How Smart Speakers Are Influencing Shopping Decisions — Now

"Smart Speakers allow for the same calls to action -- but now with an additional layer of targeting and interactivity," says Edison's Tom Webster as part of a two-part NPR study on audio activation.

More than half of Amazon Alexa device or Google Home owners say they have begun using the device to make purchases.

These findings, released during Advertising Week New York, represent the second part of The Smart Audio Report that was unveiled in August.

The previous study noted that roughly 65 percent of people who own an Amazon Echo or Google Home “can’t imagine to going back to the days before they had a smart speaker.” And 42 percent of that initial group said the voice-activated devices have quickly become “essential” to their lives.

About 800 respondents indicated that they owned at least one Smart Speaker (160 Google Home, 709 Amazon Alexa-enabled, and 69 who owned both.) 820 respondents did not own a Smart Speaker device, and were “surveyed for comparative purposes.”

From Earbuds To Speakers

“For the past decade, a lot of our attention has been on listening through earbuds, which is a very individual experience,” said Edison Research VP Tom Webster. “The content that goes with headphones is personalized through one’s own music, digital services or podcasts.

“Smart Speakers are changing our focus to the group again. Families are sitting around listening together to audio in a way they haven’t done since the 1940s,” Webster added. This has enormous ramifications on the types of content that can be produced for Smart Speaker consumption and provides other opportunities to reach people in their homes.”

For brands taking a wait-and-see approach to figuring out Smart Speakers, Connected Intelligence, and the way Artificial Intelligence-powered assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Okay Google, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s Bixby, the NPR/Edison study shows an impact on consumers’ purchasing behavior is being felt now.

Among the second report’s findings:

  • 57 percent of survey participants ordered an item through their smart speaker
  • 58 percent have ordered a product through their smart speaker that they haven’t purchased before
  • 73 percent have spent $200 and over on purchases through a smart speaker in the past 12 months

To get additional perspective on what the latest Smart Speaker research means for brands, we checked in with Edison’s Webster and with Bryan Moffett and Gina Garrubbo, COO and CEO, respectively of National Public Media, which represents the sponsorship sales team for national and regional offerings on NPR and PBS stations as well as those channels’ digital assets.

GeoMarketing: What are the expectations of the impact Apple’s HomePod will have on the advancement of smart audio from a marketer/advertising perspective?

Bryan Moffett, COO, National Public Media: The most important impact of the speaker will probably be to broader use of Siri as a voice assistant. Siri has arguably not gotten the same amount of love or use as Alexa and Google Home. Apple has made continual advances with Siri, and we expect the forthcoming Siri-enabled HomePod speaker will drive wider use of Siri for assistant tasks and increase voice-assistant use among people who are not currently using this technology in their everyday lives. Given how many people have iOS products, that could make more people turn to Siri on their phones and tablets too.

While the report shows the value of smart speakers and voice activation as a perfect e-commerce complement, do you see any role for online-to-offline marketing, such as use cases that would spur a store visit, restaurant booking, or travel plan?

Tom Webster, VP, Edison Research: Audio has always been a powerful way to drive offline actions – the 15-plus billion dollar radio advertising market exists for a reason! National and local advertisers have used audio advertising for decades to drive listeners to remote broadcasts, events, sales, and promotions. Smart speakers allow for the same calls to action—but now with an additional layer of targeting and interactivity. Once this technology is widely available in vehicles, the only limits to the potential of smart audio technology is the limits of our imagination.

Is there any way brick-and-mortar retailers should consider using smart audio either in-store as an extension of their online targeting to drive visits, omnichannel purchases (e.g., in-store pickup) and store traffic?

Gina Garrubbo, CEO, National Public Media: Absolutely. Audio is a powerful driver of consumer behavior off digital platforms. It’s a key performance metric we look at with NPR sponsors and have consistently seen play our for brands across industries. Self-reported visits to one national grocery chain rose significantly from 13 percent to 23 percent of NPR listeners over the course of just one quarter of NPR sponsorship, which included placements in broadcast radio. And intent to visit a national auto retailer rose from 23 percent of NPR listeners before the campaign to 34 percent after.

We see a similar trend in digital audio, particularly podcasting, which is a huge driver of commerce. Just look at the direct response category – there’s a reason they continue to put their marketing dollars into podcasts. We expect audio on the smart speaker platform will have similar – if not expanded – capabilities.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.