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Smart Speakers, Marketing and Whose Privacy Is At Stake

As consumers become more comfortable using voice search queries on their mobile devices and smart speakers, both B2B and B2C marketers should be considering how this channel will impact their work, whether its Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant. The answer to that question may not be easy to define, but there is another question that can help you make your decision: Is my target audience using these devices now or will they be there soon? Predictions are that by 2022, 55% of US households will have a smart speaker device. Two factors to consider when thinking about if and how to add smart speaker to your marketing mix are: how comfortable is your audience with technology and what their attitudes are about data privacy.

Comfort with Technology

While it’s easier for most to speak requests to a device than type them, especially if you’re elbows-deep in your pandemic sourdough starter, not everyone “gets” technology well enough to agree with the idea that speaking is the preferable route. Concerns about accuracy are common and not entirely unfounded. If that defines your audience you likely have some time before you need to focus resources on voice-activated search.

Comfort with Privacy

Similarly, if your audience would prefer not to share personal information with anyone they don’t have to, they’re likely to have concerns about who’s listening in on the other end of their request.

Reports of always-on digital assistants listening and recording when they shouldn’t be won’t help win this audience segment over. If that’s who your audience is, you can hold off on diving into voice search.

But don’t ignore it entirely. My purely anecdotal research indicates that the breakdown isn’t what you’d expect — digital natives vs. retirees, say, or tech workers vs. people who aren’t in front of a computer for work all day.

This may be in part because the younger set aren’t as invested in their homes yet and speakers and smart speakers aren’t a high priority. And those who work in tech and marketing seem to either love the underlying tech or mistrust those who are supposed to be safeguarding our personal info. I would expect this to mean attitudes could shift within these groups more readily than they might if they broke along generational lines or career paths.

Who Owns Your Marketing Data?

Finally, you might consider privacy from your own perspective as a marketer. What are Amazon, Apple, and Google doing with the data they are gathering? What rights have you ceded in the fine print? And do you trust that they’ll abide by the rules they’ve set out? It’s worth remembering that their interests and yours aren’t necessarily going to be aligned.

Chances are, this isn’t a critical channel for you yet, but it’s one that seems to be
growing beyond the “best pizza near me” queries that dominate now. Keep these tools on your radar and, as with all marketing technology, think about how privacy concerns will influence your audience’s behavior and how those concerns should influence your marketing.

Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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