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Smart speakers will let you talk to your radio

date 16th January 2018
user Post by Ally Myers

Finding your favourite radio station used to involve remembering a string of random digits to get the right frequency on the dial. Then push-button technology came along and made life much simpler. Smart speaker technology, the breakthrough technology of 2017, is a real game changer for radio. Radio is your friend and in 2018, all you now need to do is call its name and it’ll be there for you.


Voice activated devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home are growing in worldwide popularity and are already driving increases in radio listening at home. Research from the UK (Radiocentre) predicts that by late 2018, 40% of UK households will have an Amazon Echo. At the moment, voice activated devices are another way for people listen to audio content. In fact, 71% of Echo users say that owning the device has increased their audio consumption. 

 Our relationship with brands is set to change as screenless browsing becomes more popular. In the future, a significant amount of time spent online will be done without a screen. It’s predicted that 30% of web browsing will be voice activated by 2020 (Gartner). As the technology improves, the most successful brands will be the ones that have an instantly recognisable and memorable voice and sonic identity. 

This presents a huge opportunity for brands to establish themselves in the audio space. Traditionally, brands have spent a lot of time perfecting their visual branding, but far less time perfecting their brand voice. 

In 2018, we expect to see brands use new technology and experiment with their audio marketing. We also expect the number of people listening to increase further, so brands looking to engage audiences through audio need to find their voice. After all, if your brand is mute, how will it exist in a more screenless future? 

But let’s not get carried away. Let’s remember that now and in the immediate future, it’s all still a niche affair. Only a small proportion of radio listening in New Zealand is currently streamed. But, with faster broadband and 5G on the way in NZ by 2020, that proportion will grow. If, as is expected, most homes quickly become smart, one can expect voice-activated radio to grow alongside. For a medium which relies on audio, it’s hugely encouraging to welcome a device which treasures it too. Thus, radio (in whatever form) is set to be centre-stage for its second century.

The rise of voice-activated technology is a huge opportunity for clients, agencies and brands when the uptake hits New Zealand. Since they’re designed to play in the background while users do other things, smart speakers also seemingly pair perfectly with radio’s hands-off, hassle free approach to providing listeners a music or talk based soundtrack with multiple advertising options. 

 Voice-enabled devices don’t easily lend themselves to product discovery, so brands need to build stronger, more personal relationships with consumers as they seek to influence their purchase decision. And these relationships need to be firmly in place well before the moment when a purchase is about to be made and that’s where radio is a proven player. 

Amazon launching in Australia is seen as a threat to many NZ businesses. The emergence of a dominant, voice-based, retailer is possibly the biggest risk facing brands today in their faceless battles with voice. Amazon has proven in other international markets that it is taking business and profit from local retailers. Brands that start promoting competition in the voice-based retail space and begin learning how to optimise their business for the smart speaker algorithms will be well-positioned for the future. 

For example, are shoppers searching for “refresh” or “cheap” or “long lasting” air freshener, or for a specific scent? Understanding key words will be critical to positioning brands online to ensure hit rates. This insight will also play a role in consumer marketing to ensure strong resonance with shoppers and search bots. 

A major soup brand recently built a sous-chef-style application for Amazon Echo that can do maths and remind users of ingredients without requiring them to tap their tablets or smartphones with food all over their hands. Getting in early and developing unique “skills” and other content for voice-based systems will deliver a first-mover advantage to brands. Hence 2018 will all be about asking Alexa or Google or Siri!

In 2017, smart speakers in America were still mostly owned by early adopters, but that’s changing quickly. There are strong predictions that 75% of American households will have one by 2020. The home is where smart speakers are having the most impact and they are replacing the home stereo. The brands Google Home, Apple HomePod, Amazon Echo and Microsoft Envoke are about to flood the market.


Voice activation could mean a real change in the way brands use digital audio. This will be the new and exciting opportunity for personalised interactivity with radio and client brands over audio conversations. Brands will need to start having more audio conversations with their customers in 2018.