‘Alexa, write me a fantastic blog about what the future connected home means for advertising… sorry, I’m not sure I understand your request.’
Ok so unfortunately voice assistant software isn’t quite as developed as I anticipated when I set out to write this, but with developments in smart home technology happening all the time and an estimated 40% of UK households likely to own a voice-controlled device, what most consider to be the central hub of the smart home, by the end of 2018 (Getting Vocal, Radio Centre, 2017) there’s now no denying the future opportunities for advertisers in this area is huge.
In what form or format these ads will take is still to be determined, Google’s attempt last year to wedge in a test advertisement at the end of commands on the Google Home letting users know that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was out in cinemas that day, fell flat with consumers.
I believe the reason for this is most likely linked to how people view their home and how it makes you feel, being viewed as an intimate, familiar space which people want to have a sense of control over. If outdoor spaces offer the opportunity to build initial awareness of brands on huge spaces like billboards and buses, the home should instead be seen as a space to develop brand relationships and loyalty.
This softer, conversational approach is resonant of the recent first UK broadcaster to use voice innovations Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa to promote a TV show. Launched on 26th April, ‘The Human Test’ application on the platform brings Channel 4’s ‘Humans’ to life by determining whether a user is human or ‘synth’ through a series of questions and answers. However, whilst there’s much to admire about this campaign, I’m still unsure whether it properly represents the future advertising capabilities of voice innovation or the connected home as much of it is reliant on support via other channels (people are encouraged to take the test through a series of ads across TV, social media and radio) and whilst currently a fun, novel experience , it offers no real benefit to someone using it.
Ecommerce created the possibility of shopping from home long ago, what I would anticipate the connected home will do is take this a step further by turning the home into more of a commercial space, far beyond the ability of simply purchasing but offering new, unequivocal opportunities for brands to extend how they build meaningful relationships with consumers. However, as discussed above, the home is still a unique space and thus the ways in which brands do engage on these new platforms must be done in a way which is emotional, empathetic and personal.
One theory which could be highly relevant from this respect is Richard Thaler’s behavioural concept of Nudge, which suggests one way to create a behavioural change could be to subtly encourage people to make decisions which are in their broad self-interest, making it easier for them to carry out the desired choice. With 53% of people interested in chatting to an online shop assistant for advice while buying and another 53% admitting they would be interested in a service that suggests content to watch based on the time available (Foresight Factory, 2017), one future opportunity for brands in the connected home area could be to offer consumers assistance through smart devices, encouraging a nudge in behaviour which gently suggests using the said brand is the best way of doing so. For example, recipe support and advice from food brands through your smart fridge, with the potential recommendation that you have most of the ingredients needed for a delicious spicy vegetarian chilli recipe which lists Santa Maria’s Cuban Chilli Sofrito Sauce as a suggested added ingredient.
The other obvious opportunity smart homes could open for advertisers is access to unrivalled behavioural data, meaning brands would no longer be solely reliant on someone informing them how they behave (which we know is potentially subject to cognitive bias) or being limited to learning from online habits. Suddenly real-time behavioural insight based on people’s actual actions becomes a possibility. For instance, information direct from consumer’s washing machine which indicates whether a person is likely to be finishing their current washing powder/liquid in the near future could be cleverly utilised by washing brands to ensure online ads are reaching consumers at the right moment and in the right mood (when the consumer is most likely to be in need of replenishing stock).
Obviously this does raise potential concerns about data usage and privacy, with some going as far as suggesting that the notion of your own devices ‘keeping tabs’ on you is a step too far in terms creating a ‘Big Brother’ society. I, however, am of the view that as long as it’s communicated effectively upfront how advertisers and brands will use this data (compliant with the new GDPR regulations of course) and show the tangible benefit that this would have for the consumer personally, in terms of the aforementioned support and advise that is aimed at making their life easier, people would be a lot less reluctant to agree to sharing their data.
The flip side of appliances like washing machines, dishwashers and printers being capable of detecting when products are running low is that it also opens up the potential of brand bypassing. This is that consumers choose to opt out of the transaction, allowing their smart machines to automatically reorder products before they run out. Whilst this offers huge convenience for the consumer, a rise in these type of transactions would leave brands at risks of becoming invisible at the point of purchase. Therefore if there is an increase in this purchase type, the need for brands to build deeper, more meaningful relationships and loyalty with consumers within the personable space of the home, becomes even greater.
How exactly advertising fits into the future connected home is still very much to be determined, but with many possible avenues and two of the biggest players in this market being Amazon and Google, you have to believe that they’re keen to monetise this opportunity as quickly as possible and as such we may be a lot closer to finding out quicker than many anticipate.
‘Alexa, how do you plan on using my data… I’m sorry, I don’t know that’ (yet!)