Amazon is Now Highlighting Ad Products for Marketers to Promote Their Alexa Skills – EXCLUSIVE
Amazon forbids ads within most Alexa skills, but it is now highlighting its own ad products that enable marketers to promote their skills through Amazon’s advertising channels. New materials distributed today to marketing agencies include familiar information about identifying Alexa skill opportunities, choosing invocation names, and designing successful voice solutions. There is also a section called “Alexa Marketing & Advertising Guide,” that begins with the statement, “if you *only* build it…they won’t come” [emphasis original].
If you *only* build it…they won’t come.
The Need for Promotion
This statement is a novel admission by Amazon that recognizes what everyone in the industry knows; organic discovery of Alexa skills is not delivering significant consumer trial. If you are lucky enough to get a “hero banner” in the Alexa skill store, you might get thousands of new trials per day according to at least one prominent Alexa skill developer. If not, most likely you will see very little trial unless you promote.
An Amazon spokesperson reached out to me to say these ad units were always available and have been promoted to skill developers in the past. However, no agency executive or marketer I have discussed this with so far recalls any previous focus on promoting Amazon advertising channels to drive skill discovery. This appears to have new emphasis at the very least but for the majority of skill developers, it appears to be an entirely new line of discussion. With that said, there is growing recognition that organic skill discovery alone is not going to be sufficient.
The need for promotion was my precise message during the Voice Strategy Workshop at the Voice 19 conference in July and again in Voice Insider last week: “Voice App Discovery – no one is coming to rescue you…just like before.” The message was simple. You must promote your voice app and that includes the use of advertising if you want to drive user trial. Advertising is one of six techniques that Voicebot recommends marketers enlist in their skill promotion efforts. And, this situation is not unique to Amazon. The problem is equally challenging for Google Assistant.
Amazon Highlights Its Paid Promotion Channels for Skills
One method that has proven to work in raising awareness of Alexa skills is paid promotion. Amazon offers this as an option to Alexa skill publishers. In the new documents, the company shows examples from Tide, auto brand Genesis, and smart home device maker WeMo. The call-to-action around advertising opportunities says:
“Boost discovery of your skill and build awareness by targeting Alexa users throughout their journey on Amazon — through a suite of paid media opportunities. Leverage Amazon Advertising including Display, Mobile, Fire Tablet and Fire TV to reach targeted customers and raise awareness of your brand’s Alexa skill voice experience. More opportunities coming soon.”
Ad fomats listed as available today include “display, mobile, Fire Tablet and Fire TV placements…brand pages, [and] video across Amazon’s inventory through their DSP and OTT video network.” Targeting options include “people who are Amazon Echo Devices Shopper Lookalikes.” Amazon had not responded to an inquiry related to accessing the ad units at the time of publication. There is a note suggesting advertisers could access more information from their AE (account executive).
A company spokesperson suggested that skill developers start by accessing Amazon’s “self-serve solutions” for ad placement. These do include ad formats similar to those described in the marketing documents. Most of these ad units are unlikely to have any more efficacy driving Alexa skill usage than ads placed through other networks. However, two unique ad units have direct connections to Alexa skills.
Marketers using the “landing page experience” are encouraged to include “enable skill buttons” which will “result in skill activation” and presumably ensure it is accessed reliably by Alexa when the invocation phrase is used. Also, the fact that Fire Tablet and Fire TV are “enabled with Alexa voice” means they can drive immediate enablement and even engagement. The materials go on to say, “Fire Tablet & Mobile are the most successful channels in driving users to the skill detail page and driving enablements…Fire Tablet sees strongest CTR exceeding 1%.”
Convergence of Two Trends
What we are seeing is the convergence of two trends. First, there is a need for Alexa skill publishers to drive discovery. Amazon can help this by steering some of its ad inventory to promote Alexa skills both from within its ecosystem and through its broader display and video ad networks.
Second, Amazon’s “other” net sales figures which is largely viewed by financial analysts as driven by advertising sales posted growth of 36% and 37% in the past two quarters. Those are enviable growth rates in many regards but are down from over 100% in the similar quarters of 2018. Amazon is certainly looking for growth in this area. It is not likely that Alexa skill promotions will have a material impact, but the data suggests there is inventory available so it makes sense to push it for many different use cases. In addition, an advertiser that tries Amazon advertising to promote an Alexa skill will then have experience with the ad unit and may consider it for other promotions as well.
Amazon also presents information on co-marketing programs (CMP) in the new documents. These programs are essentially invite-only and include a number of features than can add incremental users to Alexa skills. Some of these include mentions in Amazon’s emails to consumers and posts in the company’s social media channels as well as the “hero banners” or “gateway billboards” that are reserved and not available for purchase in the skill store. Also mentioned are custom utterances, Echo Show hints, and in-store digital displays. This section comes with a prominent disclaimer saying, “We can’t make guarantees upfront and not all brands will qualify for collaborative marketing.”
A Logical Progression Similar to Past Storefronts
There is a lot of discussion about the challenge of voice app discovery and how the voice assistant providers need to fix it. However, a short trip down memory lane will remind us that the same complaints were and are made about Facebook Messenger chatbots, mobile apps in app stores, and social media pages. This was even true of websites. We outlined several challenges with voice search discovery in our recent Voice Assistant SEO Report for Brands in July.
All of these platforms have discovery challenges because the content they offer access to is so vast. Key solutions have typically led to some sort of optimization for organic discovery along with paid advertising. Display ads, app install ads, and search engine marketing are all key tools for driving consumer awareness. Amazon is acknowledging that today Alexa skill publishers can exert some control over discovery by advertising. And, they have a few ad units ready to sell to advance that objective.
Editors Note: This article was updated to include information provided by an Amazon spokesperson at 9:17 pm on August 6, 2019.