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The Lowdown on Smart Speakers and the Connected Devices Market

4 MINUTE READ | March 12, 2018

The Lowdown on Smart Speakers and the Connected Devices Market

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John Greer

John Greer has written this article. More details coming soon.

The smart speaker market is climbing rapidly, up 300% from the previous year. According to an Edison/NPR survey, 42% of smart speaker owners say the device is “essential” to their everyday lives. With Gartner predicting 75 million US households will have smart speakers by 2020, brands need to know how it affects them.

And while speakers are getting a lot of attention, other connected home devices are gaining importance as well. Amazon, for example, just bought Ring, the video doorbell company, as a way to further move into homes. As long as you have their other smart home gadgets, you can tell smart speakers to turn off your lights, play music, or turn up the heater.

Three main companies have the biggest piece market today:

  • Smart Speakers: Amazon was the early leader with the Echo and the smaller Echo Dot, and is still the largest player. When an answer calls for a visual response as well as an audio one, Echo relies on a person’s phone to be nearby. To address this problem, the Echo Show will include a screen with it.

  • Other Devices: As mentioned, Amazon bought Ring, the smart doorbell company, as a way to further get Alexa into people’s homes. Amazon’s Firestick TV streaming device includes remotes that utilize Alexa as well. Lastly, Amazon also has the Echo Look, a camera which gives you style advice.

  • AI: Amazon’s voice commands are powered by Alexa, which trails Google in its ability to answer questions, according to most studies. What Alexa does have though is your Amazon account data ready to order products.

  • Smart Speakers: Google’s Home and smaller Mini have a large market share as well, as Google doesn’t want to fall behind in the space.

  • Other Devices: Google’s Nest division started with a smart thermostat, but has expanded to cameras, doorbells, and other smart home gadgets. Google also has the Chromecast TV streaming device.

  • AI: Google’s AI, Google Assistant (no quirky names here!), is its main advantage because it has the Google search algorithm available. Google is also working with partners like Wal-Mart and Target to bring ordering capabilities.

  • Smart Speakers: Apple’s new homepod is late entry, but is forecasted to sell several million units this year.

  • Other Devices: Apple has its own TV streaming device, Apple TV, as well as its own Siri-powered thermostat and a line of “iDevices.”

  • AI: Apple’s Siri, which has been on every iPhone since the 4s, is being plugged into all of Apple’s devices. Unlike Alexa and Google Assistant, Siri trails in the ability to recognize different voices.

Several large companies are diving into the market to keep aware of:

  • Traditional speaker companies such as Bose and Sonos are selling higher end speakers, which also can include Google Assistant or Alexa.

  • Facebook is building a smart speaker called Portal, which will have video calls as the main selling point.

  • Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, released their smart speaker and sold over a million units in just four months.

Connected home devices do something that my kids don’t – listen to you all the time. That means for brands, voice search, voice ads, and voice apps (or “skills”) may become new territory to gain exposure. Some even see a future where phone usage finally slows down as we have devices listening all around us.

Part of the push with these devices is to be a portal to capture sales of “conversational commerce” purchases, for example, when you ask Alexa to reorder toothpaste. Knowing which devices connect where for buying is one obvious area for marketers to pay attention.

Additionally, brands should know which devices (and which AI digital assistant) their specific customers use in order to make strategic decisions. Each digital assistant will have its own nuances for how to gain exposure for your brand.

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Watch for more here coming soon in the voice search space!

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