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Smart Speakers – The Future is Hear


EVP, Operations, Sean King shares how smart speaker technology shapes the way we live and work

I remember coming home with my first computer that had a mouse. I took it out of the box, followed the instructions for set up, and then had to figure out how to use the mouse and adjust to a new kind of keyboard. The overall transition took some time, but reflecting back on that day now as I type this, it feels odd to realize there was once a time when using a mouse wasn’t second nature. 

I recently brought a new technology home. Opened the box. Followed the instructions to get it online. And within minutes, I had a smart speaker set up in my living room. Ok, then also one for many other rooms in the house. The time to adjust to using a smart speaker was shorter than learning how to use my mouse. Now that we’ve adopted this new technology, it is hard for my family to imagine life without it. We rely on our smart speakers for music, grocery lists, morning alarms, event reminders–you name it. The smart speakers around our home are like our virtual assistants. 

Simplifying Our Lives

Smart speakers are changing our lives. They’re making sure we get to appointments on time. They’re making it easier to ask the questions we need answers to. They’re making it safer to ask the questions that feel too scary to type. And instead of a list of thousands of possible answers, we just get one answer. Spoken back and easy to follow. 

The most surprising thing was how quickly our children adapted to life with smart speakers. As young children, they speak so simply. It made interacting with the speaker seamless. Any time they have a question, it’s not just, ask mom, ask dad. Now it’s ask Alexa or ask Google. Then one day when they asked the speaker to buy them two iPads, we realized maybe it was time to limit their access. 

Like with the internet in the early ’90s, there are safety and privacy concerns. There will be a learning curve as we educate ourselves on how to use this new technology safely–inclusive of the whole family. Those who jumped on board early with the internet were able to build an advantage. Especially in the eCommerce space. Likewise, with smart speakers today there are many opportunities for voice commerce. With a quarter of the U.S. population using smart speakers already, innovating ways to make it easier to buy and shop with just your voice has vast and untapped potential.

What’s Next

Although advertising has yet to make a traditional sound-only debut, there’s a major opportunity for deeper audience connection when it comes to creating smart speaker skills and actions. For example, Tide offers a whole list of solutions for removing stains using its products. 1-800 Flowers has a smart speaker skill that allows you to send flowers to anyone you love, just using your voice. Our podcast and streaming radio clients are already taking part in this space because their ads stream where their content does. In fact, podcast and radio content listening is on the rise, partially due to the convenience of smart speakers. 

Learning how to seize opportunities for our clients, and for future advertisers, is what has me excited. We’re just scratching the surface of what having smart speakers in our homes will enable. One thing is certain. If you’re not the first to innovate and have an audio-first presence, someone else will. Alexa, are you ready?