I am strongly believers in conversational interfaces – especially the voice. Conversation is a natural way of communicating people and is the future of human-computer interaction. If you remember the movies of two-year-olds shifting on iPhones and iPads, something similar happens to devices like Alexa and Google Home: Children already know how to work with them.
Last year, my team conducted a survey among users of the Alexa and Google Home applications to better understand their behavior and device satisfaction. It showed that interest in voice applications is really starting to turn up, and all kinds of enterprises and brands enter the space – media, CPG, retail, food delivery, banking and many more.
This year, we re-surveyed to see if and how the behavior of users and feelings relative to devices may have changed. We have also integrated some of the interests based on demographic data. Survey conducted by Dashbot from Survata included 1,019 Alexa owners and Google Home in the USA.
Key takeaway products this year:
- Voice assist devices change behavior
- The most important features are the most commonly used
- The discovery of third-party voice applications is still a problem
- Users very often use shopping devices
- The owners are satisfied with their devices and highly recommend them.
Voice assistants continue to change their behavior
As we saw last year, voice devices change behavior. People use them all day for various applications.
Almost 75% of respondents use their voice devices at least once a day, and 57% use their devices several times a day. These numbers are very similar to the results from last year.
If we look closely at the use of men and women, about 64 percent of men and 53 percent of women use the device several times a day. Among people who use their devices the least (less than once a month), women predominate at 7 percent compared to only 1.4 percent of men.
Over 65% of respondents indicated that devices changed their behavior or daily activities. About a quarter felt that the device changed its behavior very much, while 40.5 percent thought it had at least some. Only 19 percent said that the device did not change its behavior.
Many of the respondents defined in their own words how much they rely on the device, how integrated it is in their life and how surprised they are of how much they use it.
Because voice assistants become more ubiquitous and technology is built into even more types of devices, I expect them to see more significant changes in behavior. If you are a heavy user of Alexy or Google Home, how often have you caught yourself talking to the device when you are away from home – at work or in a hotel room while traveling? Amazon and Google are working on this through business initiatives to provide facilities in hotels and other locations.
Men tend to report more behaviors than women. Almost 33 percent of men answered "yes, they have a lot" compared to 20 percent of women. As we have seen with the frequency of use, women with a tendency to rare use, we also see that the higher percentage of women who found the device does not change behavior: 23.3 percent of women answered "no" compared to 13.7 percent of men.
Interestingly, even 19% of respondents who indicated that the device did not change their behavior still use the device fairly regularly. Of those that indicate "no", about 33 percent still use the device many times a day, and another 17 percent use the device at least once a day.
The basic functions are the most commonly used
We asked the respondents what functions they use most often.
It turns out that listening to music, checking the weather and asking for information are the most common use cases. They are also the basic functionality of devices. The use of certain third party skills is less common (more on this in a moment).
About 75 percent of respondents use the device to listen to music, 66 percent check the weather, and 63 percent ask for information.
About 58 percent of those listening to music do it many times a day, while only 34 percent of people who check the weather do it many times a day.
At the lower end of use, only 23 percent of respondents use their devices to control home automation. However, those who do it quite often. Almost 63% of respondents who use a home automation device do so many times a day, and another 22% do so at least once a day.
If we look at gender-based use, there will be interesting differences.
While the three best use cases are the same for both men and women, women usually have a slightly higher consumption for each – around 5-6 percent higher. For example, almost 77 percent of women listen to music, while 71 percent of men do it.
There are several features that men use more often than women. For example, nearly 42% of male respondents use sports performance equipment compared to 18% of women. Other features include receiving messages (49 percent men vs. 40 percent women), shopping (36 percent men to 26 percent women), playing games (33 percent men to 22 percent women) and home automation (29 percent men to 18 percent women) ).
Speaking of shopping, let's take a closer look at this use case.
Users are willing to make purchases through their devices
Both Alexa and Google allow users to make purchases through their own e-commerce services and – with additional connection of accounts – with other sellers and services. Developers and brands can also earn money on their voice applications via subscription and in-app purchases.
We asked the respondents if they had ever made a purchase through their voice assistant. It turns out that 43 percent of respondents have 58 percent of men and 32 percent of women.
When it comes to what the respondents buy, products from the e-commerce service provider (Amazon or Google Shopping) are the most common at almost 83 percent.
Interestingly, food delivery is also quite common at 53 percent. The case of "change of order", i.e. the ability to change the order of the same elements as the previous order, works quite well through these interfaces, because it can be executed in shorter, more concise statements than a complicated menu arrangement. We have also heard from many food delivery services that reorganization is quite common – consumers usually order the same every time.
We also asked the respondents how they are likely to make a purchase in the future. About 41 percent said they were "very likely" to make a purchase in the future, and an additional 20 percent would say "probably" would do it.
Interestingly, one of the biggest indicators of whether someone has made a purchase in the past, or is more likely to make a purchase in the future, is whether they have both Alex and Google Home. Over 56 percent of respondents who own both devices have made purchases in the past, compared to 43 percent of those who only have Alexa, and 39 percent only Google Home. When it comes to future purchases, similarly 57% of respondents who own both brands are "very likely" to make purchases in the future, compared to 41% of those who only have Alexa, and 35% only Google Home. It may happen that consumers who have both devices are the first users and are more likely to purchase through the device.
The discovery of third-party voice applications is still a problem
Voice interfaces are still a relatively new space. There are around 50 million devices in the US between Alex and Google Home. There are approximately 40,000 third-party skills available to Alex. In our last survey, we've found that many respondents do not even know that specifying a third-party voice application is "Skill" on Alex and "Action" on Google Home.
The good news is that consumers use third party skills, they just do not use a lot of them. Based on the survey, 48 percent of respondents use one to three voice applications, and an additional 26 percent use four to six. Only about 15 percent of respondents said they did not use them.
We asked the respondents what their favorite voice applications are. More common reactions were native functions – listening to music, checking the weather and getting information. More commonly used applications from other companies are Pandora, Spotify, Uber and Jeopardy.
In the case of developers of third-party applications, both detection and acquisition of users are challenges.
The most common ways in which users learn about skills and activities are social media, friends and app store stores.
We often hear from brands and programmers that social media, paid or organic, is one of the best channels for acquiring users for voice applications. According to the survey, over 43 percent of respondents found skills in social media. It is also recommended campaigns with viral video-performers, because they serve two purposes – reach the influencer and teach how to use the voice application. Because it is a new space and a new user interface, users may not know what they can say or do with a specific voice application.
Thanks to Alex, users can ask the device about the latest skills or recommendations, even within categories. The device will go through the Skills set, listing each by name and asking if the user wants to install or continue.
In addition, Alexa supports the "intent to fulfill" that developers and brands can implement to help users discover voice applications. For example, if Alex Skill's ability can help with ordering a pizza, the programmer can write it out as a "can meet" target and be potentially recommended by the device when the user asks for a pizza order.
Google Home does not have a directory that allows you to search by voice. The device question about the latest Actions or Recommended Actions results in an emergency type of "I do not understand" reaction or an attempt to give some form of definition depending on the request – eg describing the "sport action" when asking about the latest "sports actions".
The level of user satisfaction is high
Users are rather satisfied with their voice devices and recommend them very well.
We asked respondents how satisfied they were with the device's ability to understand, the device's response and general experience. The results are quite positive.
As for the ability to understand the device, almost 44% of respondents were very satisfied, and an additional 34% were somewhat satisfied. Only about 13 percent were either a little or very unhappy.
Similarly, when it comes to reactions to devices, 44% of respondents were very satisfied and an additional 35% were somewhat satisfied. Only about 12 percent were either a little or very unhappy.
Based on general experience, 53 percent of respondents were very satisfied and an additional 29 percent were at least somewhat satisfied. Only 10 percent were either a little or very unhappy.
In addition, we asked the respondents if something was wrong with the device that surprised them, and the results also indicate a high level of satisfaction. The owners were surprised by how many devices they can do and how well they know these devices. A fairly common comment was how quickly the device is updated – "something new every day" and "like Christmas every day".
The owners are satisfied with their devices and will be happy to recommend them. When asked about how they rate the device on a scale of one to five stars, the average rating of respondents was 4.4 stars.
When asked to assess how likely it is to recommend the device to other people on a scale of 1 to 5, respondents also rated 4.4.
If we look closely at assessments based on the impact of the device on behavior, we see overall positive results. Respondents who said that the device changed their behavior, rated many devices for 4.9 stars and would be happy to recommend a device with a rating of 4.9. Even users who said that the device has not changed their behavior, rated their device almost 4 stars and can still recommend devices with 3.8.
We asked the respondents if something surprised them, and the more frequent answers were:
- How much the device can do
- How intelligent the device is and the ability to answer many questions
- Ease of use
- The ability to understand the user's request
- The dependence of the user on the device and the way it is changed
- Speed of response
- The quality of the answer
While most of the comments were generally positive, a small number of complaints were reported. The biggest complaint (still rarely compared to all the positive answers) was the frustration due to the device's ability to understand the user's request.
In general, the owners of Alexa and Google Home devices are very satisfied with their devices. They are pleasantly surprised by what devices are capable of, how smart devices are and how addicted they are to devices.
While the voice assistant's space is still relatively new, there is the possibility of earning on brands because there is a strong willingness to make purchases via devices. The more brands develop voice applications, the more interesting it will be to see what use cases they support – how they use the voice interface and whether they use the opportunity to earn.
As many respondents mentioned, devices are constantly improving – not only in terms of better understanding, but in all functions provided.
I am still an optimist in this field and I am waiting for what the future will bring.
Arte Merritt is the CEO and co-founder of Dashbot, a chatbot analysis platform for Alex, Google Home, Facebook, Slack, Twitter, SMS and other conversational interfaces.