There’s a race heating up in the world of artificial intelligence, and it involves smartphones, consumers, and their voices. Voice-activated smartphone apps use a combination of artificial intelligence, cloud-based natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to power their services – and with all the buzz around these apps like Siri and Alexa, it’s clear that tech giants are competing for yet another area of consumer attention.
While this is currently a small share of the app landscape, it’s also a rapidly evolving and expanding one, and includes apps such as Microsoft’s Cortana and a constellation of apps from Google, like Allo and Google Now. But what type of consumers are actually using them? And what are they using them for? Does voice guided user interfaces, and cloud-based AI apps, provide for the fourth big disruption in the world of the Internet — the first ones being the birth of the world wide web, the second being the rise of social media, and the third being the emergence of mobile apps?
Who’s using personal assistant apps? The average user a 52-year-old woman
According to Verto’s data on the user base of AI-powered personal assistant apps on mobile devices, the personal assistant “superuser” – someone who spends more than twice the average user’s monthly time spent on personal assistant apps – is a 52-year-old woman who spends 1.5 hours per month with personal assistant apps.
In fact, personal assistant apps seem to be more popular among women overall: Verto’s data shows that women (54% of total user base) use personal assistant apps slightly more frequently than men. And interestingly, there is a trend toward personal assistant app usage in older age groups, especially adults in the 45-54 and 55-plus age groups. Based on use cases and ease of functionality, these apps could see wider adoption in older generation as voice-activated apps become integral to assisted living communities. While most apps generate buzz or downloads from groups like millennials or Gen Z, personal assistant app users do not conform to typical “early adopter” consumer profiles, despite being a relatively new app category.
Personal assistant app behavior varies across genders
In a follow-up survey to better understand why consumers use personal assistant apps, and if these use cases differ across different gender or age demographics, results show personal assistant app usage remains highly utilitarian. A majority (71%) of respondents indicated that asking a question or searching for something specific was one of their primary reasons for using a personal assistant app. This use case was particularly popular among women (who comprise 61% of respondents), and especially among women under the age of 30 (27%) and women over the age of 55 (12%). In contrast, men under the age of 30 comprised just 7% of respondents who cited asking questions or searching for something specific as one of their primary reasons for using personal assistant apps, while men over the age of 55 comprised just 8% or respondents.
Other (but not as popular) reasons for using personal assistant apps include initiating a call or text message or to check the weather. So whether it’s a mobile app or physical device, consumers haven’t fully embraced the idea of a personal assistant into their daily lives, and this presents a challenge for companies like Amazon and Google to continue enhancing their platforms and create the desired need in the market. At the same time, competitors like Apple see this gap as an opportunity to enter the race with their own services in attempts to become the complete, all-in-one packaged personal assistant for consumers.
What does this mean for assistant app publishers?
Think about the early stages of Instagram, Twitter, or even a music streaming service – most of these apps it took a while to become fully integrated into our lives. Now, these apps have become crucial platforms for publishers to deliver targeted content based on consumer use. For personal assistant app publishers, it appears that there’s still a long way to go before consumers (of any gender or age group) begins adopting assistant apps more comprehensively throughout their daily digital behaviors.
But even in this nascent stage of the market, some clear consumer preferences are starting to emerge, and as data shows, we can map these preferences and behaviors to distinct consumer demographic groups. With women seemingly embracing personal assistant apps more than their male counterparts, and on both sides of the age spectrum, publishers, brands, and advertisers could take advantage of this opportunity to create unique experiences to these specific groups. Using AI to power these apps allows companies to offer personalized content for each individual user and execute different campaigns at varying times of the day, based on peak usage and engagement.
However, we still need to remember, in light of all of the data, that personal assistant apps and devices, are still living their first era – it is mostly early-adopter users who use them actively, with high frequency. Like many successful technologies, they already show significant potential to replace and reshape many widely and frequently needed tasks and actions, so we need to keep an eye on this evolution going forward!
Dr. Hannu Verkasalo is the CEO of Verto Analytics, a pioneer in digital multiscreen media measurement services.