What makes that figure so impressive is that as recently as July 2017, just 10 percent of US households had invested in a smart speaker. And if adoption rates are rocketing at this pace it can only be because their simplicity and accessibility is making them appealing to a bigger and more diverse audience with each month that passes.
“OK Google, turn off the light.” “Hey Siri, what is the shortest possible route to the airport at rush hour?” “Alexa, what will the weather be like next Saturday?” In the time it takes to phrase a question, a consumer with a voice assistant can find out if they’re going to get stuck in traffic, if they’re going to get wet when they go out next week, or if they’ve forgotten to turn the smart oven off before leaving their equally smart home.
Even with just that handful of simple scenarios, it’s easy to see why voice assistants are shaping up to become the hubs of our connected homes and increasingly connected lives.
It’s also easy to understand why more and more brands are developing voice applications for the various platforms that will reflect these changing customer needs. Amazon’s Alexa platform currently supports over 40,000 third-party apps or ‘skills’ as the company calls them with some developers already earning in excess of $10,000 a month.
According to Edison Research’s Smart Audio Report, 52 percent of voice assistant users keep their device in the living room or dining room (just 25 percent put theirs in the bedroom) and 66 percent of owners are most likely to use them while with friends and family.
“At the moment, voice assistants are primarily used in private settings, with friends, at home or in the car,” says Gordon White, General Manager for TSC. “These are moments of sharing between friends, and the most widely-used skills are in tune with these use cases.”
Toni Reid, Vice President of Alexa Experience & Echo Devices at Amazon, drew up a list of the most successful voice applications for his assistant and the leading applications are relevant to social and domestic life: general knowledge quizzes like Jeopardy, followed by applications related to everyday brands such as Starbucks, Domino’s Pizza or Uber. Third up are practical skills related to the connected house, home improvement or banking services.
A March study from RAIN Agency and PullString shows that across the different smart speaker brands, the main uses are asking a question to trigger a web search; music playback; checking the weather; setting a timer and; keeping up with news and sports. Each of these has already become a typical daily or monthly habit for over 40 percent of users. However, playing games, making calls, controlling smart home devices and accessing recipes and cooking instructions are also beginning to gain traction – 26.5 percent of users access recipes every month and 5.1 percent every day, and almost one third are active monthly gamers.
As we become increasingly, constantly and ubiquitously connected, voice assistants will make multitasking simple and safe. With Siri, or Google Assistant in the passenger seat, it’s possible to drive and search for a parking space while keeping both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road. While, thanks to Amazon’s growing number of automotive partnerships, soon, the car dashboard will be a CX channel with commuters stuck in traffic being able to search for and buy products from Amazon.
Likewise, parents won’t need to stop comforting a distressed or sick baby in order to cue up some soothing music; Google the child’s symptoms, or add diapers or formula to the shopping list – they just need to say what they want.
In London, where Amazon-owned Whole Foods offers delivery in under an hour, Alexa helps amateur cooks. Those who begin a recipe and then realize they’re out of an ingredient can place a voice order and the store will deliver before the dish is done.
Don’t mistake voice for or gimmick that has managed to grab Millennials’ attention. Voice assistance is not exclusive to digital natives, it is inclusive and open to anyone of any age with an internet connection and a voice. This technology has what it takes to survive.
Speech is our most natural way of communicating, of socializing and of bringing others together. Generation Y is currently serving as the technology’s loudest ambassadors – just as they were the group that popularized smartphone-based vocal assistants. They are also predicted to be the first generation to make the wholesale leap to an at-home smart speaker (eMarketer forecasts 93 percent of this group will have a voice-activated home assistant by 2019); but voice assistants have already found fans across all ages and socioeconomic groups.
Indeed, when Verto Analytics conducted a study of 20,000 US consumers to create a composite picture of the typical voice assistant user, it discovered that she is a 52-year-old woman who spends 90 minutes a month conversing with her smart speaker.
Likewise, the Pew Center for Research notes that 37 percent of US voice assistant users are both over 50 and describe themselves as reluctant to use the web via a graphical user interface.
At the other end of the generational spectrum, children are also taking the technology to heart. Asking Google or Alexa to put on the Cartoon Network is much more straightforward than asking mom or dad, either of whom may say “No!”
All of which means that voice is sounding more and more like an interface for all ages and an opportunity for all business sectors, be it media outlets like CNN and Buzzfeed that are already offering breaking news on the major platforms, to FMCG brands like Hellman’s who are giving recipe suggestions when the user tells the vocal app what ingredients are at hand.
Download TSC’s white paper Voice: Speaking for your brand to learn more about voice assistants and the opportunities they offer for brands to get closer to their customers.