Adobe survey finds digital assistants, smart speakers are popular with shoppers

We have some new intel on the ever-widening war to gain consumers’ hearts and minds in the months leading up to the critical holiday shopping season. It turns out that Adobe surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. consumers and found out that voice assistants and smart speakers are increasingly… popular.

There aren’t any real bombshells in the new survey but the data does overwhelmingly show that people are getting more comfortable using their smart speakers — and it’s a trend that is only going to swell in the coming months. For starters, Adobe projects that after the upcoming holidays, nearly half of all consumers will own a smart speaker.

In terms of usage, Adobe’s findings are pretty consistent with what industry analysts have been finding for a while — most people are using voice assistants and smart speakers essentially like a glorified clock radio, with their primary activities dedicated to playing music, checking the weather, and setting alarms or reminders. A slightly smaller sample are using the devices for what Adobe deemed “bite-sized” information, such as directions, sports score, checking traffic, or asking the fun questions that must amuse the designers to death.

Adobe also identified quite a few activities as “emerging use,” including smart home commands, shopping for and ordering items, food delivery, and what seems like a weird outlier, “making calls.”

As predicted by just about every analyst watching the market, smart speaker ownership is on the rise as well, with 32 percent of consumers owning a smart speaker as of August 2018, compared to 28 percent in January, meaning the market has grown nearly 15 percent in less than a year. Adobe calls this growth “considerable,” given that nearly 80 percent of smart speaker sales occur in the fourth quarter.

Fortunately for behemoths like Google and Amazon, people are also less weirded out by talking to a machine, it seems. After what Adobe postulated was a period of transition, 72 percent of owners say they’re comfortable using voice commands in front of others, versus an acceptance rate of less than 30 percent among non-owners.

Conversely, 76 percent of smart speaker owners increased their use of voice assistants in the past year, and more than 70 percent of smart speaker owners say they use the devices at least daily, with 44 percent saying they use them multiple times in a day.

The big hurdle for manufacturers, and more specifically for the sales platforms that drive their business, is adoption of these devices for buying stuff. However, Adobe’s survey does reflect a growing status for voice assistants and smart speakers in the so-called “shopping journey,” as nearly half of all respondents use these devices to search for and research products, while 43 percent use them to create shopping lists and more than a third are using them to compare prices.

We’ll see how these trends develop as the technology evolves but the fact remains that more smart speakers are coming online. Forty-five percent of smart speaker owners reported plans to buy an additional smart speaker for themselves this holiday season, while nearly a quarter of owners plan to buy one for someone else. Even among non-owners, nearly a quarter of respondents reported plans to buy one for themselves this holiday season.

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