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Embracing Smart Technology is the UK ready for the next level?

Toshiba Alexa Wireless Speaker

So, the Facebook privacy scandal and General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) ‘manic panic’ seems to have gone quiet? However, as a result people’s awareness of online privacy has increased. The growth of smart home technology adoption is set to become hindered by an obvious battle between ‘convenience’ and ‘privacy protection’.

Clear Goal Marketing consultancy has a keen interest in all things marketing related. Technology changes and use of data being pivotal in how we approach our marketing in the future; it’s something we all need to evolve with. As a Christmas treat we wanted to contribute an article on the adoption of smart technology. Most of us have smartphones, however what do we think of smart speakers or home assistants or smart hubs whatever you choose to call them?

Is it actually SMART move to invest in a smart speaker? That is the question.

Christmas Party Tricks at the Ready!

The Christmas season has seen marketing advertising campaigns for Amazon Echo Dot promoting the convenience of the device in turning on/off Christmas lights and music simply by talking to Alexa. Most of the country has the annoyance of turning on and off their Christmas lights every night.

Turning on music via voice control – what an impressive party trick that could be? They are both nothing more than clever marketing tactics to boost sales.

Another marketing strategy targeting families is through promotion of another convenient smart speaker feature enabling children’s bedroom lights to be turned off through voice instruction.

Will the smart speaker and voice control really replace kissing the children goodnight? I sincerely hope not….

No-one can argue that these small conveniences make life easier and it certainly does build awareness effectively and encourage people to consider the technology along with what other menial tasks the home assistant can help with.

What is a Smart Speaker?

The smart speaker is a voice-controlled device that sits in the home gathering data. The market leader is Amazon Echo, and other popular brands are offered by Google and Apple.

Smart wireless speakers were first brought into our homes with the attraction of being able to play music, then check the weather, set timers and control the smart home. As the ‘convenience’ benefits grow so does demand for smart hubs.

Market shares:

  • Amazon 44%

  • Google 27%

  • Alibaba 8%

  • Apple 6%

  • Others 15%

What will the Future Hold?

Will home assistants become as ubiquitous as televisions? It is hard to believe right now, but Jupiter predicts that 55% of US. 50% of UK households will have a smart hub by 2022 and it is predicted that voice commerce will drive £3.5bn of UK shopping by 2022. (Pamela Kokoszka).

10% of UK households own a smart speaker (March 2018), with growth to 100 million worldwide units by the end of 2018. Google Home is predicted to overtake sales of the Amazon unit by 2022.

According to the consultancy Quadrangle, 22% of UK households have a smart speaker. Seventy per cent of the UK public are uncomfortable with how brands store and use their personal data, including 51 per cent of Baby Boomers and 47 per cent of Gen-Z and Millenials.

Could you live without these brands now? Amazon (Prime), Facebook and Google?

Independent UK Research

Just for fun, a survey was conducted in the UK in July-November 2018 on survey usage and delivered the following results.

Do you currently own a smart speaker?

Yes 30%

No 70%

Are you fully aware of the data your speaker collects?

Yes 13%

No 80%

Other 7%

Do you ever turn off the microphone on your speaker due to privacy concerns?

Yes 20%

No 53%

Not sure 27%

What has stopped you from purchasing a smart speaker?

Data collection concerns 27%

Technology not needed 40%

No perceived value 10%

Unaware of technology 23%

Are you planning on purchasing a smart speaker within the next 12 months?

Yes 13%

No 70%

Not sure 17%

What would you say was the main benefit for you personally of owning a smart speaker?

Instant wireless music playing & multi-room 41%

Voice activated assistance 35%

Access to optimised knowledge/information based around your interests 6%

Other 18%

Which brand do you own currently, or which would you buy?

Amazon Echo 41%

Google home 24%

Alexa Sonos 8%

What do people actually think?

Respondents commented with the following interesting thoughts in connection with smart speaker technology. Some felt that smart speakers were a passing fad and will not take off long-term.

Many others did not understand how they were useful in the home and for those reasons would not buy a smart speaker – suggesting leading brands need to better educate the UK population in accepting this new technology.

There were many concerns raised of the devices being not only intrusive with regard to data collection abilities, but also easy for hackers. A smart speaker was defined as a clever device that enters your home with its useful functionalities, but is secretly a spy that collects an abundance of information, on the sly, for marketing purposes.

The Growth of Voice Technology

Help Alexa doesn’t understand my Yam Yam accent! (a UK-midlands dialect to those who are confused).

Voice technology is the one to watch and is set to see rapid growth changing the way we communicate with our devices and replacing the need for keyboards and remote controls. Families with toddlers who often hide remote controls will welcome the convenience of voice.

Talking to yourself is supposed to be a sign of madness, but soon enough talking to our televisions and refrigerators will become the norm. As all our home devices connect, they will be listening out for our commands. But will they be collecting and intercepting more information that we realise?

Changing Buying Habits

As everyone becomes more privacy conscious, it is quite alarming to consider the amount of information that Facebook, Google, Amazon and indeed our favourite supermarkets hold about us and our individual buying habits. Read the interesting article by Medium on why you should consider deleting Facebook.

As consumers become more reliant upon their favourite social media channels, search engines and convenience of mail order shopping such as ‘Amazon prime’, we see the impact of this; such as the deserted high-street and failing retail brands, as shopping habits change.

Welcome to the new online high-street (clothes) – Boohoo, Missguided, In the Style, Lavish Alice, Pretty Little Thing, Monki, Linzishoes, Glamourous, H&M… to name a few.

Monopoly gains - the after effects

Should global empires such as Amazon be restricted in their monopoly gains before it’s too late? Or is it too late already?

As competition is eliminated, will the future mean price rises?

It’s no secret that marketers are collecting unprecedented amounts of data, our every move is being tracked through mobile phones, smart devices and the internet.

Aided Purchasing

Data intelligence enables brands to connect with their customers. The sophistication of data is increasingly driving marketing campaigns, which will only become ‘smarter’ at targeting consumers as smart technology grows in our homes.

As if internet search related advertising is not clever enough, imagine when our televisions and home devices start serving us advertising deemed ‘relevant’. Many people would say this is invasive and a step too far.

Bloomberg reported an instance in Oregon where an Echo device recorded a conversation between a husband and wife, which was then sent to an employee having been mistaken for being part of a series of commands.

Help my smart speaker is too smart and lacks common sense!


Is the population too lazy to turn off their lights? Yes, via the switch! Routine tasks are slowly being eliminated by smart gadget. If you control your central heating through an app why not control more things? The conclusion is, it's only a smart move to buy a smart speaker as long as you are fully aware of the device's capabilities.

It is true that the latest gadget is in fact the smart speaker. It all started with the convenience of being able to play music through wireless speakers. As every technology becomes smart and equipped with voice technology, it is set to transform our lives and businesses.

The impact for marketing is that the bank of data knowledge is growing enormously and the targeting power available to brands has never been so accessible. Through digital marketing we have the advantage of precisely targeting our audience, creating funnels and tracking conversions – all driven by data.

Gone are the days when marketing struggled to prove return on investment, as there is an abundance of statistical information available to us; understanding it is another matter. With the growth of data collection, it looks like GDPR arrived just in time. However, whilst we trade our privacy for convenience further privacy controls will be required.

2018 has seen huge growth in the popularity of searching for nearby restaurants while driving, order pizza and taxis from our mobile phones. Brands like Just Eat and Uber, growing seemingly overnight into huge global brands.

The potential benefits of new technologies are never fully understood at the beginning, as we’ve seen with the smart phone. Who knows what home voice assistants / smart speakers / whatever we call them will be doing for us in the future.

It is true that smart speaker devices should raise concerns amongst consumers that are concerned about privacy. “I bought my device for light control and recording my shopping lists – but it perhaps knows more about me than myself”, commented respondent X.

Clear Goal Marketing offers marketing consultancy to small to medium sized businesses says:

“On a lighter note, what if you don’t like the name Alexa can you change it? What if your name is Alex does that create confusion? Will Alexa make it into the top baby name charts?"

"Will we be sucked in further by the convenience of technology? Yes probably. Bending down to turn the Christmas lights switches off can be a pain, especially behind the TV and it does hurt my back. With a gin and tonic in one hand slightly tipsy, electrics really don’t mix."

"As life gets busier and the kids stay up later – one day will I be saying ‘Alexa turn off the lights’. Maybe!

Have a great Christmas and New Year folks whether you are on light and music duty or not”!

Clear Goal Marketing Christmas logo

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