As we edge towards 2019, its clear to see the growing role of audio content in our daily lives. From morning news readouts to late-afternoon podcast sessions, Google claims that 72 percent of those who own a voice-activated speaker use the device as part of their daily routine.
Why Audio Content, And Why Now?
We’ve already touched on the pros and cons of audio marketing, but perhaps the biggest advantage that audio has over written and visual content, is the fact that audio content is more convenient for the consumer to consume. Deepak Shukla, founder of London-based Pearl Lemon, commented on this advantage, “We can listen to audio experiences and engage with them while doing other tasks, that’s what makes it such a great experience. With written content, you have to sit down and focus on it. With video, you need to literally watch in order to get the full experience. Audio is unique in this sense, and that’s why marketers should take it more seriously going into 2019,” Shukla explained.
Tanya Chopp, content marketing manager at Voices.com, concurred. “If you don’t have an audio marketing strategy, now is the time to start. Studies, such as this recent one from Edison, show that podcast listenership in the US is skyrocketing. Plus, these audiences are affluent, well-educated, and committed to the content. They are also more likely to have in-home assistants like Alexa and Google Home, allowing them to access content they love while they get ready for work, cook, clean and/or unwind,” Chopp said.
And now, with smart speakers, wearable technology, and connected vehicles, those audio experiences are popping up in the places we want them most — and that’s why smart speaker owners are actively using the technology on a daily basis, as Google claims.
To leverage this trend, brands such as Uber, LEGO, GE, Shopify, Slack and the BBC are investing heavily in audio content from Alexa Skills to Podcasts. In fact, MediaVillage estimates that the audio marketing expenditure in the US is expected to exceed $20 billion by 2020.
With that in mind, it’s fair to say that 2019 will be the year CMOs look at their audio marketing strategy more seriously than ever before.
How to Approach Audio Content Marketing in 2019
We spoke to a host of marketing experts who walked us through the various audio channels that marketers should explore going into 2019.
1. Voice Search Optimization
Consumers aren’t just using their smart speakers to listen to the weather, they’re shopping on them and using them as research tools, too. Kent Lewis, president and founder of Portland Ore.-based Anvil Media, advised brands to “optimize [their] product pages on [both] Amazon and [Google] to rank as the best or only answer for voice searches.” Kent further explained that brands must carry out a research and discovery process to identify common search queries posed by their target audience.
A good starting point is to liaise with team members who regularly interact with your consumers. Lewis also recommended using a keyword research tool like Adwords Keyword Planner and Moz Keyword Explorer to identify common search phrases. He also stressed the importance of making sure you keep the “conversational nature” of the queries in mind.
2. Voice-enabled Advertising
Ready for the audio version of Google Adwords? If not, you probably should be. According to Lewis, the only current option for voice ads is through Google Express, which Lewis has described as “limited.” However, Lewis has predicted that more voice ad options will emerge in early 2019. “Although Alexa has not unveiled an official advertising option for [their devices], we can assume that it’s only a matter of time,” Lewis said.
3. Alexa Skills
An Alexa Skill is a voice-enabled app that can complete specific functions such as playing music, hosting game nights, controlling a thermostat, and doing a roundup of today’s latest news. Third-party developers have already created over 30,000 Alexa Skills, and you can expect that number to keep growing in 2019.
According to Lewis, “creating a specific voice-enabled Skill for Alexa is encouraged by Amazon, despite [the] limited support and adoption.” Lewis has also predicted that the Alexa Skill market will “grow significantly in Q4 and through 2019, as brands rush to fill a void and test a new medium.”
Before going all gung-ho into your audio content marketing strategy, Robb Hecht, adjunct professor of marketing at New York-based Baruch College, advises brands to think deeply about long-form audio content for Amazon’s channels, “Longer storytelling audio content works effectively with Alexa at home [or in the office], as people spend more time in these environments and seek audience experience that have storytelling in them,” he said.
According to Activate Tech & Media Outlook 2018, podcasting has been projected to double its reach to 112 million people and produce over 15 billion hours of content by 2021. Furthermore, findings from IAB and Edison Research, done in September 2016, revealed that nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of podcast listeners are more inclined to consider making a purchase of a product or service that was promoted via that format. “Podcasts are inherently well-designed for voice-enabled products, but the format should be considered, so shorter 1-5 minute podcasts would be more contextually relevant for people [who are] on-the-go or otherwise looking for quick information or entertainment,” said Lewis.
When we asked Lewis whether brands, who are already managing their own podcast, should consider these new audio channels as an extension of their podcast, or whether they should come up with fresh, channel-specific content, he answered, “I believe progressive brands are going to create unique content for voice-enabled devices, although, it makes sense for any brand to start by leveraging existing content, including podcasts and audio from relevant videos.”
5. Connected Cars
With the advent of autonomous vehicles and connected cars, brands have the potential to yield meaningful and engaging marketing opportunities in the near future. Lewis predicted that while voice-enabled advertising will roll out to connected vehicles, there will be more emphasis on longer-form editorial content. “I believe we will see voice-enabled advertising rolling out in vehicles, especially with the new Alexa devices rolling out. Drivers may have more interest in longer-form content like podcasts than those moving around in a home environment,” said Lewis.
However, Lewis did raise a concern about the potential intrusiveness of delivering personalized content in an “automotive environment,” but did say we will know over time if this is true. That said, Lewis has said that the “secret sauce” for brands to succeed with in-vehicle marketing is to focus on “solving problems and adding value.”
How are you intending to ramp up your audio content strategy in 2019?