How will Echo/Google Home and other voice devices change the way we consume content and products?
Voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home will allow customers to engage in faster product purchases and facilitate more convenient content consumption through voice control modalities and audio outputs. According to an article published by ZDNet, the ability to engage in online activities through intelligent voice communication represents a new user interface. However, current products such as Google Assistant and Alexa are still "first-generation products." As advancements are seen in this fast-developing area of technology, intelligent personal assistants are quickly growing in popularity and significance. According to an article by Forbes, 85% of customer interactions will be managed by technologies relating to intelligent assistants by 2020.
INTELLIGENT PERSONAL ASSISTANTS
Intelligent personal assistants consist of software such as the Amazon Alexa personal assistant, which is installed and marketed on the Amazon Echo intelligent assistant device. Personal assistant software typically uses artificial intelligence (AI) to interact with users. Voice assistants are changing the way content is delivered. Examples are seen throughout the industry of new applications that update users on the daily news with a spoken voice, as they drink coffee in the morning. Furthering the concept of convenience, a podcast can be requested by voice and delivered through the Amazon Echo speakers, without the need to leave your kitchen chair.
In our research, we identified Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant as the most popular personal assistants available in the market today. We also mention a newer entrant to the competitive landscape of intelligent assistants, the Samsung Bixby, due to its significance in the market for smart devices such as internet-connected home appliances.
Amazon first released its Alexa personal assistant software to the market in November 2014. It is currently available on a growing number of devices. The most popular device being sold by Amazon with integrated Alexa software is the Amazon Echo. Other devices that run the Alexa software are the Amazon Fire tablet, and the Amazon Tap portable Bluetooth speaker. Alexa is integrated into the Amazon mobile app on both iOS and Android. Analysts at RBC Capital Markets estimated that Amazon sold 33 million Echo devices in 2017, an increase from 4 million in 2016. Amazon's primary competitors in the market are the Google Assistant software and Google Home devices.
According to a report published by CNBC, the Amazon Alexa voice assistant is becoming a powerful marketing platform. The study indicated that owners of the Amazon Echo increased their consumer product purchases by 13.5% in late 2017, with an "unusually high" up sell rate of 60%, indicating consumers bought more products from the same brands after initial purchases. It has been reported that Amazon is currently working on software enhancements that will allow Alexa to identify who it is speaking with based on the identification of voice patterns. This feature, described as "Voice Identification," is known as "Voice ID," and could potentially control customer account access or permissions.
Google Assistant is voice-controlled smart assistant software primarily marketed in connection with the Google Home smart speaker hardware devices and available on Android smartphones. An extension of previous Google Now software, Google Assistant is typically activated when a user speaks the phrase, "OK Google." The initial release date for the Google Assistant software was November 4, 2016. Google Assistant software competes with Amazon Alexa software; the Google Home smart speakers compete with the Amazon Echo devices. According to this article, the Google Assistant was aggressively marketed at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show.
Samsung is currently developing a smart assistant called Bixby that will be integrated with all of its products including Samsung televisions and phones. According to a published article, Samsung intends to position Bixby as a competitor to the Google Assistant, and the Amazon Alexa. The new Bixby will "act as the control hub of your device ecosystem," according to Samsung, controlling speakers, refrigerators, TVs, phones, and other internet-connected devices.
TRENDS AND PREDICTIONS
Today, more consumers than ever before are using smartphones and tablets as preferred technology platforms. As mobile devices are physically smaller than the desktop computers used in the past, it is not practical to use the same keyboard and mouse devices of yesterday. Increasingly, consumers are using intelligent voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant to interact with their mobile devices, as preferred methods of input and output, instead of typing text on keyboards.
According to an article published by Adweek, voice assistant devices will drive increased feedback from consumer purchases, as customers can provide opinions much faster today by voice, than in the past when reviews had to be typed. More feedback tends to result in better product recommendations, according to the article, which also suggests that product replenishment will represent new marketing opportunities as result of voice interaction with consumers. For example, when consumers interact with household appliances by voice, that appliance may become a data collection device, capable of identifying what products were consumed, at what time, and the frequency of consumption. Intelligent voice assistants will be capable of communicating with newer, internet-connected household appliances. Therefore, personal assistants will know what products consumers previously requested, ordered and rated highly. Product replenishment marketers may find success by reminding consumers about products they liked, or previously needed, at the precise moment those products are needed again.
An article from the Consumer Electronics Show suggests that trends in "smart home technology" remain at an early stage in 2018. The author reported on fully wireless kitchens, housing internet-connected appliances yet not a single cord: compatible appliances are able to recharge batteries on the counter top, which doubles as a cooking surface or free counter space. Other smart home technologies on display were smart locks and security cameras offered by Amazon and Walmart, to make in-home product deliveries possible while consumers watch from remote via smartphone. Many or most of these devices are compatible with intelligent personal assistants, creating a voice-controlled ecosystem of connected appliances in newer homes.
According to an article published by CMSWIRE, chatbots are becoming more popular on platforms such as Facebook messenger, Slack, and Whatsapp. The article points to a recent study by Gartner forecasting "the average human will have more conversations with bots than their spouse." As software companies continue to identify ease-of-use as a priority for consumers and businesses, many chatbots feature drag-and-drop building platforms allowing anyone to design customized chatbots without coding. And evolution can be seen in the way newer chatbots communicate: since inception, chatbot software had typically facilitated text-based conversations, while newer chatbots are starting to adopt voice input and output modalities. An article by chatbot developer nativeMsg refers to newer chatbot implementations as "VoiceBots," while suggesting that Amazon's Alexa and Echo are in fact "voice assisted bots".
Our research identified increased consumer engagement with voice-based personal intelligent assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and others. We identified a new participant in the intelligent personal assistant market, the Samsung Bixby, that will be installed on all of Samsung's products such as televisions and smartphones. New sales methods such as product replenishment marketing should be made possible by voice controlled products such as consumer appliances, in connection with personal intelligent assistants. From content consumption to online commerce, intelligent assistants are driving sharply higher engagement metrics. In summary, clear evolutionary trends and new segments of opportunities can be seen in the marketplace as consumers continue to adopt and engage with technology through intelligent voice-based communication modalities.