Starting in October, the Amazon smart speaker Alexa will be able to deliver a donation of up to $200 to any presidential campaign that completes the company’s set-up process.
As part of the Amazon Pay donation announcement, the company also said that Alexa is “ramping up" its “elections knowledge” to better answer users’ questions.
“During the midterm elections last fall, customers asked Alexa a multitude of questions, including ‘Alexa, when are the polls open?’, ‘Alexa, who is winning in New York?’, ‘Alexa, what happened in the midterm election?’, and more,” according to a company blog post.
“As the 2020 U.S. Presidential election nears, we'll be building on last year's election experience and adding even more ways for Alexa to provide the information that matters most to you this election cycle—including support for new questions and features to keep you up to speed.”
Alexa could be a potentially lucrative channel to add to campaigns’ existing Facebook and email fundraising appeals, according to Brian Young, a media planner at ACRONYM.
“Candidates should be looking for opportunities like debates and Facebook Lives to take advantage of the new feature and ask for donations in a more personal appeal via Amazon's products,” said Young.
More features will be added in the coming months, which may invite greater competition, said Young. “When will Google follow suit?”
In addition to helping with donations, a voice search strategy will also quickly become essential for campaigns of all sizes. In a piece for C&E last November, Young noted that smart speakers like Alexa and Google Home rely heavily on Wikipedia for their search results. “The lesson of this is simple: Wikipedia editors must be an integral part of every campaign’s communication and adverting strategy in 2020,” he wrote.
Now, Amazon is saying that Alexa is puling from more sources. “We aim to provide the most relevant, accurate, and timely information about elections and candidates,” the company’s post stated. “We federate across hundreds of information sources, and we collaborate with nonpartisan organizations to provide customers with information on polls, ballots, results and more.”
The advent of voice-enabled political donations is yet another reason political professionals need to invest in understanding voice search and the impact it will have on campaigns. However, there’s good reason to believe consultants are behind when it comes to voice.
In this year’s C&E/PSB State of the Campaign Industry survey, only 40 percent of political professionals said they think voice search will be either very important or somewhat important for the future of campaigns, and 31 percent of professionals rated it not too important or not important at all.
Amazon’s announcement came as a new tally shows digital spending by President Trump and his would-be Democratic challengers is significantly outpacing TV in spending. The Wesleyan Media Project said Thursday that spending on ads on Facebook and Google has reached $60.9 million this year, while $11.4 million has been spent on TV ads.
“At this stage in the campaign, candidate spending is driven by supporter list-building and investing heavily to secure enough donors to qualify for the Democratic debates,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.