Those in the fashion industry know everything old becomes new again—eventually. But does that theory hold true for digital transformation? Ironically, yes—at least if you’re talking about audio. Indeed, audio marketing is set to have a huge year in 2020 after slumping behind more exciting technologies in recent years. What’s so big about audio this year? And does it have legs to carry itself through the next decade? I say yes—but not for the reasons you may be expecting.
In the past, marketers have given audio a respectable nod because of the outgrowth of smart speakers and smart assistants. They assumed that voice-activated shopping would be a huge hit, bringing value back to the spoken word. Unfortunately—that hasn’t happened. In fact, research shows voice shopping has dropped from 43 percent down to 24 percent over the past year. So, if audio isn’t going to make companies money through shopping, how will it? Truthfully—lots of ways. Most of them aren’t that different than how they used to make money—through ads on radio. But others, when intertwined with other emerging media, also show promise. The following are my top picks for ways audio marketing will take off in the next decade.
Power in Numbers
With the power of streaming, entertainment content has exploded in recent years—and I’m not just talking about TV and movies. As of mid-2019, there were more than 600,000 active podcasts streaming online, with 120,000 created within one year of that estimate. What drives these audio-based podcasts? Advertising. Audio advertising. And lots of it. As a true-crime podcast lover, I’ve heard ads for everything from Quip toothbrushes to Everlane clothing and Madison Reed hair color. Am I interested in these products? No. However, I do believe that as audio and analytics begin to synergize in the same way that other entertainment content has, those ads will become a lot more personalized—and a lot more powerful. Indeed, podcasts are just one area where audio content streaming is growing. From Spotify to Audible, there are plenty of places consumers are going to listen to one single source of noise. And focused listeners are exactly what you need when it comes to advertising.
Some companies are taking advantage of those numbers too. My colleague at Futurum Research, Shelly Kramer, just wrote about Pandora launching interactive voice ads. Could this be the future?
Power in Branding
Anyone who’s ever experienced heartbreak knows the power of audio—and music in particular—in eliciting an emotional response. Music is powerful. Auditory senses are viscerally responsive. It makes sense, then, that advertisers are starting to notice. In 2020 and beyond, we’ll see a bigger emphasis on the placement of audio in AR and VR experiences. We’ll also see brands being very strategic in using audio to create their specific brands—not just in ads online, but with mobile speakers in their brick-and-mortar stores and in-store tech experiences, as well. What better way to connect to a brand than through emotion?
Power in Personalization
As noted above, as audio becomes smarter, it’s possible we’ll start to see a far more personalized audio marketing experience, as well, allowing brands to be anything their customers want them to be. For instance, if data tells your favorite store that your most-listened to artist on Spotify is Green Day, don’t be surprised if the ads they start using Green Day in their personalized branding campaigns for you. It’s a little strange, really, as companies become chameleons changing constantly into whoever we want them to be, rather than needing to be what they really are.
Power in Economics
One of the greatest things about audio is that it’s cheaper—far cheaper to produce than virtual reality experiences for commercials. In terms of marketing bang for your buck, paying a podcast operator to speak into a microphone in their basement requires very little overhead. Almost like… a radio ad, for instance.
When we consider the fact that today’s marketing teams need to be agile and spread their resources in so many different directions, using audio marketing makes a lot of sense. In our recent research report, 2019 B2B Digital Buyers’ Journey: Trends, Challenges, and Predictions, we found that confusion and complexity present significant hurdles in today’s digital buying environment. What could be more simple than good old-fashioned audio?
Even with the above benefits of audio, it’s important for brand experts to remember that today’s advertising market is… well… noisy. There’s a lot going on, on nearly every channel, and customers are receiving messages concurrently on multiple screens. How will your brand grab their attention? And even more, how will it encourage them to take action toward your product or brand?
Some recommend finding consumers where they are most likely to use your product. Others feel Facebook and Instagram stories may be your most likely bet. The truth is, there is no magic answer. It all depends on the type of brand your company wants to create and how you want to connect to your customers. In any case, audio marketing presents an economical but highly emotional option for connecting with customers in an increasing number of environments.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.