As Voice Continues to Dominate, 2018 Trends Emerge

August 2018

In 2014, the Harvard Business Review wrote “There’s one powerful branding tool that has been generally overlooked — or perhaps undervalued — by most marketers: sound … The strategic use of sound can play an important role in positively differentiating a product or service, enhancing recall, creating preference, building trust, and even increasing sales.”

Since then, smart speakers have become a common household item – 18% of Americans 12+ own a smart speaker in 2018. And as more and more consumers adopt these devices, we’re starting to see what mainstream adoption will look like. According to Spring 2018 data from The Smart Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research:

  • First adopters, who have owned their smart speaker for one year or longer,  demonstrate more advanced smart speaker use – 24% used it to control home lighting, thermostat or appliances
  • Newer, early mainstream users are quickly relying on the technology for a wider range of daily activities – 37% look up recipes, 34% make calls and 33% add items to their shopping lists

Voice is becoming a meaningful mechanism in how people move through their daily lives, and these changing habits reveal opportunities for brands to become part of this new routine.  


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With smart speakers and voice assistants growing in popularity, manufacturers like Amazon and Google are taking note of the power voice brings to brands and consumers, and are investing in the user experience on voice-activated devices and creating opportunities for brands across industries.

This summer, industry conversations have revolved around the voice-activated future. From VoiceCon 2018 to Podcast Movement 2018, industry leaders and experts in the space have revealed key trends and considerations for voice-activation:

  • Search: By 2020, comScore predicts 50% of search will be voice search. Brands need to think about about how their messaging and SEO works in the intimate environment of a voice assistant. Breaking into voice early and educating the audience about how to find you brand will help pave the way to success. Testing and iterating on CTAs and language will be the key for brands that want to come out on top for voice search.
  • Accessibility: Access without  knowledge creates a big barrier for many smart speaker owners who don’t know how to activate the full suite of capabilities on their devices. According to The Smart Audio Report, 65% of early mainstream smart speaker users say they don’t know enough about their smart speaker to use all of its features. At Podcast Movement 2018, NPR CMO Meg Goldthwaite explained NPR’s strategy for educating audiences about how to access NPR on their smart speaker device, model to model. Learning voice-activated “utterances” is like learning a new language, and repetition is key to building habits.
  • The brand focus: Determine the sound and tone of your brand’s voice, just like you would for visual brand assets.
  • Create a meaningful experience, not an ad: Consider what value and expertise your brand brings to the table for an authentic brand/voice content integration. 81% of smart speaker owners are open to skills and features created by brands on smart speakers. Keep your voice assistant integrations  – Skills, Actions and other applications – focused on creating an easy experience for consumers to use and work into their routine. During The Smart Audio Report Spring 2018 Webinar, Edison Research VP of Strategy pointed to Charmin’s “Sit or Squat” restroom finder, saying “skills need to be useful and help people who have their hands full.”
  • Create a marketing plan: Brands with voice-activated experiences need a marketing partner with an engaged, established smart speaker audience. Case in point: NPR sponsor Peppercorn Media used the NPR Flash Briefing to promote its “Word of the Day Quiz” Alexa Skill. Within the first week, more than 10K people responded to the promo to play the quiz, a 5.5% conversion rate. With over 10,000 Skills on the Alexa platform alone and 72% of smart speaker owners agreeing they don’t know enough about their smart speakers, discovery is key.


Build a Smart Speaker Plan with NPR
Today, NPR reaches 8.3M on streams across Google Home and Amazon Alexa devices alone each month, with growing audiences across other leading voice assistant platforms. We can work with you to develop a marketing plan for your brand’s smart speaker experience that connects with this growing audience in the moment when they can actually take action.