Virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant are among the set of emerging personal technologies that Forrester clients ask us about, especially as consumers embrace smart speakers. Forrester forecasts (US and EU-5) the rapid adoption of smart speakers by households. But Forrester Analytics’ Consumer Technographics® data shows that consumers still use virtual assistants more via their smartphones than via smart speakers. And, so far, they mostly use virtual assistants for very simple tasks. We found the majority of uses fall into four groupings: communication, home control, media consumption/commerce, and transactions. Among surveyed US online adult respondents who currently use smart speakers, the most common task is checking the weather, at 65% of smart-speaker users, and the least-common, ordering or reordering products, is at 5% of smart-speaker users. (See “Forrester Infographic: The State Of Voice Assistants, 2019“.) Complex tasks and interactions with brands, such as online searches, checking bills, making payments, or ordering items, are still relatively rare, and they won’t get easier anytime soon. As with smartphones, companies have to persuade consumers to find and install a “voice app” on their Amazon, Google, or Apple account/device in order to use features and capabilities specific to that brand. Since smart speakers are all voice, it will be hard to engage consumers to do this.

Virtual Assistant “Apps” Must Solve A Compelling Problem

Even with the screens on smartphones to assist (or on the growing number of smart displays — i.e., smart speakers with a display), Forrester has found that most consumers will not download a brand’s app. Despite the typical US consumer having roughly 200 mobile moments each day, 85% of that time is spent within apps, and of that time within apps, 39% is spent with just a handful of tech powerhouses. (See the “Your Customers Will Not Download Your App” Forrester report.) To get consumers to engage, companies should find compelling problems where virtual assistants can create real value and engagement for their customers. For most companies, the customer’s needs and the capabilities of the technology still don’t align with today’s virtual assistants.

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