In the bubble in which I work and live – that of voice assistants, audio and sound products and solutions – the proclamation of the arrival of audio is undeniable. For us, the inhabitants of this bubble, the trends are clear, the facts are indisputable and the patterns hard to ignore. But in my conversations with marketers and other managers of business functions outside the bubble – professionals who have to deal with an endless stream of new tools, strategies and tactics, while keeping an eye out for them. urgent deliverables and financial results – I discovered the perception is very different. Audio as a category that can be attributed to an owner and a budget, as a marketer now does with mobile and social media, has yet to crystallize. Instead, marketers feel like they’re bombarded with random audio events, from hardware and software, to content and experiences, and they don’t know exactly what to do or where to start.
A basic sketch can explain not only why the emergence of audio is such a significant disruption as mobile and social, but also how this disruption is different. Unless marketers understand precisely what makes audio both compelling and unique, they will continue to be puzzled by the various manifestations of its presence and growth and won’t know what actions to take, let alone. strategies to be formulated and resources to be allocated.
Audio’s value proposition
Perhaps the best way to explain the value proposition of audio is to focus on two form factors that have quickly become mainstream over the past five years or so: smart speakers and headphones.
Let’s start with some basic numbers.
Smart speakers burst onto the scene in 2016, when Amazon Echo and Google Home saw an unprecedented rate of adoption compared to other digital devices, such as laptops, cellphones, and smartphones. smartphone. According to the Business Insider Smart Speaker report, in April 2021, 50.2% of American consumers now had a smart speaker at home, with, according to Canalys, an expected growth of at least 21% from 2020. The growth of headphones is even more astounding: a 33% year-over-year growth rate in 2021 and a total of 310 million units expected to ship this year.
The obvious question is: why is this happening – and why now? With screen hardware – HDTVs, tablets, and smartphones becoming more affordable (unless, of course, you want the latest high-end iPhone) – why is this turning to a stand that doesn’t seem to offer much more? but much less (no images, only ringing)?
The increase in demand for smart speakers and headphones is basically the same as why the BlackBerry 7230 was enthusiastically adopted when it was introduced in 2003, and the same reason why the smartphone went downhill. quickly generalized with the arrival of the iPhone in 2007. They both allowed us to do things in situations where laptop use was not possible or practical. For example, with our new portable devices, we could now read our mail while walking down the street, Blackberry in hand, browse the news and play games while riding the train, and basically do whatever we could do with it. a laptop – but now literally anywhere. Our physical connection – in the office or at home, where we needed Ethernet or Wi-Fi – was broken.
Related article: The future is multimodal: Why voice alone will never be the answer
Marketing implications for the rise of smart speakers and headphones
With smart speakers and headphones, a new kind of liberation is taking place. Namely, we are freed from our dependence on our eyes and our hands to do things. Whether it was a laptop, tablet or smartphone, in all cases we had to look, locate, hold, sweep, pinch, type and put something down. Our eyes and hands were held captive while we were using these devices. In other words, as Blackberry and the smartphone freed us from a specific location, the smart speaker and headphones freed us to do the same things in new modal situations. For example, we can listen to podcasts while jogging, or ask for the weather under the hood while fixing our car, or request information on potting plants while a plant is potting, or request conversions from measurement during food preparation. The important thing is that before smart speakers and headphones, none of this was possible without us having to stop what we were doing, free our hands (and often wash and dry them), and then tap a keyboard or peck at a surface.
The implications are enormous. For the marketer, a whole new world of situations has emerged that offers radically new possibilities to interact with prospects and customers. Audio as a vehicle for marketing products and services – that is, good old-fashioned radio – has of course been around for over a century and has remained a relevant, effective and compelling channel for reaching buyers and establish and deepen brand loyalty. But until now, audio has remained a one-way medium, the listener being just a passive receiver of information. With smart speakers and headphones, the listener is now also a participant, an initiator of commitments. They ask, speaking naturally, for the things they want – information, experiences, interactions – and are able to do so with minimum effort and maximum comfort.
The exciting challenge ahead for marketers is to identify opportunities where the brand can fulfill a need through this simple and elegant, yet powerful new medium. We’re already seeing this happening with the latest TVs you can buy at Costco: no more tedious tapping on keyboards when you want to view a movie or when you want to change channels – just click on the remote and to ask.
We will soon start to see calls to action from packaging, TV and radio commercials, billboards and magazines, storefronts and supermarket shelves, which allow users to switch from the exposure to a brand to engagement with that brand without doing anything more than talking. The possibilities are as varied as the situations where our eyes and hands are busy. And if you think about it, and ironically to a large extent thanks to laptops, tablets and smartphones, we now find ourselves in exactly such situations almost all the time.
Related article: First steps with the voice? Think mobile
Dr Ahmed Bouzid is CEO of Witlingo, a McLean, Virginia-based startup that creates products and solutions that empower brands to engage with their customers and prospects using voice, audio, and conversational AI. .