This is going to be a double-edged sword.
There is no doubt that Smart Audio is going to change how consumers connect with brands and information. Using our voice to navigate technology is a much more intuitive interface than typing and screens. My simple prediction is this: smart speakers, smartphones and connected appliances are going to flood the market, and we will no longer use keyboards/screens to navigate – just voice. Typing will be relegated to writing (not the user experience). Now, as smart speakers continue to grow in the marketplace (just wait and see what the number one tech gift will be this coming holiday season), we have to start looking at the important (and tougher) questions: What data is being captured? What can the big companies do with it? Will consumers allow these devices/brands to “listen in” on their lives 24/7? Do consumers understand what data is being captured and how it can/might be used?
It’s hard to argue that these monster companies don’t already know more than they need to, in order to advertise and promote products and services to consumers (and consumers are starting to wake up and get frustrated with just how much of a product their personal data has become). Now, with smart speakers, smartphones, watches, connected appliances and more that are “constantly” listening in, it feels like a multiplier in terms of what the big brands (Google, Amazon, Apple, etc…) can capture (and use). Perhaps the grievances of the past (in terms of data being passed around so freely) will change. Perhaps us optimists are being too optimistic? Either way, these devices are capturing a lot of data. More than most could have ever imagined… and it’s not going to stop.
Make the data rich. Make the experience better. Make the data secure.
Consumers will embrace Smart Audio and all of the devices that this content flows through. The brands will need to think long (and hard) about what they’re doing. Data rich smart audio can create the ultimate consumer experience. From curation and customization to powerful recommendation and knowledge. Right now, Smart Audio is nascent. Just how nascent? My comparison is this: Smart Audio today is where the web browser was before hyperlinks. Even if you want to activate a voice skill on Alexa right now, you have to initiate it from the smartphone app (and you can’t do that from asking the smart speaker via an invocation). This is the same as type-in traffic at the web browser level. There are no real “hyperlinks” in audio, the search is not there and there is no curated portal that knows your likes and dislikes to make better recommendations. Don’t bail on smart speakers just yet, they are just getting started (more on that here: Hello, Voice – Smart Audio Is The Now/Next Frontier). That’s the opportunity. If Amazon, Google and Apple can be smart (and they better be, because this is called “Smart Audio”) they should make the data personal to the user. This means anonymous to them, not usable beyond basic content needs, and optimized for the user experience versus their current position of monetizing every bit and drip of data. These brands know more than enough about us to sell us a car or credit card. They should use Smart Audio data to make the experience richer and more engaging (not for more needed data collection). They need to get this right. I’m hoping that the richness of Smart Audio data doesn’t poison the well further, but puts these brands back on the path to gain consumer confidence, and re-create the brand sentiment that many of us have come to know and love.
I’m hopeful that Smart Audio can be this turnaround moment. I’m just not all that confident (yet). How about you?