Voice Control Represents New Frontier For Tech

Consumers are intrigued with the idea of controlling everything with their devices, and now is the time to lock them into a platform for long-term brand loyalty. 

According to new research from Mintel, just about a third of Americans (31%) own or would like to own a voice-controlled personal assistant (like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’ Home Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s Bixby, or Microsoft’s Cortana). The ready acceptance of voice-control could fundamentally change consumers’ relationship with technology, says Billy Hulkower, senior technology and media analyst at Mintel. 

“We’re going to become much less screen-focused,” Hulkower tells Marketing Daily. “The number of times we’re going to pull out a smartphone or tablet or laptop will become more and more limited.”

The growing digital assistant market also presents an opportunity for brands to create long-term loyalty among consumers. For the makers of those devices, the difference maker will lie in the devices’ efficacy, rather than their marketing, Hulkower says. 

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“Part of why [Amazon’s] Echo gained so much traction isn’t because of an ad, it’s because we went to a friend’s house and saw it work,” Hulkower says. “That’s what’s going to drive loyalty. If your digital assistant consistently picks bad restaurants, you’re going to look around for something else.”

Among smart-home devices, smart thermostats are the most popular, with 37% of Americans already owning or interested in owning a device, according to the research. While he didn’t have a definitive reason for the devices’ popularity, Hulkower suggests efficacy, coupled with the tangible benefits of saving money, may be a factors. 

“Part of it is people are buying into the idea of it saving them money,” he says. “Part of it may be that enough early adopters got it and people saw how it worked.”

Showing off the tangible cost benefits of smart home devices could be the key to broadening their market penetration, Hulkower says. The prospect of energy efficiency appeals to consumers, with one-third of them (33%) saying the extra cost for energy efficient devices is worth it. That sentiment holds true particularly among older Americans, with half of those 75 and older saying saving energy is a moral obligation, and are thus more interested in learning about new products that use less energy. 

“The older generation is not particularly interested in adoption for the sake of adoption,” Hulkower says. “So the pitch has to be, ‘If you buy this thermostat, we can make a close approximation of how much it will change your energy bill.”