Consumers Want Understanding Over Personality from Voice Assistants, Games Aren’t on Their Radar – New Data
- A survey of U.S. adults revealed that “How well it understands me…” is the most important quality determining voice assistant preferences by a wide margin, selected by 53.1%
- Speed of response and features were both listed as important by about one-third of consumers
- The personality of the voice assistant was considered important by only 6.2% of users
- Only 1 in 40 consumers says they consider games an important voice assistant quality
- Just over one-third of consumers said they had no interest in using a voice assistant
Amazon has invested millions in defining Alexa’s personality and Google Assistant just added new Australian and British accents for U.S. users. These steps are done in the name of improved user experience. However, research conducted by Voicebot, PullString, and RAIN Agency suggest that consumers are focused on the fundamentals first. More than half of voice assistant users said that how well a voice assistant understands them is the most important quality. That response outpaced the second highest rated characteristic of how fast the voice assistant responds by almost 17%. Consumers also indicated that a robust feature set isn’t all that important. Only one-third of consumers said “how much it can do” was an important factor.
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You can learn more about consumer preferences and perspectives on voice assistants across smartphones, cars, appliances and smart speakers in the Voice Assistant Consumer Adoption Report. Go to pages 29-31.
Consumer prioritization of performance should influence voice assistant platform owners in their product development resource allocation. A 2018 study by Vocalize.ai found that by standard audiology testing measures, Amazon Echo products exhibited performance consistent with moderate hearing loss when used in the presence of background noise. In quiet environments, Echo smart speakers performed quite well compared to Google Home and Apple HomePod. Regardless of the user context, a focus on the quality of the automated speech recognition will deliver benefits in terms of consumer acceptance. While most of the media attention revolves around new devices and features of voice assistants, it may be the less flashy technical work that ultimately has the biggest impact on long-term adoption.
Voice Assistants Focus on Performance
Amazon discussed some of this work at its September Alexa product launch event and in a recent blog post. Some machine learning advances this year include the ability to understand whispers and recognizing when an Alexa user is rephrasing a question after an intent failure. These are two initiatives focused squarely on performance and better understanding user utterances. Google is certainly working on its own speech recognition performance which was best demonstrated in Google Duplex. Duplex isn’t for understanding the primary Google Assistant user, but the capabilities to understand not only the utterance but also navigate an actual conversation no doubt helps with direct interactions with users as well.
It appears that consumers are noticing this focus on improving performance. Survey results show that over half of voice assistant users on smartphones and in cars believe the speech recognition has improved and only about 2-3% believe it has degraded. About 1 in 5 consumers have not noticed a change. Given that about 22% said they don’t know, the relative sentiment among consumers is that two-thirds who have an opinion suggest voice assistant performance has risen.
Over One-Third of Consumers Have No Interest in Voice Assistants
Another notable finding is that 36.5% of consumers say they are not interested in voice assistants. In the Voice Assistant Consumer Adoption Report we found that about 58% of U.S. adults have tried a voice assistant on a smartphone and 23% have access to a smart speaker. Assuming these figures are static (which they are probably not), that would mean voice assistant use on smartphones could rise about 10% from today and smart speakers 175%. That would suggest the optimal path for voice assistants on smartphones would be focusing on generating more frequent use as opposed to more users. The opposite would be true for smart speakers.
Games Aren’t Driving Voice Assistant Interest
The other point that stood out is how little consumers associate games with voice assistants. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has focused a great deal of effort on cultivating the games category. Rumor has it that he is following the iOS App Store model where games drove platform adoption, increased usage, and third-party developer monetization. The idea is that Alexa can follow a similar growth path. That doesn’t seem to be an obvious path for voice assistants today based on current consumer sentiment. Granted, it could be that voice games are a latent consumer desire that they’ve yet to discover. Even if that is true, games are unlikely to be an adoption driver for the platforms. It is great for the platforms to have a lot for consumers to do once they arrive, but all sessions start with understanding the first utterance. That is what consumers want most and many have experience voice assistants in the past that didn’t understand them all that well.