Insights on our screenless future from the experts at SXSW 2018.

Just as we were getting brands to buy the “mobile first” mantra, an entirely new platform has come onto the scene.

Google Home

Google, Apple and Amazon launched voice-activated smartspeakers in Australia during the past nine months, and they’re sweet talking their way into our homes at alarming rates. The early adoption of smartspeakers has outpaced the adoption of smartphones. While it’s too early for public sales figures, local experts predict smart home devices will be a $4.7 billion industry in Australia by 2021.

So, what does this mean for brands?

Initial smartspeaker offerings are limited in their capability, but as the technology behind them accelerates and the Internet of Things connects more objects, they will soon be used for all sorts of daily tasks. Brands that get in on the ground floor with this platform will have a huge advantage, as they can develop their voice-led offering as the technology progresses. Here are some ways your organisation can make some noise in people’s houses, and some tips on how to do it best.


Be Human

First and foremost, your brand needs to find its human voice. Voice-activated tech is only just coming onto the scene now because we have only recently trained computers to understand 95 per cent of human speech. This was the human threshold of what we’ll tolerate for a machine. Anything below 95 per cent feels too inhuman.

A vocal conversation is inherently more human than an interface on a screen. Your presence on a screenless platform has to understand how your audience speaks and how they like to be spoken to.

Start with social listening when designing voice communications for your brand. See what questions your audience are asking, and what language they’re using to talk about it. Build an understanding of that language into your smartspeaker product and record responses that do the same.

Make sure you understand who your brand would be as a person, and invest in the right language and audio assets to represent it.


Be Useful

Despite their increasing ubiquity in our homes, no one likes the idea of a robot home invasion. At least for now, we prefer our smartspeakers to speak when spoken to. While on-screen banner ads and pre-rolls can squeeze their way onto our screens without us seeking them, brands do not have the same luxury with voice communications.

Think about what questions your audience might ask that your brand has the answers to. A great example is Time Out, which launched a Google Assistant app to answer questions about where users can go out nearby. Dig deep to work out what questions you’re answering and get on people’s smartspeakers to answer them.


Get Podcasting

Podcasts are to smartspeakers what video was to smartphones. More than half of Australians have listened to a podcast and a growing number do so regularly. As we get used to interacting with screenless content in our homes, we’ll begin to talk to podcasts as they become interactive.

There is a world of untapped potential for brands in the podcasting space, so get in now while it’s less competitive. Popular podcasts are crying out for commercial partners, and their audiences are heavily engaged. What story could your brand tell in a podcast that people would be willing to hear in their homes? When considering this, don’t take your eye off rule number one. Be human.


Be old, be young

The fastest adopters of smartspeakers are not your usual suspects. Google Home has been disproportionately popular among people under 18 and older than 35. In particular, senior citizens who never fully adopted smartphones are turning to voice-led platforms for their intuitive ease of use and low cost. The same applies to the disabled and to infants.

Does your organisation speak to any of these audiences? Catch up with these early adopters and speak to them in their smart homes.


Get in early

Even the true believers admit, smartspeakers have a long way to go. Today they’re great for checking the weather, ordering a pizza or converting ounces to grams, but their full capability is yet to be seen.

That’s why this is the perfect time to invest in a smartspeaker product. Learn with the early adopters what does and doesn’t work. Develop your voice on this platform while we develop its place in our homes. By the time smart home products become a multi-billion dollar industry, you’ll already be part of the furniture.