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ACCENTURE STRATEGY


July 09, 2018
Digital voice assistants: Disrupting the disruptors, and probably you next
By: Kevan Yalowitz

Digital voice assistants (DVAs) are not a fad. According to Accenture’s 2018 Digital Consumer Survey of 21,000 internet users, 21 percent of US respondents own a standalone digital voice assistant device and an additional 28 percent plan to buy one in the next year.1


By 2019, nearly half of the US population will own a DVA device.

This trend is not limited to the US. While the current installed base in developing markets such as China, India, and Mexico is lower (an average of 14 percent), purchase intent matches or exceeds that of the US.2 It’s clear that DVAs have expanded well beyond early adopters and are very much here to stay.

This begs an important question: How much are people actually using DVAs?

Our global study indicates that 37 percent of DVA owners use the device multiple times per day. In the US, DVAs have become even more integrated into daily life, with 56 percent of owners using the device daily.3 We expect these numbers to continue to climb as penetration increases and the underlying AI capabilities become more robust.

DVAs remain virtually non-existent in the workplace. While leading DVA platforms have not been focused on this segment and enterprises have been reticent to adopt emerging DVA technology, this represents a blue ocean opportunity for voice assistance. Use cases abound, from scheduling to travel booking.

Where is all the time going?

An internal Accenture Strategy study of 2,000 internet users evaluated the overlap between how Americans spend their time throughout the day and the types digital activities being performed. We found a desire for assistance in two major categories:

  • Information searches, which represented 44 percent of all daily searches.4
  • Functional searches, such as creating a reminder or calendar event.

Functional searches are especially popular among working parents and millennials without kids. They are highly likely to use DVAs to stitch together their daily lives with reminders and to-dos especially when in transit or doing household chores. (About 15 percent of the average 24-hour day for an American, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.5) Tasks and searches done by DVAs are impacting the frequency with which users conduct these activities on smartphones. Globally, 56 percent of consumers said they use their smartphone less for general information searches as a result of owning a DVA device.6

Shift of power: From search engines to DVAs

The shift from browser search to DVA search could have massive economic consequences. In today’s market, search drives the vast majority of online advertising revenue. The rising use of DVA suggests a massive transfer of value from existing search players—the original internet disruptors—to other platforms. Existing search platforms are developing their own voice assistant offerings, having recognized the potential existential threat. There is no clear winner today, but what is certain is that DVA will be one of the most important battles of our time in the internet space.

DVA disruption spans beyond just the major platforms. Any company that interfaces with consumers via the internet is at risk. Virtually all platforms and websites will need to build integrations with DVAs or risk being unfindable in this new paradigm. Restaurant reviews, concert tickets, real estate listings, and productivity tools are a few examples of platforms and services that could be left behind without the proper DVA experience. This will enable the DVA platforms with the most scale to accrue significant influence over the content that users can discover, and therefore future winners and losers.

Winning the enterprise is a potential wild card that could enable a dark horse. Usage of DVAs is correlated with number of integrations and potential touch points that a given user has. Time spent at work represents 25 percent of a person’s waking hours.7 Developing uses cases for DVAs to be used at work will likely drive significantly increased adoption and engagement with DVA platforms.

All digital companies should be developing a strategy for DVAs

Identify how your customers are, or are not, likely to use DVAs. Understand the use cases for which your product could be used via DVAs. Based on these findings, prioritize building a DVA experience and remain nimble enough to change course if you find that DVA users are consuming your product in a different way than you envisioned. DVA adoption in the enterprise will in parallel change how work is done and disrupt workflows such as those managed by executive assistants.

The digital relationship of the future

Digital voice assistants are not 3D TVs—they are already broadly penetrated and will increasingly be used by consumers. DVAs are replacing searches and online actions otherwise done on smartphones and browsers. The balance of power among leading platforms could very well shift depending on which DVA becomes most popular. This DVA disruption will expand far beyond just tech titans as DVA platforms anoint the digital winners of the future.

It is imperative for companies to develop an approach for DVAs to ensure they can have a digital relationship with their users and customers in the future. Now is the time to act.

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1 Accenture, Digital Consumer Survey, 2018
2 Ibid
3 Ibid
4 Accenture Strategy, internal study
5 Bureau of Labor Statistics
6 Accenture, Digital Consumer Survey, 2018
7 Ibid

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