Not so ‘OK Google’… a third of consumers put off by speaking commands out loud to Voice Assistant Technology

New IPA report tracks rise, risks and opportunities of Voice Assistant Technology revealing that almost a third of consumers (29%) are put off using Voice Assistants because they don’t like the idea of speaking commands out loud, with women more perturbed than men (33 vs 25%).

Almost a third of consumers (29%) are put off using Voice Assistants because they don’t like the idea of speaking commands out loud, with women more perturbed than men (33 vs 25%).

This is just one of the key findings from the IPA’s unique research into the rise of Voice Assistant Technology which looks at whether there is real consumer appetite for this kind of technology; who is interested based on gender, age, generation and social grade; what they want to do with it; and what the prospects are for greater adoption in the future. The new report feeds into IPA President Sarah Golding’s agenda that looks at the interplay between humans and machines.

Says Francesca Ashcroft, Insight Manager, IPA: “The last 12 months have seen voice activated appliances launch into the mainstream like never before, with brands including Amazon, Google and Microsoft all vying for supremacy in the ever burgeoning voice market. Indeed, what originally started out as a rather whimsical piece of software hosted on our smartphones - we call to mind the arrival of Siri on the Apple iPhone 4S in 2011 - has now developed into a potential catalyst for change in regards to how we interact with brands, products, services – and each other.”

Key report highlights, based on 1,001 GB respondents aged 16+:

Around a quarter (26%) of the sample report have used voice assistant (VA) technology. A further 20% who have not yet used a VA are interested in using one in future. Unsurprisingly, usage is skewed toward the younger generation. 16-24s report the highest uptake (51%), followed by 25-34s (27%).

  • Siri (Apple) is the most commonly used VA, having been previously accessed by more than half (52%) of users. The second most commonly used application is Google Assistant (32%), while Alexa (Amazon Echo) and Microsoft Cortana are used by 27% respectively. 
  • Users are most interested in VA technology as a means “to entertain” – three quarters agree that they are interested in it providing this (compared to 39% of the total sample). 65% of users (36% of the total sample) are interested in using the technology to control home appliances; 56% of users (33% of the total sample) are interested in using the technology to book services; and 42% of users (25% of the total sample) report to being interested in using Voice Assistants to order groceries. Again, interest levels across all these possible functionalities peak amongst the youngest demographics.
  • We find that half (54%) of our sample indicate they have not used voice assistant technology and are not interested in doing so in future. The principal reason is that they do not see how they can benefit from the technology (more than a half of non-interested respondents select this as a reason).
  • In addition to 29% consumers not liking the idea of speaking out loud to VAT (as outlined above), security is also an issue. A quarter of these respondents “worry about the security of using it”, a figure which rises to 31% among 25-34s (followed by 27% of 35-44s). Disinterested parties aged 16-24 exhibit the least worry when it comes to security – only 16% agree that this is a factor behind their lack of interest in VA at present.
  • Non-interested AB social grades are far more likely than other social grades to say they cannot see any benefit (63%). Conversely, DE social grades are more likely to be concerned about the technology’s ability to understand them (17%). Those in social grade C1 are the most likely to doubt the capability of the technology to successfully complete tasks (15%).
  • At present, VA usage correlates strongly with the home with 84% of users most comfortable using the technology at home.
  • Comfort with using VA at work remains low among all age groups, though it does find its peak among those aged 45-54 (14% indicating they would be comfortable using it within their workspace).
  • With many VA technologies requiring a microphone to be constantly left on in order to function adequately, the research finds that 7 in 10 users are either comfortable or neutral with this prerequisite. However, across the total sample, this figure drops to around 4 in 10. Baby Boomers (71%) and Gen X (61%) display the most discomfort in contrast to 43% of Gen Y who indicate likewise.
  • Almost 60% of all respondents agree with the statement “I would be concerned about how my voice print would be used by companies”, with females more inclined to agree than males. Elsewhere, around 38% of VA users agree that “voice prints are as secure as other forms of biometric identification (e.g. fingerprints, eye-scanning)” – a figure which almost halves when taking into account the total sample.

Says Nigel Gwilliam, Consultant Head of Media and Emerging Tech, IPA: “This research reveals a fascinating, benchmark as to where consumers’ heads are with voice assistant technology.

“The more optimistic predictions are that as soon as 2018, 30% of our interactions with technology will be “conversations” with smart machines. A year after this figure was published – and in light of these latest IPA findings - it feels a little high a little soon, however the implications for very significant voice UI share remain crucial.

“It’ll be interesting to chart how consumer sentiment and usage changes over the coming years and how brands lead, follow or adapt to this.”

The report is available to purchase here (it is free to IPA members).

Read more on the IPA's voice assistant research on The Drum's Brand Tech column.

Last updated 21 January 2022