Voice-enabled speakers and virtual assistants have been growing in popularity and brands have started to take notice of this new platform packed with potential for marketers. With more than 20% of all searches completed through voice technology, according to Google, voice enablement tech is proving to be more than a passing fad.

Across devices such as Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Apple’s soon to be released, Apple Homepod, consumers are quickly adopting ‘digital assistants’ across the board. According to eMarketer, 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month this year, a jump of 128.9% over last year. The penetration rate of these devices is projected to increase as much as five times in the next three years.

So just who is leading this adoption and why? While older millennials prefer their use for functionality over entertainment, the adoption is across the board. According to eMarketer, the heaviest users of digital assistants are people between the ages of 25 and 34, however. This is great news for brands looking to reach this highly-desirable audience and interact with them in a more conversational way. In fact, there is a way for brands to use the marketing analytics platforms they already utilize to deliver a personalized message in real time, at the exact moment that a customer is engaged and interested.

To make it even more exciting, the message wouldn’t be limited to a simple text or email, it could be delivered through the digital assistant, directly to the consumer. This blend of technology gives marketing teams unprecedented capabilities to provide a personalized interaction with a target audience that can be quickly and easily updated.

The Tech Behind Voice Enablement Marketing

This exact scenario is possible by utilizing Adobe Target in tandem with any web tool that has the ability to call an Application Programming Interface, or API, this includes technology mentioned earlier such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Without getting too bogged down in the technical details, below are two unique ways that Adobe Target could work in tandem with Amazon Alexa to provide personalized interactions.

  1. An Alexa user starts the Alexa app and has a web profile such as an investment account or a retail store membership that has the ability to collect historical data. This information could include data like their age, birthday, order history, or recent activity. When a user logs into that same account within the Alexa app, Adobe Target immediately has access to all of this information and can use it to serve personalized offers based on each user’s individual data.
  2. An Alexa user starts the Alexa app without authenticating or logging into a web profile. In this scenario, Adobe Target has no historical information on the user the first time that they log in. However, as they use the app and provide information through Alexa requests, Adobe Target can store this information and use it going forward. As Adobe Target collects information, it can increasingly be utilized to improve personalization efforts.

Expert’s note: it’s critical that you understand and can trust your data when implementing campaigns delivering off your backend data. This might sound simple, but it is still one of the biggest challenges encountered by leading brands today. However, your user’s data is something to be utilized, not feared, and Adobe Target can help you make the most of it.

Opportunities for Delivering Personalized Messages

By combining Adobe Target with an API-capable app like Alexa, there are endless possibilities for brands to deliver personalized messages through voice-enablement devices. From selecting a specific experience for a user to utilizing user data to answer a current question, here are some of the ways we’ve been helping brands utilize this new technology.

Personalized Offers

A leading financial services company wanted to send targeted messages to customers based on their “persona” which is based on critical characteristics such as age, assets, number of trades per year, etc. Using Adobe Target to store custom, client-specific, profile information for these customers, including their persona, the data is keyed to a unique customer ID.

When a customer logs into the Alexa app, Amazon Web Services makes a network call to Adobe Target that includes this customer’s ID. Once Adobe Target receives the customer ID, it instantly has access to all of the data associated with it and can personalize a greeting. This entire process occurs seamlessly in real time with no additional information from the user or action triggered from the marketing team.

For example, here’s how a financial services company who has configured an Adobe Target campaign specifically for their ‘baby boomer, retiree’ segment could utilize this technology. Once someone who meets the criteria of the campaign identifies themselves, Adobe Target responds to the Alexa app’s network request with the specified offer. Immediately Alexa can respond to the user with a personalized greeting – “Welcome, Joe! Would you like to learn more about the minimum yearly distribution for retirement funds?”

Advanced Hospitality

A hotel group is interested in using a voice assistant to greet each customer to their room to provide a more meaningful customer experience. For this, a hotel guest would already be authenticated by utilizing either the check-in process or their hotel loyalty account.

Upon entering their hotel room, the guest is personally greeted by the voice assistant and asked if there is anything that it could help with. At this point, the guest could set up a wake-up call, inquire about how many rewards points they currently have or ask what time the hotel restaurant is open until.

Take this scenario one step further and the voice assistant could suggest different options (room service, tickets to a nearby sporting event, or a drink at the hotel bar) for the guest based on, for example, the number of rewards points they have and automatically send them a coupon or voucher to their mobile device. Since this guest was already “logged in” when they checked-in to the hotel, no additional information was required from the guest to help provide this enhanced experience.

Concerns with Voice-enabled Marketing

With voice-enabled tech gaining momentum, marketers now have a fun, new way to interact with consumers. But brands that don’t strategize properly and understand the differentiating subtleties of this new medium are potentially setting themselves up for some interesting learnings.

As voice-enabled, ‘digital assistants’ are brought into consumers’ homes, there is a chance that marketing and advertising can take a turn for the creepy. Take Burger King’s TV-to-Google Home campaign as an example, the burger brand’s TV spot automatically set off people’s Google Home devices to recite the ingredients of a Whopper by asking “OK, Google, what is the Whopper burger?”  An interesting ploy, aimed to entertain those that don’t mind a brand literally taking control of a home-located device, however, some saw this as too intrusive and even “creepy.” Yes, the opportunity is there, but it’s a good point of caution to ensure you keep in mind the sensitive nature of marketing in your user’s home.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that there are a couple of aspects when implementing this technology to be aware of as well. However, with proper checks and training, these potential concerns can be easily mitigated and even avoided entirely.

With the ease and simplicity that one can instantly alter an Adobe Target offer, the risk is present that you can accidentally or incorrectly change a campaign and have it immediately served to potential customers. As soon as the ‘save’ button is hit, your campaign change will immediately begin serving the new offer, in real-time. This should be an easily avoidable issue, but one that needs to be addressed based on the immediacy of deployment within this medium.

Another potential issue is something that is known as “flicker.” Flicker occurs when a page shows some content for a fraction of a second, before the content quickly changes when the Adobe Target request is returned. This is a larger concern in situations when the combination of Adobe Target and the content API take some time to reply. As with the other issue mentioned above, there are known ways to avoid this concern, but flicker should be a consideration anytime Adobe Target is being used to serve or influence page content.

Final Thoughts

From delivering customized content, to enhanced testing, to providing better service and answers to a customer, the sky is the limit for what Adobe Target can do when paired with an API, and we’re only seeing the very tip of the iceberg. When implemented correctly, you can begin to test your content instantly to a targeted segment of your audience with a few simple clicks. From A/B testing to Mobile optimization, your personalization options are nearly endless. Just make sure you’re using clean data and keeping your transparency and usage of personal data and technology in check.