“OK, Google…” How Smart Speakers Will Evolve in 2018

Move over, smartphone. Smart speakers are the new “it” device. While not exactly new to the market (both Amazon Echo and Google Home launched over a year ago) consumers are coming out in droves in 2018 to purchase these smart speakers. Consumers are drawn to the ability to use these voice-activated assistants to make their lives easier, from creating shopping lists to calendar reminders and beyond. Data from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners reports that Amazon and Google Home have sold a combined 27 million devices in the U.S., with Amazon holding three-fourths of the market to Google’s twenty-five percent.

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According to a recent study by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), 44% of online adults in the U.S. plan to purchase a smart speaker in 2018. In addition to the growing adoption, the report mentioned that 70% of existing smart speaker owners use it daily, and an impressive 89% report being satisfied with it. One barrier that non-owners reported is poor consumer knowledge and product familiarity, which is a common obstacle for emerging technologies.

A question many people are asking is: How, and when, will brands incorporate advertising into these devices? Google Home tested the waters with Beauty and the Beast audio ads last March when the Disney movie premiered. They claimed it wasn’t ad, but rather, a feature, where they “invite their partners to be a guest and share their tales” with consumers. Regardless of what it was, it was removed within hours. According to CNBC, Amazon is currently in talks with companies like Clorox and Proctor & Gamble to promote their products on Alexa. Some brands already have a presence on Alexa through their own third-party “skills” (Amazon-speak for apps); for example, you can order a Domino’s pizza or an Uber. Amazon’s ads are unlikely to be as overt as radio commercials; rather, they will be much more subtle and targeted, such as suggesting brands when you go to reorder products.

The world’s largest technology trade show, Consumer Electronic Show (CES), is happening in Las Vegas this week, and attendees are reporting non-stop talk about Amazon and Google, as they vie to be the industry leader in voice-activated devices. Both brands have spent the week showcasing new features and partnerships, such as Google Assistant’s “smart display” device partnership with JBL, Lenovo, LG and Sony, and Amazon’s addition to PCs and laptops from Acer, Asus and HP.

The future of digital assistants and the potential impact on consumers is still yet to be determined, but if Google, Amazon and the like have it their way, every consumer will have a voice-activated assistant in their house, connected to all of their devices. In fact, a recent report predicts that 55% of U.S. households will have a smart device in their house by 2022.