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Blog February 12, 2018

Consumer Research: Understanding the Profile of a Voice Native & Intelligent Assistant Adoption

Jason Snook
Is voice right for your brand? A Detailed Look at Intelligent Assistant Usage

Meeting your customers in the places and ways they want to engage is critical in the Age of the Customer. Having a clear understanding of users of smart speakers and smart assistants can help companies determine whether voice-enabled channels fit within their brand engagement strategy.

That's why in September 2017, we conducted a nationwide study of nearly 1,000 American consumers to examine adoption habits around smart speakers, looking at everything from age and income to shopping habits. In our last blog, CapTech Research: A Profile of Smart Speaker Users, we laid out the general profile of a smart speaker owner. Drilling down deeper into this group, we began to spot some potential patterns related to broader intelligent assistant usage.

For review, when we use the term "smart speaker" we are referring to devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. The term "intelligent assistant" refers more broadly to technologies such as Apple's Siri that predate smart speakers by about 3 or 4 years. The question for our team was whether the earlier roll-out of smart assistants, Siri in particular, essentially "primed the pump" for future voice enabled devices. In other words, if a certain subset of customers acclimated to voice interfaces several years prior to smart speakers coming out (1) were those customers more inclined to adopt smart speakers and (2) do their usage patterns point to what we'll see in the broader market several years from now?

So, we went back to our data and found the youngest subset of users in our sample (18-36 years old). That gave us a good chance that their first phone (or most of the phones they've owned) conceivably had a smart assistant. From this group we segmented those that indicated that they used their intelligent assistants 4 times or more per week. This was the segment we dubbed "Voice Natives."

Early to Adopt New Technology

In general, this is a fairly forward-looking group. More than 90% of them self-identify as early adopters (compared to just over half of the general sample). This group also strongly reported that technology was easier to learn and made their lives easier. This would generally be true of a younger group that's also digitally "native," but now let's look at their attitudes toward voice technologies.

Comfortable with Intelligent Assistants

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people that used their Intelligent Assistants regularly found a lot of value in them, with 94.5% stating they were useful. This shows a level of comfort with this interaction pattern that eases adoption of additional buying, banking, and media behaviors (among others) over this platform.

Prefer Shopping Online

Three quarters of Voice Natives own a Smart Speaker compared to just a third of the general sample. With Amazon having a clear advantage at this point in the cycle.

Not only is this group generally more inclined toward e-commerce, 80% preferred shopping online over going to a store, they are also willing to carry this over to a voice-enabled platform. Seventy percent of Voice Natives stated they would be comfortable making a purchase using their smart speaker (compared with 40% of the general sample). They were also comfortable with the idea of transferring money over a smart speaker (68% vs. 35% of the general sample). This finding is important for retailers anticipating this trend and preparing functionality for general acceptance of this kind of shopping. Much to Amazon's glee, our data is indicating that consumers may be ready for this sooner than we think.

Trust Their Smart Speakers

While Voice Natives are as concerned about their privacy as anyone, 75% of them felt like their privacy was protected when they used their smart speaker. More than 80% said they trust their smart speaker with their information. We still feel there is a lot of room for improvement in the IoT security space but, for companies considering a voice application, it means consumers generally trust these technologies and are becoming more forgiving of breaches (61% reporting having their personal information comprised online at some point). Companies should continue to be proactive about security, though; assurances of security will speed adoption of this buying pattern even more.

Live in Smart Homes

Smart Speaker activities are generally the same for Voice Natives as other owners. Notably, though, Home automation is the third most prevalent use case for Voice Natives (only the 5th highest use case for all Smart Speaker natives). In fact, Voice Natives were three times more likely to own other smart devices such as thermostats, cameras, or light bulbs. Roughly 70% of Voice Natives own these devices compared with 20% of the general sample. This indicates that Voice and Home Automation is an emerging trend that's beginning to take hold along with shopping and communication activities. This is good news for appliance makers and other makers of home goods that recently flooded CES 2018 with voice enabled everything.

Overall, these findings indicate encouraging signs of comfort and trust of voice enabled platforms among some of the earliest adopters of the technology. Adoption theory would tell us that the wider segment of the consumer market is not too far behind. In other spaces, it might be okay to be the second or third entrant but in the case of voice enabled platforms and IoT in general, companies would do well to be first and really own this space. It's our anticipation that consumers will have a "go to" channel or company to accomplish most tasks over voice platforms. If you're one of those companies and could use some guidance about how to get into the voice market, drop us a line and let's talk.

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