How In-Home Smart Speakers and Devices Are Changing Marketing

At my house, I can turn on the oven with a simple voice command. I turn the lights off and on the same way. I’ll even ask my digital assistant for cooking directions when my hands are full.

While this voice-activated functionality might have sounded cutting-edge only a few years ago, it’s increasingly common for us to rely on smart home technology such as smart speakers and other connected devices for everyday tasks like grocery shopping, checking our calendar, or ordering takeout.

In fact, a recent study suggests that these devices have become one of the fastest technology adoptions in U.S. history. As you consider upcoming marketing initiatives to help grow your business, you should start building voice search and smart speaker strategies now so you’re not left playing catch-up in the near future.

Who Is Using Voice Search?

Like any new media, voice search is taking time to gain traction, but consider this: Apple introduced Siri in 2011. Today’s teenagers probably can’t remember life without a digital assistant. In fact, there’s a decent chance many young people have never had a mobile phone that didn’t have voice search capabilities.

However, smart speaker and smart home adoption goes far beyond teenaged voice natives. In 2017, CapTech, a technology consulting firm, surveyed roughly 1,000 American consumers about voice search and smart speaker ownership. According to the survey, the average smart speaker owner is:

  • Between the ages of 18 and 36
  • Male
  • Married
  • Earns over $75,000 in annual income
  • Has a college degree
  • Owns a home

This population is almost evenly split between urban and suburban settings.

Admittedly, the smart speaker ownership population has changed dramatically since 2017. In 2018, the top-selling product during the holiday season was the Amazon Echo Dot, and many of these were gifted to people who don’t fit in the millennial demographic. (One of them went to my parents.)

Another 2018 study suggests that 43% of smart speaker owners are between the ages of 45 and 60, so you can assume that many of the prospects among your key target audiences own and use smart speakers on a regular basis.

However, unlike many gimmicky, flash-in-the-pan gadgets (I’m looking at you, Zune), most smart speaker users become more reliant and appreciative of the device the more they use it. While we may not understand the full potential of smart speaker marketing yet, the devices are here to stay — and will undoubtedly become more sophisticated and robust over the next several years.

Understanding the Essentials of Smart Home Devices

Smart speakers contain a combination of microphones, speakers, and complex AI and voice recognition software. These devices respond to a voice prompt like “Alexa,” “Hey Google,” or “Siri.” Once this wake word is heard, the device sends your recorded query to the cloud, where AI interprets your question and sends back a verbal answer using a search index like Google or Bing.

Since most smart speakers don’t have a screen, you’ll typically only get one answer. However, depending on your query, you may get a series of options. I recently asked my Amazon Echo to order a pizza. It advised me that the device had several skills for that request. Then it asked me if I wanted to order from Dominos. When I declined, my next option was Pizza Hut. When that also didn’t meet my needs, the device suggested Amazon Restaurants. Notably, each of these companies offers a native Alexa Skill — we’ll talk more about those later on.

If the AI has trouble answering your query or you exhaust its options, then it may send a notification to its associated app. Typically, that is simply a search on Google or Bing for what it thought your voice query was. So, all the techniques that you would use to optimize your content for voice search and higher organic rankings will also help you rank well for in-home devices.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Will Voice Search Impact My Digital Marketing Strategies?

Basic Voice Search Optimizations for Alexa, Google, Siri, Cortana, and Other Voice Assistants

You can improve your desktop, mobile, and voice search rankings and visibility by following a few basic guidelines.

Consider the Search Engines Powering Popular Voice Platforms

Today, the most popular smart speakers in our homes are made by either Amazon or Google. That means voice queries are being processed by either Bing or Google, respectively.

If you focus on long-tail, conversational keywords and local search in your content, you’ll have a better chance of getting mentioned by your customers’ smart speakers.

Add FAQs to Your Site and Blogs

Unlike traditional text search, today’s voice search systems rarely provide you with more than the simplest and most direct answers to your questions. To give yourself the best possible chance of being listed on voice, you should build conversational, FAQ-style content into your most important pages.

The question and answer format reflects how users search by voice; almost no one is using short, text-focused searches on voice, like “injury lawyer.” Instead, we are using conversational queries, like “Alexa, when is LaFleur open today?” or “Hey Google, where’s the closest pediatrician?”

By their nature, FAQs are perfect for voice search optimization because they are structured in natural language phrases, and they offer concise, informative responses.

Check Your Website’s Load Speeds

In a 2018 study, an SEO consulting company, Backlinko, suggested that faster loading websites perform better on voice platforms. According to its survey, the average voice search result loads 52% faster than most pages.

While nothing compares with high-quality, optimized content, it never hurts to check your load speeds, which you can do with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. If you have concerns about your website’s load times, contact LaFleur. We’d be happy to perform an audit of your website’s performance and help you identify the right solutions.

Optimize Your Audience’s Experience for In-Home Smart Speakers

In addition to optimizing your content for voice search, you may want to consider developing marketing strategies that will increase the reach of your brand and connect more closely with your followers on smart speakers specifically. Below are some suggestions for breaking into this space:

Consider Developing a Native App

Most smart speaker platforms have an app function, like Alexa Skills and Google Actions. These apps serve a variety of purposes: entertainment, education, and enabling purchases. Between November 2014 and December 2018, companies launched roughly 70,000 Alexa Skills.

Native apps are the only way businesses can hock their wares or build brand awareness on smart speakers at the present time. That’s why companies like HBO, Tide, Estée Lauder, Whirlpool, and many others have dedicated smart speaker apps. Many of these apps build brand awareness or add value through how-to advice, games, and practical tools like timers.

For example, Campbell’s Soup was the first brand to launch an Alexa Skill in 2015. Its app allows users to meal plan and search recipes that feature the company’s soup. Users can also receive a Campbell’s Kitchen email newsletter, giving the brand another platform to share its message and build awareness and engagement. As of 2017, the Campbell Alexa Skill had more than 50,000 unique users and suggested more than 174,000 soup-based recipes to them.

Advertise on Podcasts and Streaming Services

For many of us, smart speakers are the modern radio. According to Adobe Analytics, 70% of Amazon Echo owners listen to music on the device. While Amazon and Google aren’t selling paid advertising on their platforms yet, Spotify, Pandora, and many podcasts will happily broadcast your ads.

In 2019, Pandora, the popular music streaming service, began selling ad time specifically for smart speakers. Previously, the company packaged smart speaker ads with other connected devices. Spotify lets you dynamically serve audio ads on smart speakers, connected vehicles, gaming consoles, and other devices based on the user’s streaming platform, playlist, location, and the time of day. And podcast ads can let you target an engaged group of listeners who closely align with your marketing personas.

Consider Your Consumer Experience and Journey

As you enter the world of smart speaker marketing, consider how people use these devices. Today, most people use smart speakers to listen to music, check the weather, ask “fun” questions, and search for information online. However, their location in the home may also impact their preferences and behaviors.

You may want to start segmenting your messages to specific devices and ask yourself which messages will be most impactful in the kitchen, the car, the bathroom, or the office. You may want to push certain ads or messages based on the time of day, since your target audiences might value different information in the morning, during their commute, and while they’re making dinner. Also, consider clever ways to incorporate your brand’s messages into an app — games are some of the most frequently used Alexa Skills.

RELATED ARTICLE: What Is Connected TV and How Is It Changing Traditional Advertising?

Keep an Eye Out for New Innovation

While Amazon and Google have not yet offered paid advertising on their voice platforms, creative companies are finding ways to make themselves and their products more visible.

As time passes, there will be more and better opportunities to market your company on smart speaker platforms. For example, we can imagine a wide variety of healthcare-related smart speaker functions — from personalized medication and appointment reminders to voice-based telemedicine check-ins for people with chronic conditions.

However, you’ll want to act quickly to build a solid foothold. Otherwise, you’ll be playing catchup later on.

LaFleur: We Build Forward-Looking Marketing Strategies

At LaFleur, we help businesses, healthcare organizations, and law firms craft robust digital marketing strategies designed for your current and future needs.

If you want to learn more about our cutting-edge approach, please contact us today by calling (888) 222-1512 or completing this brief online form. We’d love to learn more about your goals and help you identify practical solutions — included targeted marketing strategies for emerging smart devices.

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leigh ebrom content director

Leigh Ebrom is content director at LaFleur, a digital marketing agency that specializes in highly regulated industries. She earned her J.D. in 2003 from Valparaiso University School of Law and now uses her experience to connect firms and consumers nationwide. Leigh co-authored Digital Marketing for Law Firms: The Secrets to Getting More Clients and Better Cases with Chip LaFleur in 2020.