A Facebook voice assistant may have buy-in from marketers – but will users want it?

  •   June 12, 2019

Facebook is rumored to be working on a voice assistant similar to Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Siri, reports CNBC. Two former Facebook employees confirmed to CNBC that efforts to build a new AI assistant has been led by a team in Redmond, Washington and managed by Facebook’s director of AR/VR and Facebook Assistant Ira Snyder.

While it is unknown exactly how Facebook would implement voice assistant technology, the CNBC report said Facebook has been contacting smart speaker supply chain vendors.

Why marketers should care

Facebook’s foray into voice assistant technology — and by extension, smart speaker devices — comes at a questionably precipitous time. The company has spent months upon months doing crisis control over its mismanagement of user data and the fact it failed to safeguard its platform from bad actors. This week, Facebook dropped the price of its video chat device Portal from $199 to $99 for the next month — not a good sign the company is moving units.

Yet, Facebook still had a banner year in 2018. The company reported $16.6 billion in ad revenue, revealing the price of ads decreased by two percent while ad impressions were up 34 percent — proving advertisers were still on board. The idea that Facebook could marry its precision ad targeting capabilities with the benefits of a voice assistant powered device could have some marketers chomping at the bits, but would it matter if no one trusts letting Facebook take up residence in their homes via smart speaker hardware?

The case is still out on how marketers will best leverage the smart speaker market, but a report from Adobe in October showed real potential with 47 percent of smart speaker owners using their device within the shopping process. There is promise for marketers when it comes to voice assistant smart speakers, but Amazon and Google have that market cornered. If Facebook is already having difficulty getting people to purchase their video chat device, an Amazon Alexa or Google Home rival doesn’t seem like a logical next step.

We’ve asked Facebook for a comment confirming it is building voice assistant technology, but have not received a response.

More on the news

  • This isn’t Facebook’s first go at voice assistant technology. In 2015, the company rolled out “M” — a voice assistant feature within Messenger — but shuttered it last year.
  • A January report from NPR and Edison Research estimated there are nearly 120 million smart speakers in U.S. homes (a 78% year-over-year increase in adoption), but that 70 percent of the people surveyed for the report said they were “not at all likely” to buy another smart speaker device.
  • On Tuesday, NBC News reported leaked documents showed Facebook sought a variety of ways to take advantage of user data in its relationships with the companies it partnered with.