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Consumers are using their voice much more frequently to engage with devices and the Internet. Smart speakers from Amazon, Google and others can take much of the credit here, quickly becoming popular gadgets for people to have in their homes. While the growth is certainly impressive, voice devices are still nowhere near the ubiquity of smartphones. The industry currently stands at a familiar juncture point, where an ecosystem of useful skills is needed to make the technology transformational and change the types of experiences consumers have each day. This happened successfully with the smartphone as we know, where the proliferation of useful apps gave birth to entire companies and even industries in some cases.

Adobe Analytics commissioned a new survey of over 1,000 US consumers, to look at how people are leveraging voice now. While we are seeing it become a daily habit for early adopters and the emergence of new use cases, society at large are still in wait-and-see mode. When asked about why they have not purchased a smart speaker for instance, the number one reason – as cited by 43% of respondents – was simply that they don’t feel they have any use for one.

Smart speakers are transformative

Like with smartphones, consumers are waiting to be inspired by new and interesting ways to use voice. If the industry can convince those that do not own a smart speaker to get one, we believe the effects can be exponential. Smart speakers have quickly become the most influential device in making voice a part of the social fabric. New Adobe data shows that only 38% of non-owners find voice technology to work well; this nearly doubles to 72% for owners. And when asked how often they use voice over a keyboard to interact with devices and the Internet, 58% of owners say at least daily, versus 24% for non-owners. This shows that having a smart speaker dramatically increases confidence in the technology, and more frequent usage as a result.

When we asked owners which voice assistant-enabled device was their favorite, the smart speaker easily leapfrogged to the top spot for the majority (52%) of respondents, while smartphones dips from 69% to just 27%. Smart speakers have already created a generation of users that have embraced voice as a credible challenger to touch interfaces. The challenge now lies in finding useful skills that supplement and/or replace activities that were once completed with taps and a screen – to drive adoption in the mass market. With the survey results as a guide, Adobe is predicting the top 5 use cases that have greatest growth potential in 2019.

  • Gaming: Smartphones revolutionized the gaming industry, creating new ways to play that made the ascent of a thumb-heavy game like Candy Crush possible. Adobe’s new survey had found that the most common location to have a smart speaker was the living room (as cited by 63% of respondents), a popular gathering spot for most households. We see an opportunity to grow an entire industry of voice-based games for groups of friends having a get-together, or parents looking for an activity for their child. And while the last Adobe survey showed that 20% of smart speaker owners used the device for game play, new data shows that an impressive 64% of those people did so at least daily.
  • Shopping: Voice shopping has been an area of debate, as the form factor provides inherent challenges to purchase behavior. The same debate happened with mobile however, and what some retailers got wrong was an expectation that mobile would perform as well as desktop in sales. As we eventually saw, a key value proposition of mobile was in its ability to support the buying journey – and shoppers may close the deal elsewhere. Our analysis shows the same trend in voice, with people engaging in activities that help them shop later. Our last Adobe report showed that 47% of consumers use voice to conduct general product research; 43% create shopping lists; 32% do price comparison. Like with mobile, the challenge moving forward will be for retailers to create a connected experience across channels.
  • Search: Voice search is one of the most transformative, albeit less glamorous use cases we see taking off. Already now, a greater number of people (38%) use voice more for searches over a desktop or mobile browser; 36% use voice less and 27% use both equally. For bite-sized information that is needed in real-time, voice allows consumers to get what they need without pausing the activity they are doing in their house. With new Adobe data showing the most common locations to have a smart speaker being the living room (63%), bedroom (42%) and kitchen (37%), it opens up a variety of use cases. We can expect that one consumer can quickly confirm details in a recipe while they or cooking, while another in the living room can find their favorite TV content on a streaming app.
  • News Consumption: We see that the most widely used features on smart speakers include music, checking the weather and setting alarms and reminders. In this list, we have included news because we believe it has the most potential in 2019 to break the “top three”. In Adobe’s last voice report, we saw that 46% of smart speaker owners use voice to check the news (setting alarms and reminders also came in at 46%). New Adobe data shows that of these people, a whopping 77% do so at least daily. For any content provider looking to drive more consumption of their stories, be it a news organization or radio station, voice offers a very compelling growth opportunity.
  • Food Delivery: According to Adobe’s last voice report, 17% of smart speaker owners reported using voice for food delivery and takeout – respectable, but small enough to be considered “emerging”. When we dug into this data further, new Adobe data shows that the majority of those consumers (53%) did so at least daily. We expect that in the delivery and takeout space, voice will make the biggest impact on things we order frequently. Consider people who order Indian food often, where a majority of their orders always involve a combo of chicken tikka masala, basmati rice and plain naan. Having the convenience of doing a quick re-order via their smart speaker would certainly start to make using an app look less attractive.