My parents were recently gifted their first Amazon Echo — and as you might guess, I’ve been thrilled to observe first-hand how a household of relative tech Luddites responds to the device. Delighted fascination, tempered by security concerns, drives these Baby Boomers to test the depth of Alexa’s knowledge by asking one-off random questions.
My parents’ reactions, and an initial read of our data about device interactions overall, might suggest consumers’ short-term intrigue with voice assistant speakers but skepticism about their long-term impact: Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that just 6% of US online adults and 2% of European online adults currently use standalone speakers — and only for basic activities like checking the weather, listening to audio, or setting a timer.
But as consumers get comfortable interacting with these voice assistants for simple functions, their appetite to execute more complex tasks grows quickly. Our Consumer Technographics® data also shows that US and European online adults with a voice assistant speaker want to start using the device to inform their lifestyle choices and purchase decisions:
My parents may not realize it now, but their acquaintance with Amazon Alexa will accelerate their embrace of voice-controlled experiences overall: Although more people use Siri, Google Now, and Cortana, Alexa delivers the “stickiest” voice experience — more than four in 10 Alexa users in the US and Europe engage with “her” at least once a day.
Smart speaker usage will pick up speed and will eventually shape the smart home devices category: Forrester’s ForecastView data predicts that smart speakers will grow at a CAGR of 50.9% to reach 166.2 million in 2022. But as my colleague Jacob Morgan notes in his recent report: “Consumers will get increasingly comfortable with conversational interfaces, but most firms force people to talk to machines like machines. Voice assistants will gain traction in 2018, but the sophistication of services will remain low.”
People have been using voice interaction since prehistoric times and have even been talking at their devices for years. Thanks to portable, personalized, easy-to-use voice assistants, consumers are now ready for their devices to talk back and to talk to one another. At the end of the day, the voice assistants that resonate with increasingly empowered consumers will deliver more than functional, mechanical help — they will forge consumer relationships based on empathy and trust.