NEW YORK: Virtual voice assistants (VVAs) like Amazon Alexa and Google Home offer a range of opportunities for marketers, but new research has revealed that they also could pose a threat to brand loyalty.

That is because consumers are prone to making a purchase based on the preferred option presented by the VVA algorithm rather than the brand that was initially requested.

Specifically, 85% of US consumers who have bought a virtual voice assistant say they purchased the first option given by the device, according to a Harris poll of more than 2,000 US adults conducted on behalf of Digitas, the Publicis-owned digital marketing firm.

Furthermore, VVA purchasers aged 18 to 34 are more than twice as likely as consumers aged 45 to 64 to “always” or “often” purchase the first option selected by the VVA when requesting a purchase for a specific brand or product (37% versus 16%).

These findings prompted Digitas to warn that brands that don’t show up first in the VVA results may find themselves “boxed out” of the consumer’s purchase decision entirely.

However, behind these disquieting headline findings, Digitas also offered advice for brands about how to engage consumers in an increasingly voice-driven world.

For example, more than three-quarters of Americans (78%) say that, if they were purchasing a product using a VVA with a screen, then they would be likely to scroll through the images of additional options instead of buying the first suggested option.

According to Brett Leary, commerce lead at Digitas, screen-enabled VVAs would allow brands to incorporate video content and interactive imagery to encourage consumers away from relying solely on voice-only recommendations.

“Consumers are comfortable shopping via screens and the added convenience of voice should help drive voice commerce for brands,” he said in comments reported by MediaPost.

Digitas also recommended that brands should provide consumers with the right content and right search terms in order to increase the chance of being served first by the algorithm.

And they should concentrate on building partnerships with the leading platforms in the category, such as Google and Amazon, to take advantage of the volume of content they have on their VVA devices.

Sourced from Digitas, MediaPost; additional content by WARC staff