It’s been about four years since Amazon changed the tech space by introducing the ever-popular Alexa, a smart speaker that’s evolved drastically since it hit the market in 2014. Available in over 4o countries, Alexa resembles a notable shift in how consumers interact with technology, and how they do so on a day-to-day basis. Most commonly, when we think of devices that are influential in our every day, we think mobile, and possibly also consider our personal usage of laptops, or something echoing that of an iPad. Smart speakers are tapping in to this routine, and disrupting modern routines, but in an entirely new way.
When Amazon launched Alexa, the device was primarily used as a speaker, although the majority of consumers were also entertained by the ways they could leverage the capabilities of the digital assistant for personal convenience. Over the last few years, we’ve seen Alexa evolve—becoming a much more integral part of a household thanks to an extensive list of abilities and an entertaining and vibrant personality.
Adobe published numbers just last month that show 32% of American households own some sort of smart speaker, a number that’s nearly doubled since the beginning of 2018. And sure, smart speakers are still fulfilling their most innate purpose of playing music, especially given that, in a recent study conducted by Nielsen, researchers found that 90% of participants reported streaming music as their most preferred option for accessing their favorite tunes. While Alexa still brings value to consumers who need to set a cooking timer, add bananas to their grocery list, or check the weather, studies show that Alexa’s personality has become more and more comprehensive—so much so that she functions as a tangible extension of the household. This goes to say that consumers are initiating more conversations with their smart speakers, but not out of need.
Of current smart speaker owners, a surprising 68% confessed they have conversations with their device—whether that’s Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri digital—just for fun.
It seems consumers rather enjoy asking their smartphones seemingly pointless questions all for the entertainment of their response. Think, “Alexa, which came first, the chicken or the egg?” On the other hand, Siri evidently has a pretty comical response when told, “Siri, I see a little silhouetto of a man.”
While it’s safe to say these smart speakers resemble a hub of information, tech experts have brilliantly married their knowledge with engaging personality types. Take Google Assistant for example. Rooted in the data and evidentiary information that make the Google brand what it is, this smart speaker is arguably the most “fact-focused”, yet, it offers up a playful, quirky side that builds out the character of the device in an unexpected way. It translates as an extension of the Google brand by fulfilling its duty to inform, but it also has a personality that exceeds in way of stellar movie quotes.
Alexa’s personality serves a slightly different audience. Coined as the leader for “time-wasting queries” and alternative activities, Alexa comes with over 30,000 skills that consumers can download for their own entertainment. This appeals particularly to those who own an Echo device, as the additional access to voice-based interactions gives these consumers exposure to various other “skills” that expand upon what Amazon originally coded. Like to play Jeopardy? Game on. Big fan of The Office? Hear your favorite quotes throughout the day. Little quirks like this appeal to consumer trends and make Alexa a fun and engaging product to have around the house.
As these type of interactions become more and more normalized, it becomes increasingly necessary to assess how these smart speakers have established themselves as an essential, a standard, even, in our lives. While cell phones and mobile devices take precedence in being the devices in which we are most dependable on, we must consider the impact of these digital entities emulating humanistic qualities at an exponential rate. The reality is, whether you’re bored, sad, frantic, curious, busy, lonely, or just in need of a good laugh, we’re becoming more acquainted with being comforted by our favorite smart speakers, and these devices will continue to resemble an extension of our lives.