We’ve been talking about the internet of things and the smart home for a few years now. While the idea of a self-ordering fridge or a fork that warns you when you’re eating too fast may seem a bit far-fetched (these things are already out there!), a smart future is closer than you think.

Our homes are becoming smarter

According to the latest TGI survey, 42% of adults agree with the statement ‘I am prepared to pay more for products that make life easier’, and if smart devices are supposed to do anything it’s to make our lives easier. So far, a quarter of the UK population have made good on this and already own a smart device in their home, as reported in a recent YouGov study.

The undisputed star of smart devices is the smart speaker. YouGov report that ownership nearly doubled after Christmas 2018, with 19% of us now owning at least one smart speaker. That’s nearly one in every five households, with OC&C forecasting that this will rise to almost half of all UK households by 2022.

With predictions that 30% of internet browsing will be screenless by next year, the continued rise of the smart speaker and voice search seems inevitable. As a media agency this inevitably begs the question… what are the commercial opportunities for our clients?

How are we using smart speakers?

Research by voicebot.ai and Vertigo Analytics found that, on average, we speak to our smart speakers 2.79 times a day, generally making simple requests. The most used feature, according to YouGov, is to play or control music, with answering general questions and setting alarms/ reminders rounding out the top three. I had a look at my own Alexa log, and if recent requests are anything to go by then I’m a fairly stereotypical user:

· What’s the weather like?
· What’s 88 divided by 12?
· Set an alarm for 7am
· What is a mandu dumpling?
· Play Spotify
· Set a timer for 10 minutes
· Play Absolute 80s
· How old is Madonna

Once you have a smart speaker the temptation is to start buying other smart devices for your home to link it with – to assist in turning your lights on and off or to control your living room’s temperature. And then, of course, you’ll want to buy smart speakers for your other rooms. YouGov estimate that 31% of smart speaker owners have two or more smart speakers (I’m currently at three!).

Shopping via smart speakers isn’t prevalent

Much further down the list of things we currently use smart speakers for is shopping, with research by OC&C in 2018 valuing voice purchases at £0.2bn. According to Mintel, the most common voice purchasing method is to add an item to a list or a website’s basket to review later, with 48% of smart speaker owners doing this once a week. Actual shopping is less common, but 32% of smart speaker owners claim to make a direct one-off purchase once a week which is, unsurprisingly, being pioneered by Amazon. Given Alexa’s frequent misunderstanding of my musical requests I’m not sure I trust her yet to buy me the right thing, especially if it’s something a bit more expensive than toothpaste. Bigger ticket items are going to require a bit more trust in voice’s speech-recognition accuracy before users are willing to buy them, unseen, through their smart speakers.

So, while it’s safe to say that smart speakers haven’t revolutionised shopping yet, OC&C predict voice shopping will be worth £3.5bn by 2022. That’s a lot of voice shopping, and a compelling reason for advertisers to start thinking about how they can futureproof their brands.

What does the future hold for marketers?

YouGov and Mintel both estimate that Amazon has about three-quarter share of the smart speaker market, but Android’s dominance amongst smartphone operating systems should benefit Google Home. Giving careful consideration as to how your brand will integrate with different voice assistant providers’ search engines would therefore be prudent.
A recent Mintel report on digital advertising proposes that the most important development advertisers will have to face is the need to create appropriate voice advertisements. Voice search is best positioned as a ‘single search results’ tool. The most popular smart speaker requests (outside of streaming music) are for questions that have a definitive answer. Therefore, the challenge for advertisers, even more so than it is now, will be to top the search responses as users won’t want to listen to a long list of options.
To find out more about how innovations in tech and advertising can help your business, or to find out more about the future of voice search, contact one of our specialist teams now.

Fiona Booth, Research Director