For marketers, it’s worth thinking about how smart home appliances like the Amazon Echo fit into your digital landscape. It’s the early stages of their usage, but opportunities exist today for some brands to be in a new type of search result and increase brand awareness.
The Echo can do things like tell you the weather, order products (from Amazon, of course), or dim the lights/turn on fans if you have a smart home devices. It’s a decent-sized speaker, too, and works as an on-demand music player.
- Category: I’m calling them smart home appliances, but there’s not a set name for them really. Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai dubbed them “there-ables” because, unlike wearables, they’re connected to a place instead of a person.
- Sales: They are a surprise hit sales item for Amazon. The Echo alone has sold over 3 million units, and they’ve since come out with a similar product, the Tap, which also works with the Alexa voice assistant.
- Competition: Google is also getting into the smart appliance market with Google Home, and Apple is supposedly working on a product using Siri as well.
- Fun Fact: when turning the speaker loud enough (“Alexa, volume 10!”), it’s actually too loud for the device to hear any further instructions. You have to unplug it to get it to be quiet, as our office found out the hard way.
Take a look at Amazon’s commercial for the Echo for a little demo:
App Store for Alexa/Echo
To get visibility on the Echo with your own branded content, you have to build an app, or “skill” in Echo-verbiage. Just like Google Play or the iTunes App Store, the Echo has its own app store. Uber, Stubhub, and CapitalOne are among the brands that have created apps.
A surf brand, for instance could create an app which checks the current surfing conditions. A food delivery service could build an app that works based on voice commands (“Alexa, bring me tacos!”).
Voice As the Primary Medium
Interacting with a phone involves primarily inputting and receiving information on a screen. Echo though is primarily voice-based, so you have to think in terms of understanding voice commands and audio responses. For example, if you are building a skill/app for your surf brand, you have to think of all types of voice commands a person could ask to know the surfing conditions. “Alexa, is today a good day to surf?”, “Alexa, what are the waves like today?”, “Alexa, how are the surfing conditions in Malibu?,” etc.
On-screen responses though can also be made on your phone through the device’s mobile Android and iOS apps, so it can be a mix media device.
ComScore estimates 50% (!) of all search will be voice search by 2020, which means marketers should be thinking in these terms even outside of the Echo.
- Weather Alexa uses Accuweather.com data to tell you the weather for where you are (or where it thinks it is – Echo doesn’t have GPS, you have to tell it where it is). There’s also a screen that pulls up within the app for more details
- Local Places You can ask about local places and businesses, such as the nearest gas station or hotel. The results for local businesses are powered by Yelp, and it includes the address, price and average reviews. It’s a reason to check out your locations in Yelp.
- Answers Alexa can tell you the answer to “Who Is LeBron James?” You will hear an audio answer from the Echo speaker, and also see a result on your phone. At least some answers are culled from Wikipedia entries.
- Search For questions that it can’t answer, Alexa falls back to Bing results. So in this case, your standard website SEO becomes a factor. Siri and Alexa both rely on Bing for this type of result.
Overall, getting your brand into the Echo and smart home appliance market is challenge because it’s Amazon-centric, usage is audio-centric, and the additional app platform. The small but growing user base is also a consideration. The good news is optimizing listings in Bing, Wikipedia, and Yelp will be the major piece. And while App Store Skills would be another app to maintain, it may still be worth researching the potential for your specific brand.