Alexa; Show Me What You Got.


Whenever smart-speaker are mentioned in a conversation at work, Dan (our tech and media research director/gadget guru) bemoans the fact that he has been conditioned to only ask his Alexa what he knows it can understand. He also hates that Alexa can’t pick out his favourite Bob Dylan album (that I’ve forgotten already) * and has to settle for a mix of the greatest hits. He’s not alone on this though: people are falling out of love with smart speakers as a result of this role reversal where it feels as though smart speakers are making people work for a response rather than the other way around.

Despite the fact Alexa boasts 15,000 skills (and counting), 1 in 5 UK owners use their voice-activated speaker as an egg timer. Alongside this, they are mainly used to play music, check the time and relay the weather and latest news headlines. It’s not that people are content with the limited commands they currently use. We know from speaking to consumers, that people want more from their smart speaker. A third of smart speaker owners saying they are using it less than expected and 4 in 10 don’t think it offers any practical benefits. So why aren’t people using the range of functions their smart-speaker has to offer?

For me, the idea of ‘positive reinforcement’ springs to mind. That is, people engage in behaviours they’re rewarded for and avoid behaviours they have been punished for. In the case of smart speakers, the correct response to a command or question is the reward. Unfortunately, 57% agree their smart speaker ‘often gives the wrong information or can’t seem to understand’ them. Generally not having their expectations met, people are reluctant to explore other capabilities met and stick to what they know will get a rewarding experience from their smart speakers. 

And this behaviour is reflected in our research, the language barrier is a key reason why owners have abandoned their smart speaker. Those who use it less often blame it on the smart speaker’s inability to understand what they’re saying or process commands correctly. In fact, these less engaged owners say it’s actually easier for them to actually do the task than to ask their smart speakers.

Ultimately, making voice search a rewarding experience for customers is key to successful brand engagement. Instead of leaving customers to learn through trial and error or serendipitous discovery, demonstrate to them they can and show them know how to get a response from their smart speaker other than ‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand’.

* Dan would like to clarify that it was the ‘Blood on the Tracks’ album (obviously)

Katie Grundy