How Amazon's Alexa Stole CES and Blew Marketers’ Minds
Jan 16, 2017
Technology has a funny way of disrupting things in surprising ways. For every science-fiction technological vision that has not yet come true (why don’t we have flying cars or hoverboards yet?), there are advances that were never imagined. Even The Jetsons and Back To The Future couldn’t predict things we take for granted today, like iPhones and the internet itself.
But then there are the hopes and dreams that do get realized. And there’s no better place than the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to find out which dream of the future we’re going to get closer to in the upcoming year. At this year’s show, it was new implementations of a technology that is already a couple of years old that had manufacturers, marketers and journalists alike buzzing: Amazon’s Alexa.
What’s so special about a speaker that uses voice commands to order a new box of laundry detergent or the new Adele CD?
The massive development is this: Alexa is emerging to power a lot more than Amazon’s product ordering Echo. It’s being positioned as the de facto platform of the Internet of Things, the same way Android evolved to power more than a phone made by Google. Manufacturers displayed refrigerators, stoves, even shower heads that incorporate Alexa. This lit up the show because it is bringing us closer to the promise of the cohesive, connected home.
Alexa brings Internet of Things devices under one Digital Assistant
That’s a big deal when you think about the current state of IOT. Sure, we have plenty of connected devices -- but they all rely on their own apps to control them. Alexa integration brings everything together under one roof, giving consumers the power to control everything using a single, streamlined platform. It’s the missing piece in the bigger IOT puzzle, and CES attendees certainly picked up on that fact.
Among the most excited people were marketers, for good reason. In a world full of noise, it’s getting harder to reach consumers with messages that resonate with them. Fully connected devices fill marketers hope for a future that they hope looks something like this:
Marketers Predict Opportunities for Conquesting offers in Connected Homes
Your connected washing machine sees that there is only enough detergent left for five loads, so it notifies the owner that it needs to order more detergent. Today, Alexa asks if you would like to order what it knows you like. So an owner could expect to hear, “Laundry detergent is running low, would you like to order more Tide?” Marketers hope that the future sounds more like this: “Laundry detergent is running low. Gain is currently running a promotion for three dollars off, would you like to try that or would you like to order more Tide?”
Things get even more exciting for marketers when they think about an entire connected household. This gives them the ability to target consumers based on their past purchases and predicted needs. When a paper towel dispenser gets low, P&G could target consumers it knows already use Tide with a message like, “Would you like to try a free roll of Bounty paper towels?”
...Digital Assistants Are A Totally New And Disruptive Channels For Marketers
That is really just the tip of the iceberg with the possibilities Alexa connected homes give marketers. As virtual assistants erase decision making from consumers, they also provide opportunities for marketers to hone in on highly calculated targets that are most likely to be receptive to their offers. At the same time, it helps to keep consumers blocked from marketing that is highly unlikely to appeal to them.
As always, time will be the ultimate deciding factor in what the future ends up looking like. Judging from this year’s CES buzz, however, marketers couldn’t figure out how to get consumers excited about marketing messages delivered through cumbersome VR headsets, but they certainly saw the potential in harnessing the power of digital assistants to get the right products into the right hands.