What a difference a year makes! Usually a statement we can make when looking at technology adoption. Either because in a year a technology is history or because it has become a vital part of our life. Sadly, when it comes to digital assistants and the interactions consumers are having with them, a year has not made much of a difference at all.
In June 2017, we at Creative Strategies surveyed 1100 US consumers between the age of 18 and 65 and found that penetration when it comes to digital assistants has not grown since our previous survey conducted in May 2016: only 66% of consumers are using one. Among the users 63% use Apple’s Siri regularly, 23% use Google Assistant, and 10% uses Amazon’s Alexa. As to be expected, usage is proportional to the technology savviness of the users so among early tech adopters usage is at 96% and among early mainstream users, it reaches 76%.
The Chicken and Egg Problem
The industry is obsessed about determining who is ahead in artificial intelligence and whose assistant is smarter. Consumers, however, do not seem to be asking much of today’s digital assistants.
Alexa reached 15,000 skills just the other day, and Google Assistant and Siri have been growing in the range of tasks they can perform. Consumers are turning to them to ask the same things as they did last year: searching the internet, setting alarms, playing songs, asking directions and checking the news. What is encouraging, however, is that while searching the internet is still the primary task, all the others have grown in popularity compared to a year ago showing that consumer confidence might be growing.
When I start to dissect the data, however, I do wonder if consumers play it safe and ask each assistant what is a core competence of the supplier or fits the primary use case. So, Google Assistant is used for search and navigation, Alexa is asked to set alarms and play songs, and Siri is asked for directions and to call someone or set a timer.
Still being at the early stages of these relationships, looking for something that we know will end up in a positive exchange is natural. It is also good for confidence building to ask for tasks that we are confident our assistant will get right. It does, however, raise the question of how this is impacting new feature/skill discovery and adoption in the long run and consequently how it will impact the value that brands will see in the return of investment they are making in digital assistants.
The Value Proposition Problem
Consumers who are not using a digital assistant say that they are either more comfortable typing (33% – rejecting voice-first rather than the assistant) or they said they tried a few times but had to repeat themselves (20%) and did not use it again. Force of habit is also damaging digital assistants, as 19% of consumers forget they can use voice even if they know they can. Interestingly, some consumers also think we are getting too lazy while some say they cannot get themselves to actually learn how to use a digital assistant.
Consumers who do use digital assistants regularly seems to be pretty satisfied with their performance with Google Assistant showing the highest percentage of very satisfied users.
Siri users are trailing both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa when it comes to very satisfied users which to me speaks to why Apple’s decision to make HomePod about music and sound first was the right thing to do.
I have discussed before how I expect Apple to pivot with Siri when HomePod gets to market. We can debate whether or not Siri is lagging in capability compared to Google Assistant and Alexa. What matters is that non-users might think so and current users are not as satisfied as they could be. Apple coming out at WWDC and promising a better Siri for HomePod would not have helped the situation.
28% of consumers we surveyed are interested in a HomePod, and another 16% said they are planning to buy one. These numbers go up considerably with early adopters where 60% say they are very interested and 42% are planning to buy one.
46% of current Siri users are interested in HomePod, and another 29% are planning to buy. Even across consumers in our survey who were unsatisfied with Siri, interest in HomePod is as high as 43% with another 30% who are planning to buy. What grows in this segment is the need to be convinced consumers that Siri will be better. Convinced not promised! 34% said they need to be convinced that Siri has improved before they consider buying HomePod. This number declines to 17% among overall Siri users.
Price is the biggest deterrent as 17% of consumers say HomePod is too expensive. Consumers are not looking at the competition as only 4% would buy and Amazon Echo or a Google Home. Owning a competing device is also not stopping consumers from being interested in HomePod only 4% and 3% said their lack of interest in HomePod is rooted in their contentment level with Amazon Echo and Google Home.
Apple will still have to deliver on Siri, not for HomePod’s sake but for Apple’s sake but promising and delivering on what consumers can understand and easily assess is the same smart move they made with Apple Watch and Fitness. The value that the rest of the device will bring to users will be personal and will grow over time. This strategy is paying off with Watch, and it will do the same with HomePod.