I’m generally wary of analyst reports, as they’re often either poorly executed or understandably fail to foresee disruptions that occur in the market, but they do offer a useful source of opinion. This report by Transparency Market Research is interesting, although I believe it actually undervalues the potential market.
Why so? Well, I believe that the biggest factor limiting the adoption of Virtual Assistants is now peoples perceptions of how well the technology works and the benefits it can deliver, rather than the reality. Those perceptions will change rapidly over the next few years as people born in the last 15 years (‘post Millennials’ or ‘Generation Z’ in marketing language) become consumers.
Talking recently to a group of people in their mid-20’s (the real Millennials or Gen Y!) about their use of Virtual Assistants showed their opinions were quite heavily influenced by Gen X, in that there was a general scepticism about technology and how well it performed. As an example, this group use Siri a little, but have low expectations of performance and capabilities. This isn’t surprising, as their experience of using websites or chatbots of a few years ago was likely to be quite disappointing due to poor performance and the over-selling of technological capabilities. Each generation is also heavily influenced by the opinions of their seniors (even though we don’t want to admit it), and Gen X (40-50 year olds) are even more sceptical.
However, my 7-year-old son currently uses Siri as his only interface to the web – he doesn’t know how to use Google and is generally reluctant to use a keyboard even when I show him (supervised, obviously). I know from other parents that this isn’t unique. Now, I have no doubt this behaviour will change somewhat as he matures – Virtual Assistants are still a long way from replacing the traditional computing interface of keyboard and screen for many general tasks, and he will also be influenced by the opinions of Gen Y over time.
However, growing-up as a native user of these technologies will cause a rapid shift in general expectations and perceptions, and a rapid impetus for companies to meet this expectation for customer service, just as the widespread adoption of apps caused a scramble for companies to launch mobile apps around 2010, and the widespread adoption of the internet in the late 1990’s caused a similar rush to launch websites.
It’s difficult to be precise about the exact timing and scale of this shift, but I’m convinced it will happen over the next few years, and will likely take us all by surprise by its speed and depth, just as websites and mobile apps did a few years ago.
Here’s the report by Transparency Market Research: