Consumers Don't Use Voice-Controlled Assistants Daily

User experience and accuracy have room for improvement

Author: Krista Garcia

October 16, 2018

Consumers are becoming accustomed to using voice commands, but it's still a minority who use them regularly. 

According to an August 2018 Social Lens survey, 70% of US internet users have ever used a voice command on any device, though that figure drops to one-third for those who use them as part of their daily routine. Privacy concerns (55%) was the leading reason users haven't used voice commands more, while 36% are hesitant because the results are often inaccurate.

The inaccuracy problem varies by device, though. According to the respondents, smart speakers understand a request 82% of the time. Smart TVs, game consoles and smartphones were said to get a request right roughly three-fourths of the time, while users had disappointing results with tablets more often. 

The leading ways consumers used voice commands were getting directions (63%), making a phone call (60%) and listening to music (56%). Broader commerce queries were more common than discrete shopping tasks, since there is higher a likelihood of being misunderstood with more specific questions. Commands like finding a nearby store (40%) and getting store hours (32%) were conducted more frequently than finding a new product (25%), comparing prices (16%) or purchasing a new product (10%). Interestingly, re-purchasing a product, an action that would seem to lend itself to voice commerce, had the lowest usage (8%).

Loup Ventures tested four smartphone assistants using different types of questions. Each had their strengths and weaknesses. For commerce-related queries, Google Assistant (77%) outperformed Siri (60%), Alexa (44%) and Cortana (20%). All were more accurate for store location questions compared with requests for re-ordering products. 

Social Lens also found a correlation between frequency of voice command usage and likelihood of owning a smart device. For example, 29% of daily voice command users own a smart speaker, whereas only 8% of occasional voice command users own one. There is a smaller gap between daily users and laggards who own smartphones. This makes sense, since smartphone ownership is mainstream, and Siri and Google Assistant have been integrated on phones for some time.

It remains to be seen whether voice commerce will take off when (and if) smart speakers are adopted at higher levels. By the end of 2018, we estimate there will be 17.2 million US smart speaker voice buyers, making up 28.2% of US smart speaker users. That figure will rise to roughly one-third of US smart speaker users by 2020. 

Consumers are still skeptical about the usefulness of voice commerce. A May 2018 RichRelevance survey found a majority (63.3%) didn't trust any of the voice assistants currently available to get shopping-related tasks right. The user experience on smart devices will likely have to improve before consumers turn to them for regular assistance.