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Posts from January 2019

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The not-so-smart market of smart speakers



“Google, how long will it take me to get to work today?”

 

This request rings out from my living room every, single, morning as my husband asks our personal assistant, Google Home Mini, to do the job he could do perfectly well himself just one month ago.

 

When it came to deciding which smart home assistant we should purchase, there was a lot of deliberation. After all, there are a wealth of options now available to compare. But it was decided, a Google Home Mini would tick all our boxes. And we’re not the only family venturing in to this arena.

 

It’s predicted that 164 million smart speakers will be purchased worldwide in 2019, according to Deloitte. If achieved, this figure will be up 67 per cent on the previous year; so, there’s no denying, uptake is strong. Will 2019 be the year of the smart speaker?

 

Well, seemingly not. Further research from Deloitte shows that even though lots of us are out there purchasing smart speakers, we’re nowhere near making them a part of our daily lives. In fact, smart speakers are our seventh most used device every day, coming behind the likes of smart watches, tablets and even the desktop computer. Why, when it was predicted that smart speakers would become a fundamental part of our connected homes, are they not achieving their envisaged potential, from both a personal and professional perspective?

 

Our preferred smart speaker has so many capabilities, it is almost mind-blowing such technology is possible from a device 10cm in diameter. But the fact is, I don’t have time to figure out all its functions (of which there are hundreds); to release its full potential would require significant investment time from me and my family. I just want it to work quickly, and to make my life easier. I’m not marrying it so therefore I don’t need to know its intricacies. Has overthinking the possibilities of smart speakers in turn, turned us off as consumers?

 

From a business perspective, to achieve voice search-Nirvana and be the business Google and its equivalents recommend when tasked with finding ‘the best garage in Manchester’ or ‘Cardiff’s number one restaurant’, a huge amount of background work is needed. The way voice search works requires another level of expertise entirely to SEO, and by the time we have engineers trained to meet this need, we’ll be on to our next gadget. Either that, or businesses must spend thousands on the relevant search engines, and I’m not sure it’s a good business model to base your success on, when the top uses of smart speakers, Deloitte says, are listening to music, checking the weather and setting alarms.

 

The market saturation of smart speakers is leading to a race to the bottom on price, so while sales and revenue are up, margins are dropping quickly. Not until a manufacturer creates a smart speaker that is by nature intuitive, rather than requiring training, will they be part and parcel of family life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is social media starting to change?



As years go, 2018 was not a good one for Facebook. The social media giant seemed to lurch from one crisis to another facing down not only the Cambridge Analytica scandal but also the fallout of a security breach that affected 50 million users.

 

And the pain didn’t stop there, as following the introduction of GDPR the company lost a million active users a day in Europe between June and September while failing to gain significant numbers of new users in other territories to offset its losses.  To round out the year from hell for the company, it saw its shares plummet by nearly a quarter over the course of the year.

 

Against this backdrop it perhaps should have come as no surprise to see experiential app ‘One Second Everyday’ overtake Facebook in terms of downloads at the end of 2018. Nonetheless when I saw these figures, I found it interesting to see that the application, which allows users to record one second of video every day, before chronologically editing them together into a single film, was outperforming the Daddy of all social media. 

 

The fall of Goliath?

Firstly, it raises interesting questions around why downloads of Facebook are stagnating. Is it because there has been a number of issues around trust following the recent scandals it has encountered? Has it now reached the point of market saturation after its 11-year romp of dominance? Or is it because the interface is becoming tired, and its user experience less appealing to younger demographics that now tend to gravitate towards other platforms? It probably can’t be attributed to any single one of these factors and is instead the result of a combination of all of them causing the platform to falter.

 

Ultimately the audience of Facebook and their needs have changed – it’s not current for the demographic it was initially aimed at anymore. It’s gaining an older following who want to connect with those they have lost touch with. And those of us who grew up with it almost use it as a habit now rather than anything else.

 

Changing user habits

In contrast to this, One Second Everyday (OSE) has a slick user interface which feels very different from the established social media platforms. OSE is really easy to use and is not being constantly plugged with new ideas (i.e. Marketplace, stories, etc) – it’s clean and the no frills element is appealing.

 

On a personal level, OSE provides a really easy way to capture the best parts of my life, giving me the option to choose whether or not to share it with others. Simultaneously it is enabling me to record, and reminisce about, the great things I’m doing NOW, unlike Facebook which provides me with a reminder of the embarrassing things I did 10 years ago!

 

At a more general level the very premise of OSE, requires users to take an action every single day. This not only increases engagement with the app; it also gives it a purpose that goes beyond aimless scrolling.  

 

As such, the shift towards OSE versus Facebook is likely reflective of a shift in our general use of apps.  It seems to me that we are becoming less inclined to use social media and instead are preferring to use apps that are more wholesome and private, confined to just our friends and family. Against the backdrop of trust issues with Facebook resulting from its data breaches, coupled with the user experience offered by other apps, it’s easy to see the appeal of platforms which are more private.

 

A look to the future

While the current rise of OSE and decline of Facebook is perhaps indicative of a general change in consumer attitudes towards social media, it would be remiss to assume that this will be sustained. After all, it’s important to remember that despite its recent issues Facebook remains the most used social media platform in the world.

 

What’s more there is nothing to say that OSE won’t start to tune in to this new era of vanity social media, where we are showing off how fantastic our lives are. If this is a route it goes down, seeing people use it to self-promote rather than using it for the greater good, in time it could become similar to Facebook. And who knows at that point it could even become an attractive acquisition target for Zuckerberg and co.

 

Regardless of what the future may hold it’s exciting to see new, fresh platforms taking off, challenging existing ones to up their game.

 

 

 

 

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