Digital Audio

Nine Gadgets and Counting: Consumers are Hooked on Personal Tech

May 24, 2021

After more than a year of Zoom calls, home movie nights and online shopping, Americans have never been more enmeshed with technology. They're building up vast collections of electronic devices, which are disrupting both media consumption and buying habits. At the same time, the expansion of consumer electronics is reshaping how and where brands market their products. The impact is exciting and invigorating.

In the past year, three-quarters of Pandora listeners have purchased new consumer electronics devices, according to the company's Consumer Electronics Soundboard Survey of 75,000 users. Since Q3 2019, the last time Pandora queried its users about personal tech, its listeners now own more smart TVs (up 8 percent), smart speakers (up 8 percent), and fitness trackers (up 6 percent).

"The pandemic has made consumers' behavior and habits change rapidly," said Cassy HoughSXM Media's Director and Tech Head of Industry. "What we were expecting to see in a decade has happened in the last 14 months."  (SXM Media is the newly created sales organization for Pandora, SiriusXM and Stitcher.)

The average Pandora listener now owns nine different devices, and parents with children under 18 years old own an average of 11.2 different gadgets. The Soundboard study also found that Hispanics and African Americans have strong brand infinity for technology and indexed very high for intent to buy smart speakers.

This tech boom is creating new opportunities for digital audio publishers and their brand partners. Consumers are streaming audio on smart speakers, smart TVs, connected cars, wireless headphones and earbuds, and even wearables, extending audio's reach, sampling and time spent listening.

"That's the great thing about audio, the habits that have been established since this pandemic support brands no matter what their messaging is, and we remove barriers to entry (to the listener)," Hough noted.

For the audio industry, few devices have been as transformative as smart speakers. Since Amazon debuted its first Alexa speaker six years ago, one-third of Americans now own at least one smart speaker, and many have multiple devices for different rooms. Over the past 18 months, Americans have had more extra time to experiment with these devices.

"The time at home has made everyone tire of their screens and use their voice more with their connected home devices," she said. "Music and queries are the top two actions that people use their smart speakers but now people are becoming more comfortable with shopping by voice."

Across different consumer electronics, SXM Media can tailor brand messages to maximize engagement and impact. Hough explained that SXM Media can typically customizes ads for five areas: Mobile, desktop, tablet, in-car and connected home, and she expects that voice-activated speakers will soon emerge as their own category. Depending on a brand partner's needs, SXM Media and the company's in-house creative agency, Studio Resonate, can create custom messaging that play to the platforms' strengths.

By customizing messages, digital audio can create "contextually relevant moments," Hough explained. "To be served an ad that speaks to the moment you are in, we can help advertisers with that lower funnel conversion."

"Brands can get really creative," she said. For instance, Studio Resonate created audio ads for a Netflix show designed specifically for in car delivery, with bird noises wrapped around the surround sound speakers to create an immersive sound experience. "It was so powerful, it gives you goosebumps," Hough said.

In another innovation, SXM Media is deep into beta testing voice-activated interactive ads where consumers to respond with their voice to get more information or even make a purchase. So far, they've worked with Doritos, Ashley Home Stores, Dunkin' Donuts, Unilever, Wendy's, Turner Broadcasting, Comcast and Nestle. An early ad for Dunkin' asks listeners if they'd like to place a takeout order. If the answer is yes, the app opens for ordering. Later this year, SXM Media will roll out interactive voice ads for all of its brand partners.

Early results are promising. SXM Media has said that intent to buy with voice ads was up 27 percent and "say-through" rates 10 percent higher than click-through rates on ads with screens.Of course, the consumer electronics industry moves at a lightning pace, with new products constantly hitting the market.

Hough said augmented reality and virtual reality devices are emerging as the next "it" devices, noting they index high with young men and Hispanics. She foresees audio playing a role in both AR/VR, with audio serving as a backdrop for experiences and developing AR/VR campaigns with brands.

With these and future platforms, brands need to be flexible and be willing to experiment, Hough advises. That plays to digital audio's advantages and should encourage advertisers to direct more money to audio publishers.

"The good news is that production for audio even if it is multi-device, is very nimble and the production isn't a big to-do like video or TV advertising is," Hough said.

This article was originally published on MediaVillage.

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