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Smart Speakers – What’s in It for Me?

September 12, 2017

I attended a session at the Radio Show last week called “The Connected Car Listener Experience.” One of the panelists was Scott Deaver, the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of the Avis Budget Group. Mr. Deaver doesn’t consider himself to be in the car rental business. He is in the “Mobility Business.” He explained that while Avis Budget has a very successful and profitable car rental business, they were busy focusing on where the consumer was going to be in 10 years, not where they have been in the past. This is causing Avis Budget to focus on initiatives like autonomous vehicles and to establish profitable business models that allow people to share cars rather than own them.

So what does this have to do with Smart Speakers such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or the soon to be introduced Apple HomePod? Essentially, Smart Speakers are yet one more device that will compete for people’s time and attention. If listeners are spending time with Smart Speakers, then radio stations need to be there. We need to make it as easy as possible for listeners to find us and spend their Smart Speaker time with us.

The adoption of Smart Speakers has been swift and is accelerating. According to a study by Edison Research and NPR1, ownership in early 2017 exceeded 7% of the U.S. population in 2 years, which is outpacing the adoption rates of smart phones and tablets. Compared to the first month of ownership, 47% of respondents say that they are using their device more often. The same study found that 70% of Smart Speaker owners say they are consuming more audio at home since they got their device. Unfortunately, as of early this year the study found that only 8% of all time spent listening to audio on a Smart Speaker was spent with AM/FM radio.

According to a study by comScore in the first quarter of 20172, 54% of households that have a Smart Speaker use it to stream music. This is third behind asking general questions (60%) and checking the weather (57%). If we don’t fight for that time spent listening to the Smart Speaker, we will lose that TSL to other sources that are more readily available to the listener.

In order to maximize your opportunity for success, immediate action is needed. The single most important thing you need to do right now is to grab your “Invocation” for every device. Think back to when the internet was born and there was a mass rush to grab every important URL. You need to lock up your brand on Alexa, Google Home, and HomePod (when it becomes available) before someone else does. For example, if your brand is “Magic 98.5” then you want your station to play when someone asks Alexa to “Play Magic 98.5.” You don’t want the listener going to another radio station somewhere else in the country (or world).

You can do this yourself for Alexa (click here) or Google Home (click here). There are also companies such as Sonic AI and XappMedia that can help you maximize the user experience with your brand via a Smart Speaker. First impressions are extremely important so good invocations are critical. You don’t want to chase listeners away with a bad user experience. Your invocation also needs to be memorable and consistent across devices, as well as being consistent with your on air branding.

Once everything is set up, you need to teach your listeners how to connect with you on their Smart Speaker. If you build it, they won’t just come. You need to invite them.

Since you will be driving listeners to your stream, it is more important than ever that the listener experience to your stream to be as high quality as your broadcast programming. If you are serving the same ads over and over or have poor sound quality you will drive listeners away from your brand.

As listeners migrate to alternate ways of consuming audio content, radio needs to be there. If you’re not, you are surrendering a new pot of time spent listening to those that are.

-Marc Greenspan, Partner

1. http://nationalpublicmedia.com/smart-audio-report
2. http://www.businessinsider.com/how-people-use-smart-speakers-amazon-echo-chart-2017-5