Alexa: are you the future?

We have a new family member in my house. She’s called Alexa. She listens to you, she obeys your every command, and she can even tell jokes. A Christmas present from my brother, our new Amazon Echo digital voice assistant has transformed how we do things in our home.

We no longer fumble to dig out where we left our Wi-Fi speaker, then spend time connecting it to a phone or iPad, re-pairing it every time; we don’t fiddle with screens or computers to control music and search for things, tap, tap, tapping away until we get what we want; we no longer scramble to find lost remote controls to turn sound off when the doorbell sounds or our phones ring. Instead we simply shout ‘Alexa?’ and spit out a request.

This thing is changing how people behave and thus has the power to impact how brands engage with people. According to a study called ‘Super MyWay’ by Accenture, almost two-thirds of smart speaker owners said that they used their smartphones less since buying the speaker. I can relate, and I can see the benefit for when you are driving a car, or need to have your hands freed up to bake a cake or something. But beyond the personal convenience of it, does less screen time mean less potential for brands advertising to capture a person’s attention? At the very least shouldn’t it make all brand people consider how to evolve communication to respond to how people are living today?

I really admire the Burger King team with their idea that won the Grand Prix at Cannes. It showed a team thinking creatively on their feet to adapt to the changing world. The campaign clearly had a bit of a flaw in how Wikipedia could be updated by anyone at any time – but who cares? It grabbed attention, it sparked something, and it made us all think differently.

Also, a shift in how people are searching will affect how brands approach their search strategy. Is voice search different to how someone may type their commands in a search engine? Does that change the keywords brands might want to associate themselves with?

U.S. sales of these ‘smart speakers’ more than tripled to nearly 25 million in 2017, about 11 million coming during the holiday quarter alone, according to a Consumer Technology Association estimate. Apparently, they’re expected to grow further in 2018, to about 36 million, as Apple’s HomePod joins the party.

At CES in Las Vegas this week we also saw how digital voice assistants will start to be integrated further into the home, even into your shower! These things aren’t going away, they’re invading our homes at quite a pace.

My friend told me the other day her 2 year old said the name ‘Alexa’ before he said ‘Mummy’! When I hear things like that it makes me wonder whether this advancement is really a good thing or not. But who am I to judge on that? The reality is that Alexa is here, she’s in my home and she’s changing how I do things, and that’s food for thought for brands everywhere.

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