Voice-Activated Virtual Assistants Alter Buying Behavior

The rapid rise in popularity of voice-activated virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant is significantly impacting consumer shopping behavior, online search activity, and traditional media consumption, according to a study by Toluna, a provider of on-demand, real-time digital consumer insights.

The Toluna Voice-Activated Virtual Assistant Survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers also found that owning a voice-activated virtual assistant is more likely to impact men's shopping, search, and media consumption behaviors than those of women.

The Toluna Voice-Activated Virtual Assistant Survey uncovered the following trends:

  • More than half (53 percent) of voice-activated virtual assistant owners (and 60 percent of millennials who own them) say that they make fewer in-store purchases after acquiring their voice-activated virtual assistants. Only 12 percent of all voice-activated virtual assistant owners (22 percent of females and 6 percent of males) say that their voice-activated virtual assistants have had no impact on their shopping behavior.
  • More than half of voice-activated virtual assistant owners (51 percent) say they do less research online using traditional web browsers because of their voice-activated virtual assistants. Ten percent of owners say that owning voice-activated virtual assistants has had no effect on their online search behavior, though this number rises slightly among women (14 percent vs. 7 percent of men).
  • Following the acquisition of their voice-activated virtual assistants, six in 10 owners read and watch traditional media channels less frequently. Nearly one-fourth of women (22 percent) say it has had no impact on their media consumption, compared to only 6 percent of men.
  • Consumers are concerned about privacy issues related to voice-activated virtual assistants. Two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) are concerned or very concerned that their personal information is being recorded via their voice-activated virtual assistants. Concern regarding privacy is slightly higher among men (65 percent) than women (61 percent).
  • Those who own voice-activated virtual assistants express greater intensity of concern at their personal information being recorded (46 percent) than those who do not own them (37 percent).
  • Cost, security, and negative perceptions regarding usefulness are the biggest barriers to purchase for consumers who do not currently own voice-activated virtual assistants. Fifty-two percent of all consumers who do not own them (and 60 percent of millennials) cite cost as a barrier to purchase; 32 percent cite security concerns, and 31 percent say they don't need them or think they would use them. Female non-owners say more often they don't need more technology in their life (20 percent vs. 11 percent of men) and men more frequently report security concerns (37 percent vs. 29 percent of women).
  • Despite barriers, voice-activated virtual assistant ownership is poised to grow. Nearly 40 percent of those who do not currently own voice-activated virtual assistants indicated that they plan to purchase one in the future.
  • Nine in 10 of voice-activated virtual assistant owners say that they would recommend to a friend that they purchase a voice-activated virtual assistant.

"As voice-activated virtual assistants become fixtures in homes around the world, it is critical for marketers to understand how the rising popularity of AI technology is shaping consumer behavior," said Frédéric-Charles Petit, CEO and founder of Toluna, in a statement. "While our research shows that these devices have altered the traditional ways consumers research information, consume media, and purchase products, they also create new opportunities for savvy brands to engage customers. Brands must carefully evaluate how their target consumers are leveraging emerging technology and shape their strategies around those insights."

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