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According to a recent TechCrunch article, smart speakers are the fastest growing piece of consumer technology. U.S. sales of smart speakers are expected to exceed 38 million in 2018 with China coming in a close second with 4.4 million projected smart speaker sales in the new year.
The rise in popularity of smart speakers is the result of a large North American appetite for new and emerging tech. But are smart speakers unique enough to become a connected home mainstay?
Amazon recently introduced a slew of “skills” that can be asked of Alexa and used through the Echo device. Amazon has been testing various skills on Echo owners to see which of the device’s tricks will stick. Some of those skills include things like playing music, opening and running apps, playing games and asking trivia questions.
While Echo can do a lot of things, a recent Creative Strategies survey found that most Echo users only do one thing with the device: set an alarm. While millions of consumers are intrigued by smart speakers enough to purchase one, the concept of an in-home speaker that is meant to be a permanent virtual assistant fixture hasn’t quite caught on.
But companies like Amazon and Google aren’t giving up hope that smart speakers will become a necessary and permanent connected device.
A recent CNBC report notes that Amazon has been in talks with various brands, including Proctor and Gamble and Clorox, in order to push advertising through Echo further. The latest Echo model (the Echo Show) comes with a screen that could be prime real estate for in-home advertising.
While Amazon is cornering the smart speaker market with roughly 70-76% of the market, Google (holding 15-24% of the market) is also betting on increased sales and advertising. The latest version of the Home speaker comes with a screen, too, but Google has taken it one step further with a touchscreen option (unveiled at this year’s CES conference).
Not only will the new Home speaker allow users to do things like make video calls and watch YouTube videos, but Google is now well-poised to offer brands the opportunity to offer consumers touchscreen shopping options.
Even though Amazon and Google are confident that smart speaker sales will continue to rise, the newest devices that look and feel like tablets may be confusing to consumers. Discerning the difference between a speaker with a screen and a tablet will be the main crux of both Amazon and Google’s marketing teams going forward – one main difference is that these devices do not contain a web browser (yet).
While consumer interest in smart speakers continues to grow, the next few months will determine whether these devices are here to stay or just another connected home fad.