Google has issued its first voice-activated coupon, a $15 offer for Target orders placed on shopping service Google Express via Google Assistant.
Google said it did not have anything to share beyond the information available on its Google Express help page, but a Google spokesperson said in an email that “Google Express customers can complete purchases hands-free through the Google Assistant, and to raise awareness for this feature, we were running a pilot with Target to help educate customers about this capability.”
A Target rep did not respond to a request for comment.
Calling coupons a natural next step in voice, Duane Forrester, vice president of industry insights at Yext, said, “What we will see is an outgrowth and learning experience applied to [the] next version of this. Google and Target have a deep partnership here for ecommerce via voice. This isn’t a scenario where they just got together to try a coupon. It’s a scenario where two of the biggest brands are setting up to oppose one of the largest brands.”
Forrester said it also shows there may be more of an appetite for voice than simply playing music and asking about the weather.
“Maybe we’re witnessing a growing body of evidence of people trying to do things like check their bank balances and talk to doctors—or at least a desire to do those things,” he said. “This could be a situation where Google has that data and said people are willing to shop, so let’s enable that. And to encourage them, we will offer this coupon to kickstart it.”
Pete Meyers, a data scientist at Moz, agreed that the coupon approach makes sense.
“People can opt-in to voice deals based on other ads [and] campaigns and won’t feel like the ad is being pushed on them,” Meyers said. “This is what Amazon has done with various Alexa deals for Prime Day and Black Friday. They have the advantage of their own ecosystem, but those deals push you to use Alexa, give you a discount, make you feel good about Alexa and increase sales.”
Meyers noted that Google’s challenge will be trying to get big-name partners and offer them incentives.
“I can see how this benefits Google, but it’s harder to see how it benefits Target, as they have to advertise the fact of the promotion on other channels,” he said.
According to reports, the offer was activated by saying (or typing) “spring into Target” to Google Assistant on Google Home or the Google Assistant app on Android or iOS.
The promotion was slated to run through April 21, but no new codes were being issued as of April 3. It was unclear why the promotion ended early.
In addition, the promo was limited to one offer per account, and the $15 had to be used on a single order.
Android Police also noted potential confusion between “in to” and “into,” requiring a manual edit of the voice entry in some cases.
Despite a few early experiments, the monetization of voice search remains mostly uncharted territory.
Earlier this year, reports emerged that Amazon was talking to CPG brands about promoting products on Echo devices, but that remains to be seen. (However, in a prior conversation, a spokesperson said Amazon has gone on record saying it will never have ads on Echo devices.)
After testing Google Express for a couple years, Target rolled out shopping via Google Express to U.S. consumers in October 2017.
Update: In an email, a Target rep said, “The ‘Spring Into Target’ promotion was offered via Google Express with voice to provide our guests a convenient way to tap into the new seasonal products at Target this spring. … The promotion was popular and we hit our goals early. … Guests who activated the offer still have until April 21 to redeem.”