The challenge of smart speakers; have you got your voice?

Melanie Lewis

June 30, 2017

Smart speakers are impacting almost all business across industries. Here, Telecomms, Media and Technology Director Melanie Lewis explores some key thoughts from the recent MRS Media Summit and explores the implication this new technology will have on us all.

Launched just late last year, it’s already estimated that 9% of UK households own a smart speaker, such as Amazon Echo.

But with ownership continuing to grow – some estimates have this as high as 40% by 2018, mainstream adoption looks like it’s just around the corner.

The impact of smart speakers

The Wynn resort in Las Vegas hit the headlines in December 2016 for becoming for the first hotel to put speech activated assistants in all rooms. Similarly, reports emerged earlier this year that both Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are vying for a spot in Marriott’s Aloft hotel chain.

Add the impact that the Amazon Echo is already having on retailers  – Amazon is reportedly forecasting $7 billion of purchase transactions will be made through the device by 2020 – and it’s clear that this relatively new technology is already having a big impact on all consumer industries.

As the technology continues to develop, it’s safe to assume that the functionality will also get better. A quick Google search will tell you that there have already been a few high-profile blunders with the technology – the most notable being the ‘dolls house’ incident – but, when it’s working well, voice recognition helps to make life easier. Simply put, it uses the ‘functionality’ of conversation which we have been refining since birth.

Our experience at Maru/edr tells us that ease and functionality are the fundamental drivers of any great experience. It’s also therefore safe to assume that as the technology develops, more and more brands will look to voice recognition technology to improve customer experiences thanks to the simplicity they bring.

Are brands ready for the smart speaker revolution?

So like any new technology, smart speakers offer opportunity. But they also bring new questions and areas of understanding that brands must get right if they’re going to succeed.

One of the biggest questions on my mind during the recent MRS Media Summit – where voice recognition was all the rage – was the issue of emotional connections. Can voice recognition really replace the connection, credibility and reassurance felt when we communication person-to-person with brands and suppliers? In essence, will this technology hamper our experiences with brands, not because they’re making our life more difficult, but because we’ll lose brand relationships that some of us hold so dearly?

Giving your brand a voice

It all suggests that voice recognition technology adds a new dimension to a brands’ tone of voice – brands will have an audible voice or a personality of sorts.

Amazon, Marriott and The Wynn all at least feel that this technology is here to stay. Gartner already predicts that by 2020, consumers will be having more conversations with chatbots than they will with their spouses (an enticing proposition perhaps for some!).

It means that not only have brands got to start thinking about how this technology will impact and potentially integrate with customer journeys, but exactly what or who your brand should sound like.

It’s time to give your brand a voice.


Melanie Lewis is Managing Director for Telecomms, Media and Technology at Maru/edr. Continue the conversation with Melanie by emailing her directly on or by connecting on LinkedIn.