HBO has created applications — known as “skills” on the Amazon Echo devices — to promote its shows and characters. This year, it introduced Westworld: The Maze, a choose-your-own-adventure-style game for superfans of “Westworld.” (A dramatic trailer for the game ends with a narrator intoning, “Alexa — open Westworld.”) More recently, it introduced a skill starring characters from its new show from Sesame Workshop, “Esme & Roy,” in which children can use the speaker to answer questions and play along. Both games can be played without the aid of screens.
Unilever has created a recipes skill under its Hellmann’s label, while Procter & Gamble has introduced features from Tide and Oral-B. Those using the Tide application can ask Alexa how to remove juice or grass stains from clothing, while Oral-B’s offers a tooth-brushing timer.
On Google Home, where the term “skills” is replaced by “actions,” Estée Lauder has one for personalized beauty advice and Disney has some games for children.
Marketers have been rushing to figure out where their brands fit in a world populated by voice assistants and smart speakers. While questions remain about privacy and security, data from Comscore in October showed that more than 20 million homes in the United States, or 22 percent of those with Wi-Fi, use the devices. By 2022, more than half of American homes will have a smart speaker, according to Juniper Research.
“We feel like this voice-based interaction is not going away,” Ms. Caluori said. “It’s starting with speakers, but it’ll very quickly be TVs and cars and all these other places.”
The “Esme & Roy” skill, which was created with Sesame Workshop, showed the potential for smart speakers with children and their parents. Amazon has been seeking child-friendly voice applications, particularly now that it sells an Echo device meant for children, Ms. Caluori said. At the same time, she said, young parents such as herself are keen on smart speakers, partly because they’re a screen-free alternative to tablets and phones.
Marketers say the data they are getting back from Amazon and Google has been relatively thin so far. It can include the amount of time people spent engaging with a skill and the number of sessions that were started and completed, Ms. Klaassen of 360i said.
Ms. Reubenstein said her firm typically got basic data on which questions to Alexa were completed or not. But once, in a meeting with Amazon, the firm briefly got a deeper look, seeing snippets of queries for one client’s Alexa skill that showed how customers can still be easily frustrated when navigating a voice application.
“We started seeing a lot of cuss words in the user flow,” said Ms. Reubenstein, who declined to name the client. She said they were able to identify at what point most users were getting frustrated and adjusted the skill to address the issue.
These are still early days for marketing on voice devices. Ms. Reubenstein compared it to when brands began making apps for mobile devices. But over time, she said, voice interactions will begin to replace many of the activities that people are conducting on screens.
WHY IT’S HOT
It is still early for marketing on voice devices – but we’ve seen creative efforts this year from brands who’ve experimented in the space. Gary Vaynerchuk even hosted the first-ever ‘VoiceCon’ focused on the rise of voice and digital audio. With the increasing importance of ‘voice’, it will be exciting to see where it goes in 2019 and how we can utilize this thinking for our clients as we define their customers’ experiences.