in Digital & Tech

Amazon may have sold over 9 million Echo devices worldwide during this holiday season (up 9x YoY)

Its time to pay some serious attention to a trend that is exploding right now. Its the adoption of voice-activated home devices that are powered by smart virtual assistants, which connect us to the things we need via voice commands. From searching for information, to shopping for products, calling friends and family, and even controlling devices we own in and out of our homes. These voice-activated devices may become a new sort of “Web” browser and even replace our smart-phones in time….and right now I do not see a screen in order to serve ads.

Leading the charge is the Amazon Echo – a device you place in your home that is powered by a voice-activated virtual assistant called Alexa. A report from the Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), estimate that Amazon Echo saw a growth of 173% year on year to over 8 million devices currently in US homes. Some reports I have seen estimate as high as 14 million (Amazon does not report on numbers of sold items). Amazon is also promoting their Echo very aggressively with discounts for Prime customers if they ordered by voice through Alexa – they are pushing aggressively for behavioral change and adoption of voice-activated search.

Google also made a push last year with the launch of their Google Home device, which is powered by the Google assistant – a virtual assistant similar to Alexa. We should also see a fast adoption of Google Home in 2017 as Google promotes their device to their enormous customer base. Google also recently launch Google express for Google Home and partnered with over 50 of the biggest retailers to help people order via the device. They are fighting hard against Amazon for the retail market share in this newly emerging space called conversational commerce.

Voice Labs  predicts there will be 24.5 million devices shipped in 2017, leading to a total device footprint of 33 million voice-first devices in circulation. But I get the feeling these numbers are under-estimated as people adopt these voice-activated devices in their homes not just to search and shop, but more importantly to control their devices like TVs, thermostats, music, calendars, you name it…its all going to be connected and be controlled through these smart home voice activated devices. I would not be surprised if they take away tasks we currently do on our mobile phones.

Here is what an example of a voice-first stack looks like today. You can be certain that this stack will grow enormously in 2017. Important to note that the hardware leaders in this charge will likely be Amazon and Google.

However, Microsoft is also playing in this space with a built in virtual assistant to Windows 10 called Cortana (and for Family is Famtana). With Microsoft you do not need to buy any additional device – it comes neatly packages in your Windows 10 operating system. And they are out to “crush” both Amazon and Google with Microsoft Home Hub!

Google Home and Amazon Echo are simply the start of a much bigger future, where hundreds of millions of consumers will enjoy a more natural way of interacting with machines and the Internet – via a conversation.

So pay attention! This will impact search marketing and just about every digital channel that links back to a home consumer looking for things to live their lives.

Links worth the read I may not have referenced above:

More than 8M people own an Amazon Echo as customer awareness increases ‘dramatically’

Amazon Echo sales up 9X compared to last year, company says in holiday roundup

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