It's hard to quantify the full surface area of voice assistants and all the different places consumers are engaging with them - regardless of what the stats will tell you. Imagine having to quantify how often consumers touch glass in their daily life. Could you even accurately say how often you've touched or looked through glass in the past week? The same is happening with voice assistants with their integration into our daily lives - especially as they are embedded into more and more devices every day.
Whether you're leveraging voice assistants for healthcare, consumer market research, or to improve the product experience and entertain your customers, it's valuable to understand just why, when, and how a consumer can engage via voice. Let's have a look just where voice assistants are found today - some of these will surprise you, I'm sure.
When you think of a smartphone, voice assistants are usually not the first thing that comes to mind. The first thing you might think of is social media, texting, or searching the web. According to Voicebot.ai, in 2020, 82.9% of people own a smartphone, 56.4% of them use a voice assistant on that smartphone. Google Assistant is readily available on 1 billion devices, and Siri is available on every iPhone. These statistics illustrate that the most prolific way to engage with customers using voice is through smartphones. The advantage smartphones have over other devices with built-in voice assistants is that smartphones go everywhere we go. Wherever the consumer is, you can engage and bring a voice to your customers experiences. Via smartphones, you have the ready opportunity to engage consumers via their preferred voice assistant - Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are available across all smart phones as a native integration, in the case of Google Assistant and Android, or as stand alone apps as with Amazon Alexa on Android and Alexa and Google Assistant on iPhone. This makes driving usage to your voice experiences for engagement or research easier due to the greater number of options the consumer has available to them.
The next most logical hardware to explore is the smart speaker which for Google and Amazon really introduced the power of voice to the marketplace. The revenue from smart speaker sales grew from $900 million in 2016 to nearly $12 billion in 2019. The growth in the smart speaker market also makes it the fastest-growing smart home device. In 2019 35% of U.S. households had at least one smart speaker, which is expected to increase to 75% by 2025. What makes smart speakers great is that unlike other devices with voice assistants, an individual who owns a smart speaker bought it primarily to use it to communicate with that device’s voice assistant. Dropping costs are making smart speakers a great option for drop-anywhere consumer engagement points - in public or private settings - and a great channel for in-home consumer engagement.
In simple terms, a smart display is a smart speaker with a screen. Like a smart speaker, it is mainly controlled with your voice, unlike a smart speaker; however, it adds a visual (and tactile) component to it and provides more ‘home screen’ type information like appointments, the weather, time, or your grocery list without saying a word. More and more smart speaker owners purchased a smart display during the pandemic. In January 2020, 16.5% of those with a smart speaker also had a smart display; by January 2021, that figure reached 25.8%. According to Voicebot.ai, the explosive growth in the smart display market was because smart displays allowed users to participate in video chat, a feature that smart speakers couldn’t provide.
Smart display's offer researchers the added benefit of hybrid engagements - visuals, audio, and conversation but are harder to build a cohort around due to their hire costs.
According to Statista, 114 million people in the U.S. use smart TVs in 2021. That figure is expected to rise to 119 million in 2022. With most TVs today falling into the "Smart TV" category and lower-cost add-ons like FireTV and Google TV (Chromecast) becoming more common, a new generation of engagement - versus just consumption - is growing in our living rooms. Consumers now have the ability to engage with brand messaging on TVs like never before. Maximize your ad-dollars and create audience engagement that brings consumers into the action via voice.
With the growing popularity of streaming music, headphones have become a must-have in recent years. With the immense popularity of headphones, it is no surprise that vendors like Apple, Sony, and Samsung have tried to make headphones smarter by including noise-canceling, gesture controls, and voice assistants. In 2020, 43.7 million persons in the U.S. used voice assistants through headphones. With voice assistant embedded headphones, voice AI can be leveraged across all sorts of use cases via a completely hand-free engagement experience. This is practical for audio gaming, sports training, product testing, and consumer market research.
Cars, Trucks, and Motorcycles
A few years back, talking to your car and expecting a response would seem absurd. According to Voicebot.ai, 62% of individuals who use voice assistants on their smartphones do it while driving. In 2020 more than 50% of users tried voice assistants in their vehicle, and 30% were active monthly users. The use of voice assistants in cars is primarily focused on simple tasks like making phone calls, getting directions, sending texts messages, and playing music. As vehicles become more complex and self-driving becomes more and more a reality, technological advancements could greatly expand voice assistants’ roles in cars. Reaching consumers in their automobiles is now safer and conversational thanks to in-auto voice assistants leading to an opportunity to collect travel-related or vehicle-related consumer feedback at the closest point of the experience.
In 2020 over 22.6 million smartwatches were sold in the U.S., and it was reported that the pandemic caused the increase in sales of smart wearables. The aim to make it easier for consumers to access voice assistants prompted Amazon to make Amazon Echo Frames and Amazon Echo Loop. Apple is also making plans to create a ring similar to Amazon’s, and they also intend to create AR glasses shortly. Those who use voice assistants on their smart wearable use them for music, weather updates, online research, and directions. Advancements in directional microphone and noise cancelling make wearables one of the best options for conversational audio experiences in for consumer engagement in training, wellness, and research.
If you thought talking to your car was weird, well, talking to your oven, refrigerator, or vacuum cleaner might seem even more crazy. LG Vacuum Cleaner and Roombas are examples of vacuum cleaners connected to voice assistants. Roomba can be controlled using Amazon Alexa; owners of Roomba can tell Alexa to let the vacuum clean around certain furniture or avoid certain obstacles. Voice for ovens and refrigerators has a whole host of integrations, most notably searching for recipes and having the oven preheat, or integrated a voice based shopping list with your refrigerator.
Household appliances with voice assistants give us a lot of overlap with smart speakers - which are most commonly found in the homes kitchen - and wearables. That being said, this additional touch point make it ever more likely that your target audience can engage with your voice experience. Just be mindful that they may be popping some popcorn at the same time.
Home & Bath
Not even your bathroom is safe. Established Home and Bath manufacturers like Kohler and smart-technology focused companies like Homewerks are introducing voice assistant integrations to shower heads, bath fixtures, toilets, and more. Through your shower head you can request more shampoo, request an audio book while on the toilet, or connect with your favorite brand through your smart mirror. The interesting thing about these offerings is that they are investing in microphone and noise cancelling technology that makes audio engagement possible in very noisy environments.
Through these advancements in home & bath technology, just-in-time consumer engagement and market research for bathroom-based consumer goods is growing as a compelling experience.
Voice technology today is an exciting channel and opportunity for innovative brands. For market researchers, it presents an opportunity like no other in history because you can engage consumers precisely where they are. Via voice, research provides a balance of privacy and engagement that will lead to on-going, real-time insights unmatched by other channels.