huff Post article earlier this year that we are seeing the rise of a voice web. Alexa is to the voice web what Netscape Navigator was to the visual web. That means the calculus will necessarily be different than with mobile apps. Without a voice application of some sort, brands will not be reachable by consumers on the voice web.

Few marketers would think it wise to forgo having a website. Do these same brands really want to be unreachable by consumers through voice assistants? I doubt it. Forrester’s Ms. Wise is well schooled in this market and makes many valuable points. Marketers should be thinking about the best way to work in this new channel and ensure they have a long-term resource commitment. However, they would be wise to bias toward establishing a presence or face the risk of being left behind.

Digiday – Patron Turns Amazon’s Alexa into Customers’ Personal Bartender

Motley Fool Launches Alexa Skill with Help of Witlingo

Is Your Brand Ready for The Voice Web? Get to Know Alexa