After some time winding down this Summer, I’m starting again my regular updates about what has happened in the world of Voice. Slight change to the frequency though as the updates won’t be weekly anymore, but monthly. This will help to have more distance and curation with regards to the massive amount of news in the space as well as allow me to spend more time on my own voice projects (stay tuned!).
Penetration Rate of Smart Speakers keeps increasing
Voice Assistants keep making their way into people’s homes. As a new report by Canalys indicates, worldwide shipments of smart speakers grew 55% year on year. While the US used to be the number one market in the world, it has now been overtaken by China with more than 12 million units sold.
On the manufacturers, Amazon is maintaining its lead with 6.6 million units sold in Q2 while Baidu -despite selling only in China – took over the second spot with 4.5 million units, overtaking Google with 4.3 million units.
Details of the Canalys study could be found here. Meanwhile, yet another study by CIRP announced that the installed base of smart speakers in the US is now at 76 million, 52% more than a year ago.
We really can’t talk about a niche market anymore.
Marketers are showing interest an commitment in Voice Assistants
A survey conducted by Voicebot.ai and Voices.com of marketers in North America on the State of Voice Assistants as a Marketing Channel highlighted several trends:
- 88.5% of brands and agencies believe Voice Assistants will be at least somewhat a significant marketing channel over the next 3-5 years. 25% of the marketers surveyed indicated seeing the channel as extremely important.
- Alexa and Google Assistant are the platforms for marketers of choice today and likely to remain tomorrow, eventually joined by Apple
- This is not only about Smart Speakers: brands and agencies see having a voice app presence on Smartphones and in Cars more important than on Smart Speakers. Interesting also is the desire to have voice apps embedded in Smart TVs and Wearables
Now, when it comes to commitment, 24% of marketers have already launched a voice app and 10% will launch one this year or in the coming ones.
Acquisition, Investments and even more Verticalisation
While the summer is typically slow when it comes to fundraising or acquisition announcements, Groupon nevertheless announced the acquisition of Present AI, a San Francisco based company that has developed a booking solution via voice messaging. Presence AI was part of the 2018 Alexa Accelerator cohort.
While other deals are in the making, both in the United States and here in Europe (I know at least three between France and Germany), it looks like some patience is required before the ink is dry and the announcements made.
One of the interesting trends in fundraising – but not only – is the verticalisation of the voice assistants. It seems that there are companies developing assistants for virtually anything: for laboratory workers, for field inspections in factories, for pet doctors…..etc. Quite a few of these companies are in fundraising mode.
On verticalization still, the BBC announced the launch of its own assistant – named Beeb – next year. The BBC is clearly not going to compete with Alexa or Google Assistant and its assistant will probably have a reduced feature set than those two, and will probably focus on what the company is good at: news, media, weather…etc.
Could that be the first premice of what could be seen as a bubble a few years down the road or simply companies answering very specific niche demands?
Voice Assistant Technology keeps getting better
Venture Capital firm Loup Ventures published its Annual Digital Assistant IQ Test which tests the ability of the smartphone-based digital assistants. Three main learnings to take away:
- By now, the 3 main assistants (Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri) understand your query correctly in more than 99.8% of the time.
- BUT…that doesn’t mean they will answer correctly in the same percentage. In fact, on average they answer 85.2% correctly with the Google Assistant clearly outperforming the others
- The Assistants keep on improving. The same test last year showed Voice Assistants answering correctly only 75.3% of the time.
Marketing your Alexa Skill via Amazon Advertising
Amazon has heard the numerous complains from Skill (voice apps) builders when it comes to Discovery – the ability for a user to find your Skill. As with most stores or marketplaces, the Seattle giant is also saying that “if you only build it….they won’t come”, highlighting the fact that discovery is a challenge that needs to be addressed by developers.
To help them, Amazon has released a guide covering both the basics of Skill Store Optimization as well as offering “Amazon Paid Opportunites”. The latter is the possibility to leverage Amazon Advertising across multiple channels and devices such as the Fire Tablet. The targeting options are extremely interesting as you could specifically segment Echo Devices owners and lookalikes. You will find a copy of the guide here.
Amazon is killing two birds with one stone here: helping Skills developers (who directly or indirectly monetize their skills) as well as selling some of its advertising inventory.