Today, over 47 million Americans have access to smart speakers like the Amazon Alexa and Google Home — a staggering 128% increase from 2017, when the devices first spiked in popularity.
But the meteoric rise of the smart speaker doesn’t stop there: Between now and the end of 2019, industry experts say that voice-activated speaker sales are expected to increase 50%, making it a $2.7 billion dollar industry — on pace only with the growth trajectory of the smartphone.
For smart speaker manufacturers, this is obviously encouraging news. But rapid growth in the space is more than just an indication of the demand for shiny new tech toys. It also demonstrates clear consumer desire for more voice-driven experiences.
While Amazon dominated the early smart speaker market, rapid growth in the space has made it challenging for the company to maintain market share to competitors like Google, Apple, and others. In fact, sales of the Google Home jumped 483% at the end of the first quarter of 2018. But in a rapidly changing market, it’s too early to say which brand will win the hearts and minds of consumers.
It’s an exciting time, without a doubt. But with relatively new consumer technology, one can’t help but wonder:
What’s the voice experience like for the user?
If you’ve spent time interacting with a smart speaker or voice-driven application recently, you might already know the answer to that question. While great for playing music and looking up basic information, current voice technology can’t book flights or dinner reservations on demand. In reality, smart speakers still struggle with speech recognition accuracy, and complex conversations with an Amazon Alexa or Google Home have the potential to hit a dead-end.
But here’s the good news: With massive growth in the smart speaker market, that won’t be the status quo for very long.
By 2020, the number of people with a smart speaker is expected to climb to 90 million — a compound annual growth rate of nearly 48%. Combine consumer demand with advances in artificial intelligence — primarily through Google’s intelligent assistant — and there’s no doubt that innovation will follow.
The Growing Demand for Better Voice Experiences
The broad adoption of voice technology by millions of Americans will dramatically change the way people find, consume, and act on information in the years ahead. But make no mistake — voice technology is already making an impact on people’s behavior right now.
According to research from Google, 72% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say that their devices are often used as part of their everyday routine.
That insight is echoed in the results from a survey conducted by AppDynamics in June 2018, which culminated in a report, The Future of Voice Technology in the Enterprise. Based on a survey of 1,000 U.S. millennials and 1,000 IT decision-makers, AppDynamics discovered that adoption of voice technology by millennials was very strong, with 71% reporting that they use voice assistants on a daily basis, and 46% saying they use them five times a day or more. Regardless of whether they use voice assistants to listen to music or search for information, these activities boost familiarity with voice functionality, and alter expectations around the experience overall.
For businesses and IT decision-makers trying to understand how to leverage voice in varied applications as well as monitor its performance, these findings can’t be ignored. If the enterprise wants to deliver better voice experiences tomorrow, it must begin preparing today.
But where do you start? With the consumer.
How to Develop and Execute A Strategy For Winning With Voice
“The heart of strategy is the answer to two fundamental questions: where will you play, and how will you win there?”
― A.G. Lafley, Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works
So much of what we do in business today requires responding to what’s happening right now, as well as planning for what might happen in the future. But without clear ideas about where the market is going, it can be difficult to develop a strategy for driving business outcomes at scale.
In the case of voice, however, demonstrated consumer interest and rapid growth in the space makes the trajectory unambiguous. Consumers are clearly engaging with devices like smart speakers and growing familiar with the functionality. In time, delivering an outstanding voice experience won’t be the exception — it will be the rule.
So, how are most IT decision-makers thinking about voice today? And, perhaps most importantly, what kind of experiences are millennials — the next generation of users of voice-activated technology — expecting?
Here are some of the top-line findings from the AppDynamics report:
- IT-decision-makers see key business benefits from voice. 58% said that voice technology will help their customer base save time.
- Millennials want to make voice a part of their lives. 31% of millennials said they want a voice assistant to comfort them when upset, and surprisingly, 21% want them to provide relationship advice.
- When it comes to voice devices, there’s some misalignment around what enterprises believe consumers want. 57% of enterprises believe that the biggest concern consumers have around voice technology is that it’s too expensive to purchase. However, when the same question was posed to millennials, only 23% were concerned with cost.
Voice Is Here to Stay — How Will Your Business Respond?
One thing is clear: Voice is here to stay. What remains to be seen is how quickly the enterprise will respond to the changes in consumer expectations.
It’s clear consumers have not only incorporated voice-activated devices like smart speakers into their daily routines, but they want more out of them — specifically, accuracy, and more intelligent, conversational interactions. But in order to deliver on both, businesses must first commit to delivering a better voice experience and flawless performance.