6 things companies should know about Smart Speakers

Google's Home Mini

Google Home Mini by Aaron Yoo licensed under Creative Commons

The first smart speaker, Echo, was released by Amazon at the end of 2014. Since then, smart speakers have been dominating in the electronic consumer market. While the wave of interest continues to build and the battle for market share rages on, a growing number of significant commercial applications are starting to emerge. So business owners and executive management groups need to start asking, what do we need to know and where is our opportunity sweet spot?

BUILDING A BOND

So it goes without saying, that if consumers are bonding with their smart speaker, isn’t it time for the enterprise and business owners to pay attention? It does seem the smart speakers time has arrived as these devices can do more than ever. They integrate with the Internet of Things (IoT) devices. So now they perform a vast number of actions with a simple voice command. Say “turn on the lights,” or “Ask Uber for a ride,” and you get a feeling of what’s possible.

However, the usefulness of these devices is not the sole reason they are popular. They are fun for people to engage with and so they get emotionally attached to an electronic device. They talk and the device talks back to them. It is conversational, so not only the geeky and young get the cool factor. The intimidation factor is almost nonexistent because the pressure is actually on the device and not vice versa. The result is that older people love them too.

Let’s highlight one simple component of Amazon’s Alexa. Amazon knew some percentage of their buyers would be cat lovers, so they enabled a unique feature just for them. The Meow skill will make the device meow, purr, and chirp when activated. Cat enthusiasts and their pets are thoroughly entertained. It’s is a simple example of this technology’s diverse entertainment ability.

SMART SPEAKER TRENDS

Voice commerce is projected to explode over the next few years, going from $2 billion now to more than $40 billion by 2022. However, marketers don’t have three years to get their strategies together. So many people are currently using smart speakers for search queries, they’re already part of the customer journey. Let’s look at some key indicators.

  • Over 32 million smart speakers sold in 2017 and this number is projected to grow to over 85 million by 2021.
  • More than 900,000 smart speakers in use at healthcare facilities by 2021.
  • 1% of the American population over the age of 18 own a smart speaker. That’s equal to 53 million people just in the United States, and it demonstrates the importance of this growing industry
  • 53% of smart speaker owners use the technology every day with another device
  • 15% using it at least once a week.
  • 28.1 million Americans that use smart speaker technology every day.

That’s staggering when you observe the smart speaker sector as an industry rather than a specific product. The consumers are also leading the charge to redefine what a speaker is. It now means they’re getting their news, weather, stock tips, and traffic information all from a helpful audio assistant connected to the internet. Amazon and Google believe they’ve struck gold with their voice-controlled speakers while Apple and Microsoft fight to catch up.

25% of US households own a smart speaker
DEFINE IT

Take a deeper dive into this niche. What exactly is a smart speaker? It’s a speaker with the ability to send data over a network and guided by voice commands, capable of streaming audio content, informing, entertaining, and communicating with other connected devices. It is an effortless way for humans to interact with a computer.

We have learned what they are, how much consumers love them, now let’s look deeper into the benefits of a having a computer that can verbally communicate with you.

BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE

We have learned what they are, how much consumers love them, now let’s look deeper into the benefits of a having a smart speaker of your own.

  1. The speaker is always listening and never ignores a customer due to a personality issue or some emotional factor. A key advantage is its proficiency at monitoring, to always be listening.
  2. As smart speakers become ubiquitous and competition booms, prices go down. Now, the hardware price barrier is low. It’s easy to make a low-risk investment and test out the device’s effectiveness. Entry-level devices are already under $50.
  3. High likeability is an important factor when evaluating solutions.
    Nearly all users across the spectrum describe a positive feeling when interacting with smart speakers. They are entertained, informed, or gain a sense of accomplishment.
  4. When a new technical product gets introduced to the market, young consumers are faster adopters and willing to buy it. Although the youngest of consumers are most likely to purchase smart speakers, an uncommon advantage is that consumers of all ages are interested.
  5. Analytics are bundled with smart speaker technology, making it easier to define and track ROI goals. Marketing data is recorded and analyzed, similar to other campaign efforts.
  6. No more shouting. The voice recognition technology has become very accurate for a wide range of human voice accents, speed and volume level. Higher end models are reporting accuracy levels measured equal to human transcribers.
DISCOVER OPPORTUNITIES

People are talented, and it won’t be long before all types of innovative uses are designed and implemented. The challenge for business leaders is to discover ways to keep ahead of the competition. Let break down some ideas by segment.

Retail

A customer arrives at your store and mentions to their friend how they love one of your products. At the right time, a voice tells them they will get a reduced price if they buy in the next 20 minutes. Boost impulsing buying rates and have cross-selling conversations.

Hospitality

Distinguish your service standards by having smart speakers placed in strategic locations. The device is checking how to improve a visitor’s stay. They can make announcements about events or promotions.

Healthcare

While there are many applications to be created in this industry, the hands-free information query is a powerful feature that can be exploited in various ways. One example is from a pediatric transplant-surgery team at Boston Children’s Hospital that has employed voice-assistant technologies during operations. The system provides pre-operative checklist services, allowing the surgeons and specialists are free to work normally. These systems are designed to reduce human error and improve step-by-step processes during operating procedures.

Customer Support

Improve customer experience without having to hire resources.
Answer common questions, process customer complaints, and prevent escalations.

Marketing

Increase your brand awareness by reaching your audience on their terms.
You empower the customer by putting them in charge while guiding them along the path to purchase, but only as needed.

Logistics and Wharehouse operations

Easily query a part’s availability or location.
Reroute deliveries or make schedule arrangements with voice commands.

Events & Conferences

Communicate with attendees using a friendly voice.
Get more engagement and provide updates during large events.

Training

When technicians require the use of both hands during training, the smart speaker voice easily renders step by step instructions.
Automate certification testing in a similar way.

Work Processes

Process business workflows faster.
Create emails and define the delivery method by using a set of verbal commands.

BUILD YOUR APP

So now you’ve got some ideas about how to put smart speakers to work at your company. However, before you can launch this idea out to the public or employees, you need to ensure that you have the support necessary to make this project a success. There will be many questions about choosing the right platform, specific devices to invest in and selecting which vendor to support you.

By deciding first on which vendor to partner with is an excellent choice because they help with the fundamentals. As an example, they guide you about which platform has the correct set of features you need to make the experience great. They should also inform you about best practices, including:

  • Establishing the speaker’s personality that matches your brand
  • Knowing how to build a KPI dashboard, to improve results from conversations
  • Design synergistic flows which span across different devices
THE TIME IS NOW

The shift to leveraging voice-enabled devices is happening quickly. The foundations of this technology are already in place, and higher levels of sophistication will keep developing. With so many amazing possibilities available, the best time for your business to jump into smart speaker technology is now.

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