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Voice Assistants Poised To Be The Next Tech Disruptor

Voice assistant technology isn’t a new concept, but with advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, adoption has grown in recent years. In turn, competition in the voice-enabled device market is starting to heat up, according to an analysis by Adobe Digital Insights (ADI).

The 2016 holiday season, during which voice assistant devices proved to be a popular gift item, bears that out. Nonproprietary online unit sales of the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices increased dramatically in November and December. Outside of the holiday season, the number of units sold has seen an increase of 39% year over year (YoY).

“This indicates that devices sales are performing well but have not yet become a standard household purchase,” said Trevor Jones, an analyst at ADI.

ADI’s analysis is based on 14.3 billion visits to online retailers from May 2016 to May 2017, measured by Adobe Analytics Cloud, and 14.5 million social mentions around voice assistants and voice assistant devices, tracked by Adobe Marketing Cloud. Additionally, ADI surveyed 397 consumers about voice assistants.

Google Home Brings In The Cash, But Echo Dot Takes Lead In Units
According to ADI, Google Home’s release in early November helped spur huge holiday sales, selling more units than the Amazon Echo Dot (by a marginal 3%) over the course of the holidays at nonproprietary retailers. It has since lost ground to the Echo Dot but maintains its lead over the more expensive Echo.

In terms of revenue, however, Google Home maintains a steady lead over all other devices both during and after the holiday at nonproprietary retailers. “People appear to gravitate toward the cheaper price point of the Echo Dot, but, at the end of the day, the more expensive Google Home is bringing in the money,” Jones told CMO.com.

Not only are the devices selling well, but they are also building a strong community for content creators online. There are currently 778,000 connections to voice assistants on IFTTT (a site that facilitates the customization of internet-connected devices), and that number is growing each year. These types of sites are helping to drive excitement and increased use of voice assistant devices, such as smarthome speakers.

The Growth Opportunity
Even with booming holiday sales and growth on sites like IFTTT, the voice assistant market has plenty of room for improvement. Outside of the holiday season, unit sales have seen a respectable 39% growth YoY–but ADI’s consumer survey found that 49% of U.S. consumers don’t use voice assistants. Half of the potential market still needs convincing that voice assistants are the wave of the future, and companies need to ensure that newcomers have a positive first impression.

Thirty-seven percent of U.S. consumers reported that their experiences with voice assistants are not up to par with their standards. The excitement for the devices is there, and sales are growing, but improving customer delight could lead to a healthy increase in sales.

Using Social To Predict Success
The masses became excited when Google Assistant was released on the iPhone (in direct competition to Siri). Overall, however, Siri is the only voice assistant that maintains a steady stream of social buzz. Samsung’s Bixby announcement in March captured a small amount of attention, but consumers have been frustrated by the pushing of the U.S. launch and appear to have lost interest.

“[Bixby] has not seen the same amount of mentions that Google Assistant or Siri have generated during their releases and updates,” Jones said. “This indicates a general lack of excitement and awareness, and doesn’t bode well for the new assistant technology.”

On a similar note, Harman Kardon’s new Invoke (with Cortana) failed to generate any significant social buzz at its announcement last month. Only time will tell whether these new technologies and devices will be able to compete in the market, but the initial outlook does not look promising.

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