Voice Assistant Adoption Grows
May 07, 2020
8 MIN READ

Voice Assistant Adoption Grows as Users Seek News and Entertainment During Pandemic

by Karen Scates

The increasingly rapid adoption of voice-enabled devices is not particularly surprising news, given the prevalence of smartphones and the popularity of smart speakers. However, two recent reports about consumer usage of voice assistants and the impact of current events have revealed new business opportunities for brands investing in voice-enabled devices and services. 

In some industries, such as healthcare, the desire for touchless interfaces has reached a new level of urgency as a result of the current crisis. In other industries, consumer demands for greater convenience, hygiene and efficiency, coupled with the growing level of voice assistant usage are pushing manufacturers and brands to adopt voice-first strategies.

According to The Smart Audio Report, February 2020, 63% of Americans currently use a voice-operated personal assistant. 

With 41% percent of the U.S. population saying they are staying at home and not leaving unless it is an emergency and 54% only going to places they feel safe and/or are necessary, new research shows how smart speakers and voice assistants are increasingly becoming a part of their everyday lives.

A similar report by Juniper Research predicted that: “Consumers will interact with voice assistants on 8.4 billion devices by 2024; overtaking the world’s population and growing 113% compared to the 4.2 billion devices expected to be in use by year end 2020.” Juniper Research

“New research shows how smart speakers and voice assistants are increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives”

For most consumers, the rapid adoption of voice assistants is fueled by the search for greater convenience, usability, and a desire to increase social distancing from physically touching shared devices, such as kiosks. The findings of these two studies identified some important trends for the current and future use of voice-enabled devices.

Not surprisingly, the report found that the recent pandemic and the requirements to stay at home have increased people’s usage of smart speakers for getting news and entertainment. In fact, the current circumstance may be the driving force behind greater demand for voice assistants, according to The Smart Audio Report:

“Among non-owners of smart speakers, those who currently use voice assistants are 60% more likely than those who don’t to purchase a smart speaker in the next six months.” 

Juniper Research estimates that voice assistants will be in use on over 4 billion devices by the end of 2020. Not surprisingly, the greatest use cases for voice assistants are currently on smartphones in home speakers, and in cars. The increasing acceptance, mass adoption, and growing comfort with using a voice-enabled device has spurred a voice-first evolution that will soon be permeating a great number of industries.

“Among non-owners of smart speakers, those who currently use voice assistants are 60% more likely than those who don’t to purchase a smart speaker in the next six months.” 

The Smart Audio Report 2020

When asked how they currently use a voice-operated personal assistant, people mentioned a variety of common devices and appliances, including:

  • Any device: 63%
  • A smartphone: 51%
  • A TV/TV remote: 24%
  • Your car: 23%
  • A computer: 21%
  • A tablet: 19%
  • A household appliance: 9%

Those same use cases are promising in terms of bringing new users on board, according to the study. When asked where they would be interested in interacting with a voice assistant, non-voice users cited some of the more common use cases, including:

  • In a car
  • On a phone 
  • On a TV
  • In home appliances

Rise of the voice-enabled smart home

Both reports by Juniper and The Smart Audio Report found that consumers are increasingly adopting voice-enabled devices for the home. One of the top performers in this area is the TV and TV remotes. 

“The fastest growing category is connected TV-based voice assistants, as the category itself is an expanding one. Voice assistants have become a relatively standard feature in this category, while it remains either a premium feature or an unused one in many of the other categories”

Juniper Research 

The growing popularity of voice-enabled devices for the smart home environment is a natural evolution given the preference of consumers for greater convenience and functionality. This fact is substantiated by the Smart Audio report’s findings on customer motivation or using a voice assistant.

Respondents in the Smart Audio report agreed with these statements about perceived benefits:

  • Using voice-operated personal assistants makes your life easier: 68%
  • Voice-operated personal assistant technology has improved recently: 65%
  • You wouldn’t want to go back to life without your voice-operated assistants: 41%

While the greatest use cases still reside with the personal devices—speaker, smartphone, car—voice technology is making its way outside of the home into other areas of people’s lives.

As smart speakers become more popular—The Smart Audio Report found that 24% of americans 18+ own a smart speaker (60 million people) up from 21% in 2019 (53 million)—manufacturers and businesses gain confidence that their customers will be delighted with a voice-enabled experience.

The Smart Audio Report found that 24% of Americans 18+ own a smart speaker (60 million people) up from 21% in 2019 (53 million).

According to Juniper Research, the retail market is poised for another shift, this time from eCommerce to voice commerce.

“Voice commerce offers a mostly hand-free touchpoint for shopping orders from anywhere. Juniper Research currently predicts that voice commerce will increase with the ubiquitous use of AI, with this growth outstripping eCommerce growth between 2020 and 2024.” 

Juniper Research 

Access to inventories and the ability to order goods and pay for them through a voice interface will make products easier to find and more convenient to buy from anywhere and at any time. Already the retail industry has had to adjust to trends that favor virtual buying experiences over visiting brick and mortar locations. The evolution to a voice-first strategy seems like a natural next step.

Consumer’s growing Impatience for waiting and their desire for frictionless environments may also drive retailers to consider voice-enabled kiosks and pay stations within a store that provide up to date inventory, location, and cost information. 

According to Juniper Research, “Should payment gateways, flows and frameworks for voice become more standardised in future, the number of companies looking to use voice as a means to sell their products (and create a more convenient service for their users), could multiply significantly.”

The future of voice-enabled services

We already know that the adoption of voice assistants is fairly new and growing rapidly. According to the Smart Audio study, 35% of the people they surveyed had been using a voice-operated assistant for one year or less and the majority of users are fairly new to the technology. 

Here’s the breakdown of how long people have been using voice assistants, according to the study:

  • 1-3 years 39%
  • 3-5 years 18%
  • 5 years or more 8%

While studies and research can confirm what we already know, or at least suspect, understanding the why is a little harder. Voice, speech, and language, are the things that make us uniquely human. It’s how we express ourselves and how we connect with others.

In the best science fiction movies, people break down the barriers between humans and machines, interacting and getting information as easily as they talk to each other. Until fairly recently, the technology didn’t exist, or at least it wasn’t developed enough, to make that level of communication possible. Now that advanced voice technology is here, people are embracing it and glorifying the humanness of it in movies like, “Her.”

The development of sophisticated programs, artificial intelligence, and machine learning combined with hardware components such as microphones, batteries, and speakers have made voice user interfaces not only possible, but accessible and easy to use. Bringing voice AI into the home through smart speakers and smartphones has made voice assistants a part of our everyday lives. 

Both studies—Juniper Research and The Smart Audio Report—confirm that consumers are ready to interact with the world around then through voice interfaces. Now, manufacturers and brands hoping to capture their audiences and deliver better user experiences are joining the voice-first movement and finding ways to monetize voice experiences.

According to Juniper Research, there are a few key industries where voice assistants are currently making inroads and helping brands optimize their services:

  • Banks and other financial services
  • Insurance companies
  • Retail and voice commerce
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Voice search and advertising

The mass adoption of AI in users’ everyday lives is fuelling the rapid shift towards voice applications. IoT devices and ever-expanding use cases are giving voice assistants tangible value in a connected user’s life.”

Juniper Research

As people interact with more devices, like cars and gaming controllers, the demand for better natural language interactions has forced brands to look beyond simply adding voice, to implementing sophisticated voice technology that delivers fast and accurate results every time. Advanced technologies such as Speech-to-Meaning ® and Deep Meaning Understanding are helping leading brands like Mercedes-Benz and Pandora deliver exceptional user experiences and surprisingly accurate and personalized results. 

Learn more about how your brand can add customized voice interfaces to any products and applications in our white paper: “Overcoming the Top 3 Challenges of Voice AI Adoption.”

Karen Scates is a storyteller with a passion for helping others through content. Argentine tango, good books and great wine round out Karen’s interests.

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