How Consumers Embrace Smart Assistants

Oct 30, 2019

Raise your hand if you have a smart assistant like Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant in your home or on your smartphone. If your hand is up, then you’ve helped propel these clever little helpers into a growing popularity and inspired the development of increasingly advanced capabilities.

Whether you own a smart assistant or not, you can see how consumers’ decisions to purchase one and the ways they use their smart assistant in real life can provide valuable insight to the companies who design and manufacture these products, both for product innovation and marketing purposes. From initial awareness to everyday usage to “I wish it had…” lists, the possibilities are endless.

As more people embrace smart assistants, companies have a big task ahead of them in determining the next generation of features and improvements that will meet customer needs and expand their customer base.

In service to this idea, we set out to explore how consumers are using smart assistants daily and the impact the devices have on their lives, both at home and on the go. To really hone in on our exploration, we asked:

  • What does the customer journey look like for smart assistants?
  • What’s motivating consumers to start using smart assistants in the first place?
  • How are the devices being used throughout the day, when are they being used, and why?
  • And how can companies leverage these learnings to inform decisions about smart device features and integration?

One of the best places to go for this type of research is online, where we moderated a lively, interactive discussion asking open-ended questions and follow-ups. Here’s what we discovered from our respondents.

Marketing motivates; research sells

The motivation behind consumers’ interest in smart assistants comes from marketing campaigns they see on television, in print, and online. But it turns out that initial usage of smart assistants is influenced the most through first- or second-hand experience, such as:

  • Noticing one in a store and trying out a demo, or taking advantage of a sale
  • Seeing that a friend or family member has one and how it might make their lives easier
  • Realizing in the case of Apple’s Siri that it already comes with newer versions of the iPhone

But simply becoming aware of smart assistants or playing around with one in a store doesn’t tell the whole story.

Consumers are also doing a fair amount of product research as an essential part of their purchase journey, which impacts the purchase timeline every step of the way. Consumers are checking out brand-specific websites and comparing features across brands, watching YouTube videos, reading user reviews, and asking friends and family members for advice or recommendations.

The most important considerations for consumers when doing research are:

  • How well the smart assistant can be integrated into their daily lives
  • Overall purchase convenience
  • Ease of use
  • Price
  • Compatibility with other devices they might use
  • Brand reputation

With consumers doing all this research, you can see how the purchase timeline slows down for some, taking anywhere from a few days to a couple of months, depending if the consumer already knows the product they want (if they happen to be brand loyal) or wants to shop around.

One respondent explained: “I think it took me a week [to decide on purchasing]. I needed a new phone, Siri was fairly new, and I was excited to get my hands on one.”

Another respondent sealed the deal with this rationale: “My initial purchase was through Amazon’s website. My reason was mostly due to the overwhelming convenience [of purchasing on Amazon], but also the price point.”

Ease of purchase tracks with where consumers tend to buy their smart assistants: Apple’s Siri from Apple stores or a cell phone provider, Amazon’s Alexa from the Amazon website, and Google Assistant from large retailers like Wal-Mart and Best Buy.

Convenience rules the day

It might go without saying that making things “simpler” and “more convenient” are smart assistants’ whole reason for being, but what does that really look like in day-to-day living?

Consumers use their smart assistants daily via voice commands because it provides the hands-free flexibility they need to think about, plan, and enhance their day, as well as to multi-task. In other words, smart assistants easily take care of the little things that add up over time and would otherwise require some physical effort to complete.

No matter which smart assistant product consumers have, the most-used features are:

  • Checking the weather
  • Setting reminders
  • Playing music
  • Getting directions
  • Making lists
  • Creating household efficiencies
  • Checking traffic

One respondent confirmed: “The features I use the most are to set appointments, reminders, and alarms. This helps me with everyday life and keeps me up on my daily tasks.”

But the least-used smart assistant features turn out to be the ones that consumers can actually do more easily on their own or with other smart devices.

For example, Amazon Alexa users think that making purchases from their smart assistant and downloading skills aren’t as important because these features don’t improve their lives. Apple’s Siri users don’t use the news feature because they want in-depth news stories from other sources, and they don’t use the smart home features either because they don’t have other compatible devices. Google Assistant users rarely use their smart assistant to communicate with others since it doesn’t seem convenient, and they don’t use the smart home features either since they, too, lack compatible devices for them.

Another respondent shared this tidbit: “Honestly, I would say I use the call feature the least because I just make the calls on my cell phone.”

The time of day makes a difference in usage, too. Though consumers use their smart assistants daily, how they are used differs based on when they are used. In general, the mornings are for gathering and sorting information, when consumers use their smart assistants to check the headlines, weather, appointments, calendars, and current traffic reports. The evenings are for relaxation and entertainment, when consumers use their smart assistants to play music or movies, control settings in their homes, and set reminders or update their calendars for the following day.

Smart assistants are a hit for some, but will they be for everyone?

There’s no denying that smart assistants provide value to the consumers who have tried them out, and while some say they don’t absolutely need their smart assistant, they would still miss it if it went away.

Users of all three smart assistant brands already do and will continue to recommend the products to others. Overall, they believe that smart assistants have made their lives easier and more convenient while also saving them time. They also maintain that smart assistants are helpful for the whole family and provide entertainment at a decent price point.

But our research revealed that there are definite pain points that need to be addressed and improvements that need to be made if companies want to expand smart assistant usage to a wider audience.

And since understanding the customer journey is the jumping-off point for product innovation and marketing strategies, smart assistant companies can use this knowledge to make sure product awareness grows and that their product continually evolves to meet customer needs and expectations.

Download the full report to get a more in-depth look at what motivates consumers to start using smart assistants and how they are being used throughout the day.

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© 2019 GutCheck is a registered trademark of Brainyak, Inc. All rights reserved.