Smart Speakers for Direct Response Marketing

Ahmed Bouzid, previously Head of Product at Amazon Alexa, is Founder and CEO of Witlingo, Inc., a McLean, VA-based B2B Saas company that helps brands launch conversational voice experiences on platforms such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. 


Main points:

  • 75% of US households are expected to have at least one smart speaker by the end of this year.
  • What is unique about Smart Speakers, unlike Smart Phones, is that they are used eyes-free and hands-free.
  • Smart Speakers offer a unique innovative channel for direct response marketers by enabling prospects to answer calls to action upon encountering the call to action and with minimal effort.

Smart Speakers are the fastest growing digital engagement channel today and by next year, expectations are that an astonishing 75% of households in the US will have at least one smart speaker.  This presents a unique and powerful opportunity for direct marketers to engage their prospects and customers in a new and effective way.

smart speaker growth
Image: Smart speaker growth

The most compelling feature about voice, especially in the context of smart speakers, is its eyes-free, hands-free nature.  The Smart Speaker is the only medium through which a person can immediately answer a call to action without having to do anything more than speaking and listening!  No picking up a phone or a tablet, no tapping or swiping on a surface, no scanning any QR codes, no typing any URLs.  The eyes and the hands of the person remain as free or as busy as they were before the voiced response, unperturbed.

For instance: imagine you have just received in your daily mail a postcard from your local dentist. You look at it and right there, there is an instruction on how you can find out more by just saying, for instance, “Alexa, launch McLean Smart Dental.”

smart speaker results
Image: Mclean Smart Dental search results

Compare that call to action to the other calls to action on that postcard.  Going to a web site, sending an email, following them on Twitter or Facebook, or calling them.  None of those calls to action are as immediately actionable as just speaking and engaging with Alexa.  They all require you to do a couple of steps (e.g., take out your phone, go to the phone pad and dial in the number, etc.) or do something “later” (go to your laptop and look up their website, follow them on Facebook, or send them an email). In contrast, the smart speaker’s call to action lets you act immediately, at the moment of interest, by just speaking and then engaging with the conversational voice assistant.

And this applies not just to postcards in the mail, but to all of the other calls to direct response touch points: other types of collateral sent over the mail, such as letters and coupons; radio and TV commercials; newspaper and magazine ads; billboards (Alexa is available in cars and earbuds now), product packages, and even websites and social media properties.

Listen for instance to this radio ad by US Bank that played on my smart speaker when I asked to listen to a new station (click on the logo below to listen):

US Bank Alexa ad

But then what? You invoked Alexa and you are talking to it. So, what’s the big deal?

Here’s why it’s a big deal.

First, upon encountering the call to action and at the moment of interest, the user is immediately able to engage the brand. None of the other calls to action can fulfill that.

Second, upon launching the conversation with Alexa, the user is able to not only listen to specific messaging in the voice of the brand, but also engages the brand in a back and forth.  The user is literally having a conversation with the brand. They could ask questions, answer questions that the voice assistant asks them, and even share their contact information (e.g., their cell phone number) for further engagement.

A couple of examples:

Example 1: The user sees the call to action, launches Alexa, Alexa gives them some messaging and then asks: “Would you like me to send you a coupon for a 50% discount?” The user says “Yes” and shares their phone number, and not only does the user get a link to the coupon texted to them, but the business gets a hot lead.

Example 2: Alexa may also say, “Would you like to speak with someone right now to learn more about the offer?” The user says “Yes” and shares their phone number, and immediately a call is triggered to them that connects them to someone they can speak with.  The user gets to learn more and the business gets a hot lead and perhaps even closes some business right there and then.

Voice is here to stay and so are Smart Speakers.  The core value of voice — the ability to enable immediate action, even when the user’s eyes and hands are busy — is a powerful opportunity for the direct marketer who is looking for an edge in increasing their response rate.  And for those who want an extra edge, acting now, before voice goes mainstream in Direct Response Marketing (as by all indications it will), here’s a clear opportunity to lead your space to the next level of engagement.

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Ahmed Bouzid
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2 thoughts on “Smart Speakers for Direct Response Marketing”

  1. Great article – this is why we at Respond Fast have been working on this for over 2 years. We are so excited to see the Voice Activated Call To Actions (VACTA) take off. We have found very good success using this in direct mail, similar to your postcard example you reference.


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