“Alexa, play Frozen music.” That’s how easy it is for a two-year-old (my daughter, in this case) to get what she wants from a voice assistant. Her generation, sometimes called Generation Alpha, may not ever experience the painstaking letter-by-letter search functionality of pointing a remote at a TV screen. They holler for what they want, and it appears.
But are other generations adapting to voice assistants as quickly?
How do different generations view voice assistant technology?
Last year I was lucky to be part of the team that researched and produced the State of the Connected Customer report. We were curious to know what consumers and business buyers thought about voice-activated personal assistants. Were they dismissed as a passing fad or embraced with open arms? I was convinced I knew what the findings would be but was surprised by the data.
Among Traditionalists and baby boomers, 39% say they’ve used a voice assistant to communicate with a company, but only 10% prefer that. For the millennial and Gen Z generations, 67% have communicated with a company via voice assistant, but only 35% say they prefer it.
There’s a noteworthy gap here — a 1.7x difference between these generations to be exact — but I’d assumed a higher percentage of millennials and Gen Zers (my own category) to be on the voice assistant bandwagon.
In the research, we also investigated perspectives of AI-powered technologies at large (voice assistants — of course — is one of these). The response to voice technology was more positive in this instance, with 53% of respondents saying they “like or love” voice-activated personal assistants.
Looking closer at generational groups, millennials and Gen Z are more enthusiastic about voice assistants than Traditionalists and Baby Boomers.
What’s the future of voice assistants?
While voice technology isn’t exactly new, I think it’s still new enough to be just outside the mainstream. But probably not for long.
“The rise of voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant, are leading a fundamental change that will impact every business,” says Peter Schwartz, Salesforce Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning, citing research that forecasts the global voice recognition market will be worth north of $127B by 2024.
“Voice will have a bigger impact on the consumer journey than search did in 2000 and smartphones in 2007,” predicts Vala Afshar, Salesforce Chief Digital Evangelist. He raises interesting points about how voice assistants are already influencing the shopping journey.
PwC suggests we should prepare for the voice revolution. Salesforce announced Einstein Voice last year. Amazon now sells voice-activated microwaves (because of course). Still, there will always be naysayers who think voice assistants are overhyped.
But what about 20 years from now? When my two-year-old is a survey-eligible age, what will Generation Alpha say? My guess is they’ll scratch their heads and ask, “How did you do things before voice assistants?”