By Tunde Osho
Voice-powered search will play a central part in Unilever’s ongoing digital transformation, as the FMCG giant looks to leverage Amazon’s Alexa platform to get closer to consumers.
Speaking at the Festival of Marketing last week, Rahul Welde, Unilever’s global vice-president of digital transformation, explained that the adoption of voice search plays into the both the connection and context elements of Unilever’s ‘5Cs’ strategy.
Unveiled at the end of September, the ‘5Cs’ framework focuses on consumers, connecting, content, commerce and community.
Citing the prediction made by comScore that 50% of all searches will be made by voice by 2020, Welde argued that platforms like Alexa are the perfect medium to help brands leverage the consumer’s context to deliver what they need, when they need it.
“In a couple of years’ time [Alexa] is going to be in every home more or less. The idea is a friction-free customer experience,” said Welde.
“Alexa can enable brands to connect with consumers in a unique way. The simplest way to think about it is the same way you thought about mobile a few years back – that is going to happen to voice.”
Welde has no issue with the fact that the voice communicating with consumers is Amazon’s Alexa and not a specific “Unilever voice”.
He argues that consumers care more about having their needs met, than what the voice serving them sounds like.
“The consumer is interested in getting the solution to the problem. Do we really worry about whose voice it is? The idea that it should be a specific voice that is not the concern of consumers. The real excitement is getting the problem solved,” Welde argued.
As long as there is differentiation and brands stand for something consumers will continue to love brands.
“When you go to watch a great movie, do you really think about which production house made the movie? I don’t, I’m concerned with the movie and is it brilliant? Brands play out in my mind in a similar fashion and we have to make sure we are actively addressing their needs and exciting consumers.”
Unilever also dismissed fears that Amazon could simply leverage the data being driven by consumer interactions with Unilever via Alexa and use this insight to fuel its own private label brands.
“If I go back in time there was this idea that everything would be white label, but I don’t see it playing that way. I think it is about what the brand stands for and to my mind it is generally speaking about much more than the product,” Welde added.
“As long as there is differentiation and brands stand for something consumers will continue to love brands.”
Going forward, Unilever’s digital transformation will have an increased focus on addressing the needs and passions of consumers, moving away from the “interruption” of traditional advertising. This will involve creating more content, portals and multi-brand destinations such as Unilever’s household tips website Cleanipedia and hair information portal, All Things Hair.
The plan is also to leverage the power of the community and embark on co-creation projects. One recent example is tea brand Lipton, which last year co-created a premium tea with its community after recognising an emerging consumer demand for matcha tea.
Using insight from three million data points spanning search and social platforms, Unilever selected influencers to work with on the ‘A Moment of Focus’ campaign. Supported by a 360-degree YouTube video that notched up 6.6 million views, the matcha tea – Unilever’s first social media inspired product – was in store within seven months.
“The key idea is that communities can actually transform businesses in multiple dimensions, not only engaging people to buy more products through brand love, but through creation,” Welde added.