Diageo and the Winner-Takes-All Aspect for Brands in Voice Commerce

Amazon Echo

Voice interactions, and with them a meaningful percentage of ‚conversational commerce‘, are going to differ from other means of discovery by one main aspect:

The algorithmic answers to the users‘ questions won‘t be lists of options but, in most cases, be one result. One result. That means one spot. Either you‘re in, or you‘re out.

Voice interfaces will only ever make up a portion of the interfaces in use; they will never take over all of computing or even the majority of it. (Multi-touch isn‘t going anywhere.) But that fraction of computing, whoever large or small it will end up being, will see a strong winner-takes-all dynamic.

As we have said before regarding the buy box on Amazon, which sees similar dynamics (intentionally, I might add): Imagine a Google that only gives you one result at a time.

How would that change your approach to SEO?

However the dominating discovery mechanism in voice will look like (Will it be search? Will it be something more pro-actively?), the market dynamics in voice will spill over to the rest of your market. Whichever brand will be strong on voice will have an advantage elsewhere as well.

A brand you come one comes across via their voice assistant, is a brand one might remember next time while browsing a marketplace. That brand has a higher chance of getting their app downloaded to one‘s smartphone. And on it goes.

Depending on your market, that advantage will sometimes be stronger, sometimes be weaker. (It‘s highly dependent on the product category, obviously.)

Given all this, it makes a lot of sense for every brand to start thinking about voice in their market context. Even though voice doesn‘t matter for today‘s business and will not for at least another couple of years. Once it does matter, it‘ll potentially matter a great deal.

The earlier you start learning from the market, the better. Winner-takes-all also means that feedback loops will skew heavily in favor of early adopters.

One brand working on this today is Diageo, the company behind brands such as Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and J&B.

Here’s Digiday on how Diageo is planning for voice-based search:

Much of Diageo’s early voice search efforts involve brainstorming what naturally spoken questions may be asked about its brands, especially because there’s a chance that cost per click could rise if there is only room for one paid search placement. […]

There will come a time when many search queries won’t be “mai thai” in text form; instead, it will be “how to make a mai tai” as a verbal query, said Benjamin Lickfett, head of digital innovation at Diageo. When that happens, Lickfett believes it will be a “winner-takes-all” market in the sense that searching using personal tools such as Apple’s Siri or Alexa provides instant answers rather than a page with a list of results. […]

Lickfett stressed it is still early for Diageo’s brands in voice search, which comScore predicts will account for 50 percent of all search activity by 2020.

​It should come as no surprise that brands love the potential of devices like the Amazon Echo Show:

Lickfett is eyeing Amazon’s Echo Show, an Alexa-powered device with a display, in particular. He said the Echo Show is of interest because it’s specifically designed for the kitchen, meaning potential opportunities exist for brands like Johnnie Walker and Guinness to appear on the device’s screen.

(See, screens will keep their place!)

For Amazon, voice is still by far the best shot the online retailer ever had at becoming a general interest platform provider. And the company keeps pushing to make sure this becomes true.

CNET recently did an Q&A with Daniel Rausch, Amazon’s vice president of smart home:

Do you see a world where you just screw in the lightbulb, Alexa immediately recognizes it and it’s done?
Rausch: We want to extend that same simplicity exactly as you said it. It should be as simple for customers as picking the product that they would otherwise love — a door lock that aesthetically matches the look of their home, a lightbulb that they like — and it just works. […]

Where do you see Alexa ten years from now?
Rausch: Alexa will become a fabric in the home. In my home today, it’s in most places but it’s not in every single nook and cranny. I think what customers really want is that same degree of simplicity to be afforded to them everywhere they are in their homes. The other side of that equation is extending control to many more products. As your refrigerator becomes connected in your home, your dishwasher, your garage door, your front door, your lights, you’ll see us working hard for customers to expand that simplicity of control to all of those different devices.

Home appliances that are by default connected to Alexa (and the customer‘s account), will in due time get better treatment on the Amazon Marketplace than those that don‘t.

​That‘s one way marketplace SEO will shake out..​

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