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Alexa makes for a good shopping buddy but Google Assistant may ‘get you’ better

Which smart speaker or digital assistant you employ in the future may depend on how you use one, according to a new informal survey of ad industry insiders. CNBC interviewed five of the leading advertising agencies with business in the smart speaker market and found that while Amazon’s Alexa continues dominating the market, Google Assistant is evolving faster for people who like to chat.

One of the main takeaways for Alexa is that Alexa has infiltrated the smart speaker market in a much more encompassing way than Google Assistant has. Canalys recently reported that the smart speaker market should surpass 100 million by the end of the year, with Alexa capturing about half of the market, while Google comes in second with about 30 percent. The same report predicts that over 300 million speakers will be in operation by 2022, with Alexa and Google running even at 34 percent of the market.

Amazon’s other strength, according to the survey, is that Alexa is so tightly wound into Amazon’s core retail platform and includes innovations like its voice-activated one-time payment functionality.

“The most expensive ad space in the future will be Alexa,” according to Sophie Kleber, an executive and creative director for digital agency Huge. “They are really just integrated in the shopping platform.”

Where both platforms are running successful engagements with customers is the use of third-party skills, apps and routines to enhance the smart speaker experience. By embracing experimentation and more creativity in their respective ecosystems, both Amazon and Google have made it easier for developers to embrace the real functionalities of their smart assistants. From innovative voice-enabled games to custom voice commands, developers are able to expand the idea of what smart speakers actually do. That makes a difference for customers who have a better understanding of why they want to use a smart speaker in the first place.

But where Amazon rules the market for commerce, these advertising experts acknowledge that Google’s deep research into language processing may allow Google Assistant to “get” their customers better, understand their needs, and learn responses that are based on people’s voice nuances, location, and likes.

“Now that I’m able to ask these smart devices recommendations, I would want them to tell me something interesting to me,” said Chris Neff, senior director of innovation at the ad agency The Community. “We’re delving more into it being an assistant and less of it being a transactional device.”

The difference may lie in Google being so much more than a sales platform with its deep roots in search engine optimization, machine language learning, and its connection to the entire Google ecosystem of products, services, and solutions.

Ultimately, this informal survey finds that while competition is fierce between the leading voice assistants, consumers will benefit from the continuing evolution of voice recognition and processing technologies.

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