VOICE ASSISTANTS POTENTIAL IN MARKETING

Hi guys, I did this as a paper for one of my classes last semester. I hope you guys like it. All together the project was 3,212 words and took me 3 months to complete. 

            Executive Summary 

            Voice activated assistants are a new product with untapped potential.  This paper will address ways that a company can take advantage of this potential new medium for advertising.  The objectives for this company are exploring how, when, and why people use voice assistants.  The approach that will be taken will be descriptive research, because we are trying to identify characteristics of product usage. The approach when asking questions and accessing information will be qualitative. Most people tend to use the voice assistants for their most basic functions. Often, they use the devices for music or basic web browsing functions. Consumers are starting to use voice assistants to control appliances and other electronics. The three major themes I can take away from my research on social media are: uses of the voice assistants, wants from consumers, and when consumers use the devices. Some of the basic results say that consumers want voice assistants to be improved. Consumers have privacy concerns that their voice assistants are listening in on conversations. Other consumers feel that companies can improve the experience for voice assistants for people that are disabled or multilingual. Overall consumers like the quality of life improvements that voice assistants provide. 

            Opportunities and Research Objectives 

            The opportunity that currently faces the company is the possibility of using voice assistants as a medium to advertise.  To advertise effectively in this space, you have to understand how this space operates.  There are many reasons why companies want to understand the innerworkings of voice assistants as advantageous. Nearly, a third of internet traffic within the next few years will be done by screenless devices such as voice assistants.  These devices are decreasing the effectiveness of visual internet ads because of their screenless nature.  Since less time will be spent on the screen overall, companies have to adjust to this new medium in order to have an audience for their product. There are some voice assistants with a screen. Voice assistant functionality is commonly installed in phones. This will help companies understand how they can evolve with the market.  In order for any marketing firm to be able to break into this space they have to have ads just as effective in the new medium as they were in the older medium.  This means companies have to understand consumer habits and traffic patterns to determine the best placement for the ads.  They want to understand when voice assistants are used so that they can make advertising content-wise more relevant, appropriate, and effective. Understanding when voice assistants are used can also help with placing the ads in more effective time slots.  The company can then divide the advertising budget based on where the need is.  Knowing and understanding the “why, how, and when” will help them become effective in this advertising space and cost efficient.  

            Background 

            Since 2011 companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon have been competing in the voice assistant market. This industry is currently coming to fruition and continuing to grow. Competition is tight because consumers are looking for the next smart speaker all the time. Since these devices are priced at an affordable price competition is much fiercer than in most other device markets. Many other companies are trying to create their own voice assistants. An example of the ever-increasing competition in this space is Samsung creating their own voice assistant called “Bixbi” for the Galaxy S9. I personally use all three of the major voice assistants (Alexa, Suri, and Google). Amazon is constantly working on increasing the intelligence of the AI for Alexa. There is even a system for the consumer to directly train and talk to Alexa’s AI. The command for this is “Alexa let’s talk”. Companies are continuing to improve the capabilities of these devices. 

            Voice assistants more than ever are becoming more advanced and more integral to consumer lives. These assistants started out with basic functions such as internet search and playing music. Now these devices can control the lights, appliances, temperature, and more. Voice assistants are being integrated into more and more services. Consumers want to be able to do more with these devices. The companies that create voice assistants offer combability between the device and other services. Alexa is paired with Spotify so that any user with a Spotify premium account can listen to music ad free. Google makes the devices have a seamless transition between the in-home voice assistant and the phone version of the assistant. 

            Although most of the voice assistants themselves are affordable many of their accessories are seen as unneeded. Many of the voiced activated assistant controllable devices are usally bought if the consumer really needs an upgrade. I noticed many of these people do not use the extended functions of these devices just because they do not have the money to buy all the compatible systems. The light switches that can be controlled by the voice activated assistants for example can be more expensive than a normal light switch. There is a chance that consumers could accidently buy an ad on that was only compatible with one voice assistant and not another. The use of the voice assistant depends on the wealth of the consumer and the needs currently in their home. Customers like the idea of a device that can be a one stop shop for controlling all their devices. 

            From my knowledge no other company has advertised on the voice assistant platform. There are some voice assistants with a screen such as the assistants intergraded into phones. Companies are starting to add screens to some voice assistants. From what I can tell consumers prefer screenless voice assistants (excluding phone assistants and interfaces). Many companies also have given the ability for the voice assistant to have a visual interface in the consumer’s phone. Consumers seem to like the fact that they can control the voice assistant from their phone. I see new features added to the interface for Alexa’s echo dot and Google’s voice assistant often. 

            The competition in this market is cut-throat. Companies are in a constant rush to get a new feature or product out. These companies are trying to make it easier and easier to add these devices to consumer lives. Consumers have their own opinions on how voice assistants should work and how intelligent they should be. Consumers can easily buy a different voice assistant if they want to “upgrade”. These companies are trying to juggle what they think they should do internally. Advertising in this space would be limited at first because companies want the consumers to have a seamless experience. 

          Collection and Thematic Analysis of Social Media Examples 

            People seem to usally use the voice assistants primarily for listening to music. Consumers appreciate other functions of the devices, but they tend to gravitate toward playing music. Alexa seems to be used most commonly for listening to music. Suri is often used for the weather and other phone-oriented actions. Suri is associated more with tasks than the other voice activated devices. The Google assistant is used largely for music, basic searches, accessing Google services, and the news. Although consumers appreciate the additions to these devices over the years, consumers in the wider market are not using a lot of the functions that they paid for. This is not necessarily a problem. It is easier to advertise on web-based functions. Playing ads between songs on these devices might be one way for companies to integrate advertising.  Amazon (especially) creates a lot of ads showing the various functions for Alexa outside of playing music and internet browsing. I learned from scrolling on twitter that voice assistants are also used on social media to help the disabled. These voice assistants are used differently than other’s like Alexa. I have seen many reviews on various platforms such as Twitter, You-tube, Instagram, and Facebook that have an overall positive outlook. There are debates on which voice assistant is better. 

            There are some problems with voice assistants and how they are received by consumers. Some of the voice assistants (especially Alexa) have trouble with some of the internet browsing functions. Alexa often refers to Amazon reviews instead of going onto the actual internet. Consumers are always on the hunt for a smarter device to help them with everyday tasks. There are also privacy concerns about these devices on the consumer end. The microphones on these devices are on all the time unless you manually turn them off. Even though with most voice assistant’s privacy is one button away, the function is forgettable. A lot of the concerns I’ve noticed stream from the Amazon Alexa. Some people have just spoken about getting something and then it turns up in the recommended shopping list on Amazon. Some consumers think this is efficient, but others get a little spooked. Consumers are looking for greater privacy and are wanting smarter devices. Sometimes both do not go hand and hand. The three major themes I can take away from my research on social media are: uses of the voice assistants, wants from consumers, and when consumers use the devices. 

            I watched multiple different video reviews of some voice assistants on You-Tube for my analysis. One of the videos was of the Google Nest Home mini. This video talked about the product and features of the product. The narrator made sure to note how to turn the microphone off on the voice assistant. He still mentioned that the sound quality was better than the earlier Google voice assistants. He wanted better sound quality from the speaker. The narrator also mentioned that you can hook up the Nest mini to different speaker systems. This gives us an idea of what he wants as a consumer. A video like this gives greater insight to one major feature consumers would like: better sound quality. This video shows customer wants. 

            The second video showed the narrator changing the lights using his device. He talked about other things with the voice assistant. The major takeaway from the video however was the quality of life improvements that the Alexa helped with. This video was an excellent example of when consumers use these devices. 

            The third video I watched was about the features of Alexa. At one point in the video the narrator says “She does much more than just play music.” He spoke about how seamless set up was for the device. He shows you how to generally pair up devices using the Alexa app on the smart phone, that is integrated with the speaker. This video showed uses of the Alexa voice assistant. 

            I found a Facebook post that perfectly conveys the wants about privacy that consumers want. It talks about how voice assistants snoop and they share an article about a gadget that helps keep the voice assistant from listening all the time. There are posts sprinkled throughout social media that address customer wants for better privacy on these devices. 

            I found a string of different tweets all addressing the use of voice assistants for people that have disabilities so that they can use social media. This certain tweet was addressing people not to use certain fonts because the voice assistant cannot recognize them properly. This helps us  understand what consumers use voices assistants for on social media. Consumers use voice assistants on social media when they need to understand something in someone’s bio or cannot read it for themselves. 

            Another tweet I saw addressed some wants on the consumer end. They wanted voice assistants to have better understanding of slang terms. This tweet also addressed that they wanted the voice assistants to be multi-lingual. 

            I watched another You-Tube video. This video was about the different uses of the Google home devices. Some of the uses were more common knowledge and some of them were not. This video also helps the consumer understand how integrated the Google system can be. 

            Focus group research plan 

            This is descriptive research design, because we are trying to figure out how voice assistants are being used, when they are used, and wants on the consumer end. Exploratory research design is used as a precursor to descriptive research design. Since, we already know the research priorities and opportunities, we are not using a form of exploratory research design. Understanding what consumer’s want from voice speakers will allow us to determine what potential advertising spots are next. We are focusing on the qualitative aspects because this is more in depth than just functions of the devices. The amount of focus group members that I would recommend would be 150, divided into groups of no more than 15. Each focus group should consist of members of one particular region or city. The focus groups will be conducted at 10 major cities in the United States. Each of the participants has to use a voice activated assistant to be eligible and the more assistants they use the better.  The method of recruiting will be online advertisements. In the focus groups we will use a verbal communication for obtaining information once the participant is accepted. We will put out advertisements targeted to specific people. They will be within a given area we want the particular focus group in. We are advertising area by area to prevent overlap of applicants. The focus groups will be conducted on the weekend so that less people have to take time off work to take part. The focus groups will be real time and take place online through a virtual chat room. The method used is being online. We are doing this online because people might feel more at ease and it is more convenient. I feel that participants will be more honest about their products if they feel comfortable. We also can recruit more participants online versus in-person. Length-wise the focus group will roughly talk for about two hours, but it will not necessarily be timed. This is so that participants feel like they have their voices heard and have very little pressure on them. The moderator needs to have a degree in a field such as communications, phycology, or experience in one of these two fields. Moderator’s need excellent soft-skills and problem-solving skills. 

            The discussion guide that is used for the research will be used to guide the discussion. One of the first questions that will be asked is “What do you usually use your voice assistant for?” This is one of the main objectives we need to identify and it is an easy question to ask right from the start of the discussion.  Participants answering this question will help determine the actual uses they use their voice assistants for. We are trying to gauge how the voice assistants are used before most of the other questions. This is because in order to understand when someone uses something you need to know what they use it for. Another question to be asked is “Is there a specific time or situation that you use your device for more than others?”. This will help clue us in to when users use these devices. We will be able to see if there is any time stamp pattern with the responses or if they occur around the need for the device in the moment. Another question that will be asked is, “Is there anything more your device could offer?” This will allow us to determine early if there might be any future features added to these devices and help us to take advantage of it as soon as it arrives. This will also clue us into how the current platform might adjust to consumer demand. The final question would be “Is there any concern or feelings you want to share about how the voice assistants operate?” This will help us gauge the level of privacy that consumers want and help us understand more of how the voice assistants operate. This will help us understand if certain functions are not as accurate as others. The copy of the discussion guide is in the appendices. 

            Participants might not open up fully about some of their uses of the devices. If there is anything they use the devices for that could be considered uncouth they might not address it. In order for this to be addressed participants need to feel comfortable. This is why we are doing this online, so that participants are in their own element. Some participants might be shy addressing when they use the device or not even know. They might answer “Whenever I need to.” This is a fine response as well, although we are looking for more of a time specific response along with a need-based response. I remedy this by asking a time specific question afterwards. Participants need to be lightly encouraged to try to put a time stamp on their activities with the device. We are limited by how honest and thorough the participants are. 

            

Voice Assistants focus group #1 

Moderator’s Guide 

Introduction 

            Process 

            2 hours 

            Informal, unstructured. 

            Videotaping for other researchers, confidential 

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VOICE ASSITANTS 

            How do you feel about voice assistants? 

USES OF VOICE ASSISTANTS 

            Do you feel that your voice assistant is helpful or useful (general)?  

            What do you usually use your voice assistant for? 

WHEN THE ASSISTANTS ARE USED 

            Is there is specific time or situation you use your device for more than others? 

            Do you use this device during a certain time of day? 

COMPETITION 

            Which voice assistant do you think is the best? 

            What features attract you to the voice assistants the most? 

WANTS AND NEEDS 

            Is there anything more your device could offer? 

            What could make you happier with your current device? 

            Is there anything that you need to be able to do on your device, that is currently not available? 

            Is there any concern or feelings you want to share about how the voice assistants operate? 

IDEAL VOICE ASSISTANT 

            Design 

            Compatibility 

            Usefulness 

BEST THING ABOUT VOICE ASSISTANTS 

            What made you buy a voice assistant in the first place? 

            What products currently in the market do you feel are the best voice assistants? 

            What is your favorite thing about your voice assistant? 

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SUMMARY OF DISCUSSION 

THANKS AND GOODNIGHT 

            

            

            

Social media examples 

Tech Spurt, Google Nest Mini (2019) | Setup & Review. YouTube, October 17, 2019. Retrieved   from https://youtu.be/ezBFoaUcr8k 

Babbling Boolean, Amazon Echo Dot (2nd Gen) Review. YouTube, July 24, 2017.  Retrieved       from https://youtu.be/uc6LSauX47A 

Recombu, How to Setup and Use Alexa. YouTube, Dec 20, 2018. Retrieved from             https://youtu.be/q3LIghHhoxE 

Practical Insecurity, “I remain skeptical of the possibility of shielding privacy at all from these     devices. Nevertheless, there are some interesting things here...” Facebook, August 26,         2019. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/lmpt4b/posts/3185861951520942 

Olya (@REMSKISSY), “please take out the fonts from ur display name or/and bio. disabled        people have to use voice assistants and they can’t read fancy fonts, so be kind and         respectful…” Twitter, September 21, 2020. Retrieved from        https://twitter.com/REMSKISSY/status/1308044771550785541 

Slang Labs (@SlangLabs), “Trying to reach out to the Next Billion Users? Seeing a lot of new     users from tier 2 & tier 3 cities? Voice Assistants can help to get things done in an app            for them. Pro Tip: Don't forget to make these voice assistants multilingual.” Twitter September 25, 2020. Retrieved from             https://twitter.com/SlangLabs/status/1309435078121066496 

6 Months Later Reviews, Google Home Devices: Top 6 Features. YouTube December 24, 2017. 

            Retrieved from https://youtu.be/HDUl-TpObVc

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