“Alexa, show me photos from our vacation.”
With this command, the digital assistant Alexa will pull up photos for its owner, searching for those that are associated with their recent vacation. And this is far from the only thing Alexa can do.
Of course, Alexa is far from the only digital assistant on the market; it is just that she and her smart speaker—the Echo—are among the most famous.
Smart speakers are the hot new smart accessory for people to have in their homes. Current market projections predict that 56.3 million smart speakers will be sold by the end of 2018. Use of digital assistants is even higher, with 66 percent of US adults using these on a regular basis. And this is already changing the face of digital marketing.
As we switch from typing in our queries to asking our digital assistants, the manner in which results are consumed changes. Using a search engine, you take in the first three to five results in most cases, sometimes the first page, and in rare cases, clicking on further pages to explore. Digital assistants, however, give limited results. In some cases, they will give exact answers rather than allowing you to browse results. And usually the assistants will favor results related to their native technology; for example, ask Siri for coloring pages and she will send you to the App Store rather than Google unless you specify.
Smart speakers themselves are still in their infancy, and that means that marketing using them is as well. While it is tempting to get in on the ground floor and start adapting your marketing strategy to them, many experts are cautioning brands to hold off for now. It is unclear what best practices are or how the technology might still be in flux, forcing marketers to alter the approaches over and over again. At this moment, there are no proven techniques to use.
For example, the audio nature of smart speakers can make you think that radio techniques will work. But while both radio and smart speakers are audio based, they are different beasts. For example, Alexa does not allow ads except in music, podcasts, and flash briefings. Offers are allowed, but only if the user specifically requests that Alexa share them—for example, asking about sales on shampoo.
Right now, it is estimated that 20 million homes have smart speakers. While that is a big number, it is pretty small when it comes to advertising. Chances are that as the market grows, practices will be better established. It is estimated that this will happen in mid to late 2019 when the number of homes using smart speakers reaches 100 million.
In other words, smart speakers are guaranteed to change marketing, but for the time being, we cannot be certain how.