Just a few years ago, the world was getting to know Siri and Alexa and puzzling over strange cylinders and spheres—aka smart speakers—that were going to enter our homes and change our lives. As predicted, consumers quickly adopted the easy-to-use and relatively inexpensive technology. “The Smart Audio Report” says 24% of Americans over the age of 18 own a smart speaker. By 2022, smart speaker usage will climb to 60 million people, representing 55% of American homes, as more households add the technology or increase the number of speakers they already have in their homes.
While consumers integrate smart speakers into their daily lives for everything from checking news, weather and traffic, to streaming AM/FM radio, listening to their favorite podcasts, and other entertainment brands and advertisers are adopting and adapting to the platforms in a variety of ways. Simple integrations, like The Guardian’s voice-led quiz, offer a native experience inherent to the speaker environment. Bespoke opportunities, such as HBO’s interactive “Westworld” game, go a step further in bringing Sweetwater to life for its fans. At the pinnacle, there are immersive brand experiences, like alcoholic beverage company Diageo’s audio-led interactive journey to teach people how to taste Scotch whiskey.
The benefits are immense – from aggregate data collection on usage and actions, to on-the-spot engagement and activation, and super-serving of the “instant gratification” consumer culture.
For optimal results, a clear, concise message is the golden rule of all advertising, especially when it comes to smart speakers. The platform’s heightened level of interactivity requires that users understand exactly what to do or say to engage best with advertiser content. It’s also important to go in with clarity of purpose. Is this a brand communication, an engagement strategy, an e-commerce opportunity? Defining the desired outcome from the beginning will help determine the customer journey and experience.
For custom skills or experiences, it’s also important to consider how it will be promoted. “Build it and they will come does not work here,” Ken Lagana, EVP of Digital Sales at Entercom. “You need to have a strategic approach to get the word out and to encourage adoption.” And, as always, ongoing analysis and optimization are vital to success.
Choosing an experienced partner also rises to the top of the best practices list. In the connected economy, Entercom makes content available to audiences anytime, anywhere, including on smart speakers. “The most effective audio advertising breaks through the noise to deliver messages in moments when listeners are actively tuned into content they’ve personally selected,” Lagana says. “In fact, Entercom smart speaker listening grew 91% in total listening hours since 2019, and we’ve introduced two interactive and completely turnkey ways to connect brands and our engaged audiences.”
The first provides a wide canvas to broaden messaging among connected users by tying brands to RADIO.COM’s streaming content across all connected devices. The second allows listeners to vocally request more information after hearing a brand’s spot on a RADIO.COM station stream. For example, Entercom worked with a major auto maker to create a match-making skill, allowing consumers to answer a few questions on their smart speakers to discover which vehicle best fits their needs. Both approaches benefit brands by complementing campaigns with connected device experiences for a complete 360-degree audio strategy.
For marketers still waiting for the technology and content to advance, consider this: Business Insider’s “Smart Speaker Report” stated “5 years since the first device in its category launched, the smart speaker may be demonstrating one of the fastest rates of consumer adoption of any technology device in history, outpacing even the smartphone, per our data.” Brands and marketers who want to connect with their consumers meaningfully in the audio landscape are actively embracing endless possibilities of smart speakers in the media mix.
 Triton Digital, April 2019-2020