A number of Google Home Mini devices that were distributed to members of the press had a defect that caused them to record everything being said around them. This discovery renewed privacy concerns surrounding smart speakers as surreptitious listening devices in our homes. The problem was first discovered by Android Police. Once being notified, Google investigated and fixed the issue: The Google Home team is aware of an issue impacting a small number of Google Home Mini devices that could cause the touch control mechanism to behave incorrectly. We immediately rolled out a software update on October 7 to mitigate the issue. Who is affected: People who received an early release Google Home Mini device at recent Made by Google events. Pre-ordered Google Home Mini purchases aren’t affected. As a general matter, Google Home and Amazon Alexa devices must “listen” to surrounding conversations to capture “wake words” (e.g.,”Alexa,” “OK … [Read more...] about Echo and Home will probably have to tell you they’re always listening — in Europe
Google Express has kicked off a new ad campaign called “Need anything from the store?” which promotes it as a delivery service for “all your stores in one place,” according to an Advertising Age report. The effort shows people of all ages and walks of life in the often-painful process of describing a product for a largely offscreen friend or family member who has offered to pick the items up at the store. Among the stores offering products through Google Express are Walmart, Costco and Target. The effort aims to level the playing field with Amazon — for both the retailers and Google — offering consumers both the immediacy and choice to which they’ve grown accustomed. For the retailers, it’s a bit of the old “enemy of my enemy is my friend” concept. Ad Age characterized the campaign and the collection of Google Express partners (37 in all) as an “anti-Amazon alliance,” which was sort of announced during … [Read more...] about Can Google Express help traditional retail level the playing field with Amazon?
Google is set to launch a competitor to Snapchat Discover, known as Google Stamp. This new product will bring with it a host of opportunities for publishers and advertisers alike, but it brings with it some challenges too. What do marketers need to know about this new service, and how successful will it be? Early in August, news leaked via the Wall Street Journal that Google has been preparing a direct rival to one of Snapchat’s most popular and profitable features, Discover. This new product will be integrated with Google’s core services, and will be known as Google Stamp. The name Stamp is a portmanteau created by uniting the abbreviation ‘St’ from the word ‘stories’ and the acronym AMP, from the Google-led Accelerated Mobile Pages initiative. That quite succinctly sums up the purpose of Stamp: it will be a publishing platform that allow brands to tell stories in a new fashion, optimized for mobile. It seems that after a … [Read more...] about What is Google Stamp and what will it mean for marketers?
Yesterday, at a pre-emptive event in Seattle, Amazon introduced new Alexa devices to keep its lead in the battle for the smart home. Google is having its own hardware event on October 4. Amazon introduced six products. First and foremost, it presented a more compact, cheaper Echo with better sound. It comes in six different colors or skins. It starts at $99, which is much cheaper than the original Echo’s price ($179). Many people will likely compare this price to Apple’s forthcoming HomePod and opt for the less expensive device. The company also introduced Echo Plus, which is being marketed as a smart home hub. The device looks like the original Echo but is also less expensive at $149 and includes upgraded speakers. The $99 Echo also works as a smart home hub, but the Echo Plus includes additional hardware that reportedly makes smart home device connections easier and entirely voice-activated. The novel Echo Spot is a rounder, smaller version of Echo Show. It’s like … [Read more...] about Amazon just upped the ante in the battle of the virtual assistants
There are roughly 20 million smart speakers now in the US. And more than half of device owners have used them to buy something, according to survey data from NPR and Edison Research. The data released this week is part two of a report first introduced in July. Called “The Smart Audio Report,” the data are based on a survey of 800 people who owned at least one smart speaker and an equivalent number who did not. Part one of the report found very high levels of satisfaction among device owners: 65 percent of smart speaker owners said “they would not want to go back to their lives before getting one of these devices” and 42 percent said they were now “essential” to daily life. But the core of the second report is demographics and purchase behavior. It’s somewhat surprising is that consumers have started to buy things through these devices. But the report confirms their potential as e-commerce drivers. The survey found that 57 … [Read more...] about Report: 57% of smart speaker owners have bought something with their voice
No matter where they’re located or what market they serve, retailers around the globe have questions about how consumers use search and Amazon. At Bing (my employer), we’ve found that retailers — regardless of size — ask us about the same three things: Where do consumers look for products online? How do users behave differently on search vs. Amazon? Can my search and Amazon channels benefit each other? The answers are likely to surprise you. The consumer decision journey looks incredibly complicated to us marketers with its interweaving between research, comparison, intent and transaction, but it feels far less complicated from the consumer point of view. As consumers, we follow certain behavior patterns almost subconsciously: If we have questions around what it is we need, or want more information before we make a selection, then it’s natural to turn to search. If we know what we’re looking to buy, often we have a predefined preference for which … [Read more...] about Amazon vs. search: Why you shouldn’t put too many eggs in one shopping basket
Market disruptions are times of great stress, but they also provide great opportunity. They define new winners and losers in the marketplace. And the next major disruption is just around the corner — it’s the coming era of the personal assistants, and there are many market forces that are driving this shift. The first of these market forces is the explosion of the Internet of Things: Internet-connected devices will be something other than a PC, tablet or a smartphone. Gartner predicts that 8.4 billion connected devices will be in use in 2017 (up 31 percent from last year) and that this number will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. What will those other devices be? Here are some of them (though there are many, many others not on this list): Refrigerators Alarm systems Thermostats Watches Cars TVs Smart speakers This will create a world where a connected device is always within immediate reach, and for the great majority of those devices, there will no search box and no … [Read more...] about The rise of personal assistants
Another survey has highlighted Amazon’s outsized role in shopping and product discovery. This one comes from performance marketing platform Kenshoo. The company commissioned a survey of 3,100 consumers in the US, the UK, Germany and France. The survey findings echo others before it that show Amazon is either the starting point for product research or plays a prominent role in the customer purchase process. According to the survey, more people across these markets actually use Google in shopping and product discovery, however, Amazon is consulted by 56 percent as their starting point. That’s the highest percentage I’ve seen to date. The numbers were fairly consistent across markets. However, in the US, Facebook played a larger role than in the other countries, with 36 percent saying they use it before making a purchase. Bing, Pinterest, Instagram, blogs and Twitter were also consulted by shoppers in smaller numbers. The survey found that 26 percent check Amazon in … [Read more...] about Report: Google beats Amazon for product-search reach, but rival sees greater loyalty
Most of the random questions you ask Alexa devices will be met with “Hmm, I don’t know that” or “Sorry, I’m not sure.” By comparison, Google Home, with its search index access, typically does a better job on general knowledge and information queries. To better compete with Google over time, Amazon devices have started to recommend third-party skills. Voicebot.ai reported on this in the context of stock price information. I was able to duplicate the scenario for skills associated with stock prices (“Alexa, what’s the 52 week low for Apple stock?”). I got a skill recommendation. I also got a recommendation tied to horoscopes. I asked for my horoscope and it recommended Elle Horoscopes. “Would you like to add that?” Alexa offered. Yet I had difficulty finding other examples beyond these two. I asked dozens of travel-related questions — I have the Kayak skill installed — and not only did it not provide … [Read more...] about When it ‘can’t answer that,’ Alexa begins recommending third-party skills
Earlier this morning Amazon and Microsoft announced that their virtual assistants will soon work together. Alexa devices will be able to access Cortana, and Cortana will be able to open Alexa: Alexa customers will be able to access Cortana’s unique features like booking a meeting or accessing work calendars, reminding you to pick up flowers on your way home, or reading your work email – all using just your voice. Similarly, Cortana customers can ask Alexa to control their smart home devices, shop on Amazon.com, interact with many of the more than 20,000 skills built by third-party developers, and much more. It’s an enlightened approach on the part of both companies. Alexa will benefit from Cortana’s general knowledge and web-search capabilities, as well as Office integration. Cortana gains distribution via Amazon hardware devices. It’s also consistent with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s vision to make Microsoft software tools available on rival … [Read more...] about Alexa and Cortana will soon work together, allowing each to access the other