Smart Speaker Numbers Are Growing And That Spells Opportunity For Radio.


As radio stations integrate smart speakers into their delivery and advertising models, marketers are also rolling up their sleeves. Audacy Senior VP of Sales Michael Biemolt said brands that are ecommerce focused are leading the charge with the devices. During a presentation for marketers and advertisers on Tuesday, Biemolt’s message was that now is the time to make the leap.


“That first step into making sure a brand has a voice presence is the key piece in the conversations I am having,” said Biemolt. “Eighty five percent of brands today that we talk to today are not there. So, it’s still early days.” He added that research shows that among the growing ranks of smart speaker users, not being on the device may even do damage to a brand.


Jason Fields, Chief Strategy Officer at Vivify, which works with brands to create voice apps and smart speaker skills, said he views the device as way to help a brand boost its awareness and leverage media buys on more traditional outlets such as broadcast radio. He also sees potential new creative uses, such as when a radio streaming app activates the smart speaker microphone during an advertisement to produce an additional layer of interaction for a marketer. “This custom voice bot is ripe for the picking for a lot of brands,” he said.


Already an eMarketer forecast forecasts one third of smart speaker users will use the device this year to either research a product or put something into a digital shopping cart.

Beyond customization, Audacy VP of Data and Analytics Dan McKinney thinks smart speakers will also help take streaming content another step toward personalization. He suggested that could mean a radio stream could offer a smart speaker user a pollen count specific to them, for example. “That’s when I think you’ll see an explosion because of the personal nature that you can have with these interactions,” said McKinney.


Smart Speaker Numbers Grow


Smart speakers may wind up being one of the media winners emerging from the pandemic. One-third of Americans now report they own at least one such device, up from seven percent in 2012. That translates to about 94 million people. But among those who work from home, nearly half (49%) of people surveyed by Edison Research said they own one.


Edison Senior VP Tom Webster said because of the pandemic people are using smart speakers more than ever. “That is absolutely a function of people at home,” he said. “And that is really acclimating people to the use of this technology.”


Smart speakers have found a place in American homes more quickly than any other consumer technology that Edison has tracked. “It has grown faster than smartphones and the adoption of podcasting,” said Webster. He thinks the growth has been driven in part by the availability of lower-cost smart speakers such as Amazon Echo Dots and Google Minis. “They very quickly were not just a gadget for people with lots of disposable income,” Webster said.


The cheaper price points have led to more people owning more devices. When Edison Research first began tracking smart speakers, people owned roughly one device per person. Today it is 2.3 devices per person. “They become a fabric of people’s everyday life because of the useful and even mundane things they do from room to room,” said Webster.


Going forward, Biemolt sees opportunities for brands to use a 30- or 60-second audio commercial as the starting point to a dialogue with consumers. For a pharmaceutical company, for instance, an ad could point to a specific doctor or health care provider. “The ability to feature things in a larger audio canvas is what many of the conversations have been around,” he said.


Webster said Edison Research has been doing a lot of studies on the brand lift that smart speakers are providing. And as skills have become more complex, he sees them as more engaging for consumers.


“The next bridge for this technology to cross is in the vehicle and into television sets and other screened devices and even into home appliances,” Webster predicted. “The devices have been the Trojan horse that introduced this technology into people’s lives.”


Biemolt also predicted the rise of shoppable audio in the “very near” future. He said Audacy believes so strongly that is where things are heading that it is collecting “a ton” more data than Alexa or Google.

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