5 Ways Voice Assistants are Changing Your Customer's Behaviors

May 8, 2018

This is the third post in our  blog series, “the Conversational Marketer,”  about the impact voice assistants are having on digital transformation and marketing strategies.  

Every time a smart speaker enters a home, it changes consumer behaviors: from trivial tasks like setting timers, and listening to music or the radio to buying goods and services.  Over the last couple of months, studies from Voicebot.ai, Publicis, CapGemini, or NPR/Edison research have surveyed thousands of voice assistant users and smart speakers owners to better understand who they are and how they are engaging technology with voice.  Here is a summary of the top behavioral changes that CMOs need to be aware of.

#1: Customers across the board are more ready to engage with voice assistant than you are ...

Due to the ubiquity of voice assistant on smartphones, the relative affordability of smart speakers (Apple Home Pod excepted), and improvement in technology, the usage of voice assistants is rapidly becoming mainstream.  82% of consumers have already used voice assistants on their phone or via smart speakers(4).  Between 16 and 20% of the US population owns a smart speaker (1,3).

But more importantly, usage of voice assistant is pervasive across the entire population, across age groups and income level: the percentage of adoption of voice assistants across income level or age group, follows the average income and age distribution of the US population.


Finally, voice assistant are also not just used by technology enthusiasts, it has penetrated even people that are less technically savvy(2).

This broad adoption of voice technology is bolstered by the fact that people might find it easier to engage with voice assistant than human.  Whether discussing personal issues, financial issues, studies after studies have proved that people behave more truthfully with robots or digital assistants than with humans as they do not fear being judged by what they are going to say.  And in certain cases, when voice assistants are able to handle human-like multi-turn conversation, people can start treating digital assistants as companions and interact with them as they would with a human, thanking them or apologizing to them.  

It is reaching a point where people might prefer engaging with a voice assistant instead of walking in one of your store.  49% of consumers say they would prefer voice assistants over human interactions in shops or call centers because it is faster(2).

What it means for marketers:

Consumers across age groups and income levels are ready to engage in conversation with their phones, smart speakers and other robots.  Are you ready as a brand to engage with them? If you are in an industry like healthcare of financial services, letting your customers having non-judgemental conversation with a digital assistant might open new opportunities.

#2:  Smart speakers are social animals

Unlike smartphones which foster personal use and isolation, smart speakers seem to foster social activities.  Located in 70% of the case in common areas of the house like living rooms and kitchen 1,2,3, over 50% of smart speaker usage is in a social setting(2,3).   66% of smart speaker owners use them to entertain family and friends(3).   According to Publicis, families are one of the largest demographics of early adopters of smart speaker as it helps with family routines throughout the day.


What it means for marketers:

Unlike website or mobile app. engaging customer via digital assistants means engaging with more than one person, but to a group of people.  Smart speakers have the potential to create a conversation about your brand within a group of friends, within a family, like a mini private social network.  Engagement strategies can be richer than traditional personalization strategy. Engagement strategies will need to take into account that children might be in the audience.

#3: Smart speakers are changing your customers daily routines

The top five uses of smart speakers are: 1) asking questions, 2) listening to music (streaming services), 3) check the weather, 4) set timers, 5) listening to the radio(1).

However, a more granular analysis shows that these hierarchy of use cases changes depending on the time of day.  For example, between 5 and 9 am, the top use cases are  getting traffic reports, getting weather report, and checking the news;  between 9pm and midnight, they change to controlling smart home devices, listening to audio-books, and setting timers/alarms (3).

Smart speakers are getting integrated into consumers’ daily routines and replacing time spent with TV, am/fm radio or smartphone.  30% of smart speakers owner says it replaces time otherwise spent watching TV (3).  In the future 40% of people surveyed think they will use voice assistant instead of visiting a company websites (2).

What it means for marketers:

Smart speakers are emerging as an engagement channel that is replacing time spent on other medium like TV or websites.  You need to start including them in your digital multi-channel strategy as your customers will soon expect to engage with your brand via voice assistant.  When building your presence on digital assistant via a voice app, you need to consider how your customers could engage with your brand as part of their daily routine.

#4: Smart speaker are multiplying

echo-familySmart speakers are fast becoming ubiquitous throughout the house.  On average each household own 1.8 smart speakers(1).  Amazon has done a great job multiplying the form factors of its Echo line of smart speakers tailoring devices to rooms in the home:  the screen-equipped Echo Show can display a recipe in the kitchen, the Echo Spot looks like an alarm clock for the bedroom and recently Amazon introduced Echo Dot Kids edition targeted at kids bedroom. As a result 38% of smart speaker owners plan to buy more for their home(3).

When smart speakers enter a home, their usage is  growing quickly. 51% of smart speaker owners says they are using more of it than the first month they got it(3).  63% of smart speakers use it more than twice daily (1).

The top reason people gives for using smart speakers are convenience, speed, and ability to multi-task (2).

The next big battle is for smart speakers and digital assistant will the control of the car.  64% of smart speakers owner are interested to have smart speakers in their car (3).

What it means for marketers:

The ubiquitousness of smart speaker creates unique opportunities for marketers to engage with consumer in places and setting they traditional would not.  Being able to place an order for a grocery item at the time of need in the kitchen eliminates the friction of the shopping list. When designing voice apps or voice commerce flows, marketers need to imagine the context consumers will be in when placing their order.

#5: Your Customers are ready for conversational commerce

Across all research reports, it appears that consumers are already using smart speakers and voice assistants to make purchases.  

Between 26% and 35% of smart speaker owners have used their device to purchase physical goods (1,2,3).  28 to 34% have booked a service like an Uber ride or ordered a meal from a restaurant(2).

When purchasing goods online, household items are the top purchased category followed by electronics and health and beauty items (3).


Most interestingly, when consumers project themselves in the future, they see their propensity to purchase via smart speakers to increase.  They expect up to 18% of their expenditures to be made by voice within three years a 6 fold increase from today. The top 3 goods and services they are the most interested to order via voice are  ordering meals, booking services like taxi rides, buying electronics(2).


What it means for marketers:

Consumers are ready to embrace the convenience of smart speakers to shop via voice.  They are waiting for brands to provide them with the right experience and engagement.  In every category, the brand who will move first is likely to gain a competitive advantage.

Call to Action

As CMO, you should start evaluating whether these behavioral shifts are going to impact not only the way customer transact with your brand, but also the new set of expectations they are building for your brand based on experiences in product and service categories adjacent to your brand.  Each of these shift also opens brand new engagement opportunities to further delight your customers and exceed their expectations.


Related Voice Marketing Posts: 




(1) Smart Speaker Consumer Adoption Report, Voicebot.ai, March 2018
(2) Conversational Commerce, why consumers are embracing voice assistants in their lives, Cap Gemini Digital Transformation institute, 2018
(3) The Smart Audio Report, NPR/Edison Research, Fall Winter 2017
(4) Time to talk, the future for brands is conversational, Cap Gemini,  2018

Written by Guillaume Privat

Guillaume is Vice President Product at PullString, where he leads product strategy and design. His mission is to combine art and science to create the simplest experience to design, prototype and publish voice applications. Before joining PullString, he held various product executive positions in Adobe’s Digital Media and Digital Marketing business units, Macromedia, Siebel Systems, and Grameen. When not working at PullString, Guillaume produces Olive Oil from a grove in the South of France.

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