More than 18.7 million homes have smart speakers in the U.S.—those handy digital home assistants that set timers, share the news, let you buy stuff and, most importantly… set timers. Amazon, Google and Apple have all introduced their devices, and the race is on to see which device will be favored in most U.S. homes.
The competition is very real. First of all, these devices are cheap. Amazon now offers a smart plug to control appliances for $25, and even the most robust devices aren’t a massive investment. Even with low costs, the products are getting sleeker. They come in a variety of colors, and they’re no longer just plastic. They come in premium fabric finishes, making them something that doesn’t go in the corner but something that just exists with everything else. Lastly, they’re getting smarter. Much, much smarter.
It’s no wonder Facebook is entering the already crowded market with its Portal device, a digital home assistant designed to connect Facebook users to each other and help people consume Facebook content. Facebook initially eluded to the idea that Portal would not be collecting data, but it eventually backtracked because yes, it is fully capable of collecting data that will be used to target users across the Facebook ad ecosystem.
It’s About the Data… No Duh
My response to that revelation… of course it can collect data. All of these devices are data magnets, and that is precisely why so much is being invested to inject these into people’s homes. There’s a wealth of data that can be collected about us when we’re online, but when we’re offline, what’s a tech company to do? Find a new way to collect data. That’s the game these devices are playing.
Sure, Amazon wants to sell you more stuff (even though only 2% of its users have used their Echos to make a purchase), and Facebook wants to serve you content to keep you tied to their ecosystem. The real play is for your data because the information these devices are capable of collecting is unlike anything else that’s been available.
It’s Already Happening
Kinsa is a smart thermometer in half a million U.S. homes. The devices allow homes to upload their temperatures and health data to the cloud. Well, Clorox is using the information licensed from Kinsa to see which zip codes are seeing increases in fevers because that clearly seems like a great marketing opportunity.
It makes sense. It’s smart. It’s also… kinda creepy.
We Have Some Hard Choices Ahead
If we’ve discovered anything in 2018, it’s this. Data collection is no longer innocuous. It’s no longer just a given that it’s the way of doing things.
Of course, we as marketers, should do everything we can to fuel our work with data-driven insights, but it should come with balance. Not only because mishandling data will lead to consumers punishing your brand with their wallets but also because it’s the right thing to do.
Every marketer will be faced with questions in the coming years because data opportunities will grow more sophisticated and more invasive. Consider how the data was obtained, and given that information question whether or not the data should be used. Brand trust is tough to get back once it’s gone… just ask Facebook.