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CES 2018: Virtual Assistant Battle Royale

Posted by Savannah House

Wed, Jan 17, 2018

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Last week the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) wrapped up in Las Vegas and left us feeling excited and invigorated about what’s to come in tech. From talking toilets to snuggle robots, CES 2018 was yet another reminder of how deeply technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives.

This year, once the world’s largest tech show found its way out of the dark, CES was all about virtual assistants.

Alexa vs. Google Assistant

Amazon’s Alexa has dominated the virtual assistant category—claiming 70% of the market share in 2017 and then ending the year with strong holiday sales as the most downloaded app for Apple and Android on Christmas Day. But this year, Google (who typically keeps a low profile at CES), made its presence loud and clear.

From wrapping the Las Vegas monorail with the words “Hey Google” to erecting a massive playground in the CES conference center parking lot (complete with a giant gumball machine), Google is making it clear that it intends for Google Assistant to be a legitimate contender in the virtual assistant space.

It’s about integration, not separation

Both Google and Amazon used CES 2018 as a platform to announce new partnerships for their virtual assistants. Alexa will soon be found in Toyota cars, Vuzix smart glasses, and Kohler smart toilets. Meanwhile, Google is integrating its smart technology with a slew of products from leading brands like Sony, Lenovo, and Huawei.

If there’s one takeaway from these partnership announcements, it’s that voice assistant technology will not be confined to the realm of their makers’ product lines. Instead, voice assistants intend to be everywhere—plugging into smart glasses, smart earbuds, and smart toilets—underscoring the tech industry’s expectation that voice assistants will continue to play a much bigger role in our digital lives.

Crossing the chasm

It appears Google’s goal at CES wasn’t necessarily to woo tech lovers with its Google Assistant. Rather, it was to show regular people what is possible with virtual assistant technology. This is important because it demonstrates the (potential) ubiquity of this category once thought of as only for early tech adopters.

However, despite pushes to show “regular" people that virtual assistants are meant for everyone, our research indicates that social identity is playing a role in preventing widespread virtual assistant adoption.

As the chart indicates below, peoples' ability to relate to the typical user is the biggest driver in virtual assistant usage:

VA drivers (branded)-1.jpg

However, currently, consumers can’t relate to the typical virtual assistant user, which is keeping them from “crossing the chasm” and becoming regular users themselves.

The virtual assistant category will only grow in complexity as more companies enter the game (let’s not forget about Siri and Cortana). But, while flashy conference displays, exciting partnership announcements, and product demos are all helpful in attracting more consumers, if virtual assistant brands want to achieve more mainstream adoption, the brand and creative teams need to tackle the virtual assistant image problem head on.

Savannah House is the Marketing Manager at CMB, and as a light sleeper, is most excited about the robotic pillow.

Topics: AffinID, Identity, technology research, internet of things, Artificial Intelligence

AI's Image Problem: Who's the "Typical" Virtual Assistant User?

Posted by Chris Neal

Tue, Jan 09, 2018

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Every nascent technology and every tech start-up faces the same marketing challenge of “crossing the chasm” into mainstream adoption.  Geoffrey Moore framed this very well in his 1991 classic, “Crossing the Chasm”:

adoption curve.pngWord of mouth can play a huge role in motivating certain segments to sip the Kool-Aid and make the leap.

With CES 2018—the world's largest gadget tradeshow—happening in Vegas this week, I can't help but wonder if mainstream consumers don’t relate to the early adopters of a new technology? What if they think it’s used by people who aren’t part of “their tribe”? Will it prevent them even considering the new tech? There are countless technology categories that have faced this challenge, for example:

  • certain gaming categories trying to expand beyond 15-24-year-old males
  • consumer robot products to this day
  • social media when it was first introduced
  • Second Life and other virtual worlds

I hypothesized that the virtual assistant (VA) category—and specific brands within it—faces this challenge. Yes, many people have tried and used Siri, but few mainstream consumers are truly using virtual assistants for anything beyond basic hands-free web-queries. To further complicate things, an increasing number of “smart home” products that connect to intelligent wireless speakers in the home (e.g., Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple’s forthcoming HomePod) are proving divisive. Some people love the experience or the idea of commanding a smart device while others categorically reject the concept. 

My team and I had the chance to test out a few hypothesis through our Consumer Pulse program and —voila!—we’ve got some tasty (and useful) morsels to share with you about how social identity is influencing consumer adoption in the virtual assistant space using our proprietary AffinIDSM solution.

Here’s what we found:

Social identity matters in the virtual assistant space. We studied US consumers (18+)—covering usage, adoption, and perceptions of the virtual assistant category and a deep-dive on four major brands within it: Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana by Microsoft. We covered rational perceptions of the category, emotional reactions to experiences using virtual assistants, and perceptions of the “typical” user of Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana.

We then ran fancy math™ on our data to create a model to predict the likelihood of a virtual assistant “category rejecter” (i.e., someone who has never tried a VA before) to try any one of those assistants in the future. Our analysis indicates that how much a current VA category rejecter relates to their image of the type of person who uses a virtual assistant is the number one predictor of whether they are likely to try the technology in the future:

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Unfortunately for the industry, category rejecters do not find the typical VA user very relatable. 
AffinID metric by brand.png

As the chart indicates, relatability (biggest predictor of likelihood to try as shown previously) scores the lowest of the three components of AffinID: relatability, clarity, and desirability. You may ask yourself: “are scores of 12 to 14 ‘good’ or ‘bad’?  They’re bad: trust me. We’ve now run AffinID on hundreds of brands across dozens of industries, so we have a formidable normative database against which to compare brands. The VA category does not fare well on “relatability,” and it matters.

Some brands’ VA ads, while amusing, are not very relatable to “normal” mainstream consumers. For example as my colleague Erica Carranza points out in her recent blog, Siri’s ad featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson doing impossibly awesome things in one day (including taking a selfie from outer-space) with the help of Siri isn’t exactly a “normal” person’s day. A-grade for amusement on this one, but it is playing into an existing perception problem.

Stereotypes about users’ age and income are currently keeping “rejecters” away from the virtual assistant category.

The age gap between rejecters and “typical” virtual assistant users is a social identity construct keeping rejecters out of the category. Current rejecters, not surprisingly, skew older while current heavy VA users, also not surprisingly, skew young.

We uncovered this disconnect with a big predictive model using “match analysis” on a variety of demographic, personality, and interest attributes. For every attribute, we examined whether there was a “match” or a “disconnect” between how a rejecter described themselves vs. how they perceived the typical user of a virtual assistant brand.

The two specific perceptions that had the greatest ability to predict a rejecter’s likelihood to consider using a brand in the future was an age-range match and an income-range match. For example, if I’m over 35 years old (hypothetically!), and I perceive the “typical” user to be under 35 years old and higher-income than me…so what? Well, it does matter. For new technologies to achieve mainstream adoption, they must debunk the widespread perceptions that the early adopter is “young” and highly affluent, and that their product can be used by everyone (think: Facebook). SNL pokes fun at this generational discrepancy.

But in all seriousness, if a virtual assistant brand wants to achieve more mainstream adoption among older demographics, the brand gurus and creative teams working on campaigns need to tackle this head on.

And they must try to do this—ideally—without alienating the original early adopter group that made them their first million (think: Facebook, again…how many Gen Zers do you know who actually use it actively?). I—prototypical 45-year-old suburban dad—can’t imagine using Snapchat, for instance. If Snapchat wanted to get me and my tribe to buy in as avid users*, it needs to convince me that Snapchat isn’t just for teens and early twenty-somethings. Or it needs to launch a different brand/product targeted specifically at my tribe, and market it appropriately.

It’s worth noting there are other social identity constructs that help predict whether a non-user of a virtual assistant is likely to try a product in the future. For instance, the few VA category rejecters who perceive the typical (young, affluent) user as being as “responsible/reliable” as themselves are more open to trying a VA in future than those who do not perceive VA users this way. So, we’re seeing this stereotype that virtual assistant products are for young, affluent professionals living in a major coastal city with no kids to contend with yet, and this is turning some consumer segments off from trying out the category in earnest.  

Stay tuned to this channel for more on our study of the virtual assistant category. I’ll be covering some key insights we got by applying our emotional impact analysis—EMPACT℠to the same issue of what virtual assistant brands should be doing to achieve further adoption and more mainstream usage of their products. 

*I am more than 95% confident that the Snapchat brand gurus do not want me as an avid user…and my ‘tween daughter would definitely die of embarrassment if I ever joined that particular platform and tried to communicate with her that way.

 

Topics: technology research, AffinID, EMPACT, Consumer Pulse, Artificial Intelligence

Getting Virtual at IIR Omnishopper: The Future of Retail

Posted by Julie Kurd

Tue, Jul 26, 2016

cy.pngAt this month’s IIR Omnishopper conference, all anyone could talk about was Pokémon Go.  Several research suppliers told me they’d downloaded it and everyone was marveling at its stellar adoption and usage rates.  I had my 13 year old son’s account on my mobile device, so I began the conference naively thinking ‘I’ll go out before the sessions start and catch a few Pokemon for him.’  I couldn’t stop, and despite the fact that CMB works with leading gaming companies, and we’ve got more than a few die-hard gamers on staff, I don’t consider myself a gamer.

How had I morphed into Cheffen Yobs from the moment I began to play? The answers are a case study in consumer motivation:

  • Primary motivation/goal: My initial, primary motivation/goal for Pokémon Go, of course was getting more creatures and points because why not? It was a hot new marketing opportunity and I anticipated being able to talk about it over lunch at the conference (the game rates high on helping me build my social and personal identity)!
  • Secondary motivation/goal: I quickly learned that Pokémon Go has history embedded in each stop, so I started learning interesting things about the city of Chicago. This motivated me to alter my destinations, because I was curious about a particular building or statue. I was looking in the ‘corners’ of Chicago city center, and I was discovering new art, new monuments, and new bridges.  Over the course of the 3-day conference, I walked through several great sections of Chicago. I went to about 12 hours of conference material but I set my clock to wake up earlier to play that game.  Typically at a conference I fly in and then I sit.  And I sit. And I sit.   
  • Unintended benefit: Many of my colleagues share their gamified solution to fitness at our office, and they push each other to exercise more, but my life is hectic and I just don’t add fitness to my priority list. Imagine my surprise when one of the unintended benefits of my trip was that I actually walked 10 km in a level of heat that I can’t even describe, and I didn’t even know I had walked so much until I got home and my son told me!

Questions and excitement about Pokémon Go also found their way into the conference sessions.  The Mall of America’s Emily Shannon talked about the Mall’s digital strategy. There’s the mundane—assigning every bathroom a different text number so you can text that the bathrooms are dirty, and there’s the delicious—hungry shoppers can ask ‘where can I get a great ice cream?’ and because the Mall of America has 12 ice cream stores, the Mall staff ask further questions about the ice cream preference (via text) and deliver an exceptional experience.  Shannon said that the Pokémon Go was definitely delivering the excitement and enthusiasm that are central to the Mall of America’s value proposition, so they were meeting and selecting strategies to increase engagement and delight among mall goers.  In the week following the conference, the Mall of America has launched a Trainer Lounge and tips for playing Pokémon Go at the Mall. 

The conference was exactly about engaging consumers along the path of discovery through purchase and repurchase to loyalty and advocacy.  Each presenter had a different take, and each brought us through their approaches, from full body Virtual Reality to eyeglass technology, cash register data, landscape assessment, qualitative consumer diary, strategy platforms, ideation, and survey trends.  Many speakers, including Ron Wetklow of Treasury Wine Estates, to Scott Young of from PRS IN VIVO, and Laura-Lynn Freck, of Red Bull talked about digital engagement driving physical engagement. 

In the consumer insights industry, engagement, primary and secondary motivations and unintended consequences are central to our work.  In the weeks since the conference, I’ve logged in a few times, but I don’t feel motivated to play.  Why?  1) the history of my suburb just isn’t that exciting, 2) there are only a few stops near my house and it’s not that interesting to go to the same spot 10 times 3) thanks to in-group norms—I’m not going to stand outside the library with 10 kids under 18 years old to play a game on my mobile device because they’re ‘not my tribe’. But, combine the game with my frequent traveling and make me learn stuff on my timetable and maybe even talk to people and I’ll play every time.  It’s been 10 days since the conference and I see the game everywhere, my bet is on the brands who can “catch” the opportunities that come from these uber-engaging tech-enabled phenomena.

Julie blogs for GreenBook, ResearchAccess, and CMB. She’s an inspired participant, amplifier, socializer, and spotter in the twitter #mrx community, so talk research with her @julie1research.

Did you miss our recent webinar on the power of Social Currency measurement to help brands activate the 7 levers that encourage consumers to advocate, engage, and gain real value? You're not out of luck:

Watch Here

 

Topics: conference recap, retail research, technology research, consumer insights, customer experience and loyalty

Black Friday Is Dead…Long Live Black Friday

Posted by Megan McManaman

Tue, Dec 22, 2015

retail2.pngIf you noticed the annual coverage of Black Friday shoppers seemed somewhat muted this year, you weren’t imagining things. While Cyber Monday sales were the highest since its debut in 2005, Black Friday sales were at their lowest since 2011. We all know how many elves flew (or didn’t) off the shelves, but to learn more about consumer holiday shopping behaviors, we partnered with Research Now for a quick survey of smartphone owners, ages 18 and up. 

Does 2015 mark the end of Black Friday—retail’s highest and holiest holiday? One retailer, REI, even opted out of this year’s Black Friday altogether, though their website did allow shoppers to make purchases online. The 87% of respondents who reported shopping on Black Friday might suggest that its imminent death is exaggerated. But the 81% of those Black Friday shoppers who did at least some of their shopping online suggest the explosion of ecommerce may have circumscribed the usual Black Friday frenzy.   

And then we have mobile—2015 marked the introduction of app-only deals from retail giants Amazon, Walmart, and Target. Of respondents who did shop from their smartphone or tablet, on either Black Friday or Cyber Monday, a full 27% purchased through an app. Still, a Cyber Monday dominated by in-app sales may be a few years away—61% of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday online shoppers used a PC to make their purchases. 

Need further evidence that online shopping and mobile technology are disrupting the traditional holiday shopper customer journey? “Just” 67% of Black Friday deal-seekers said they actually braved a brick and mortar store—this on a day once defined by the in-store experience. Is nothing sacred? 

Megan is CMB’s Senior Product Marketing Manager. She can’t stand Christmas music and was once visited by 3 ghosts. 

Topics: technology research, mobile, retail research, customer journey

Dear Dr. Jay: The Internet of Things and The Connected Cow

Posted by Dr. Jay Weiner

Thu, Nov 19, 2015

Hello Dr. Jay, 

What is the internet of things, and how will it change market research?

-Hugo 


DrJay_Thinking-withGoatee_cow.png

Hi Hugo,

The internet of things is all of the connected devices that exist. Traditionally, it was limited to PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Now, we’re seeing wearables, connected buildings and homes. . .and even connected cows. (Just when I thought I’d seen it all.) Connected cows, surfing the internet looking for the next greenest pasture. Actually, a number of companies offer connected cow solutions for farmers. Some are geared toward beef cattle, others toward dairy cows. Some devices are worn on the leg or around the neck, others are swallowed (I don’t want to know how you change the battery). You can track the location of the herd, monitor milk production, and model the best field for grass to increase milk output. The solutions offer alerts to the farmer when the cow is sick or in heat, which means that the farmer can get by with fewer hands and doesn’t need to be with each cow 24/7. Not only can the device predict when a cow is in heat, it can also bias the gender of the calf based on the window of opportunity. Early artificial insemination increases the probability of getting a female calf. So, not only can the farmer increase his number of successful inseminations, he/she can also decide if more bulls or milk cows are needed in the herd. 

How did this happen? A bunch of farmers put the devices on the herd and began collecting data. Then, the additional data is appended to the data set (e.g., the time the cow was inseminated, whether it resulted in pregnancy, and the gender of the calf). If enough farmers do this, we can begin to build a robust data set for analysis.

So, what does this mean for humans? Well, many of you already own some sort of fitness band or watch, right? What if a company began to collect all of the data generated by these devices? Think of all the things the company could do with those data! It could predict the locations of more active people. If it appended some key health measures (BMI, diabetes, stroke, death, etc.) to the dataset, the company could try to build a model that predicts a person’s probability of getting diabetes, having a stroke, or even dying. Granted, that’s probably not a message you want from your smart watch: “Good afternoon, Jay. You will be dead in 3 hours 27 minutes and 41 seconds.” Here’s another possible (and less grim) message: “Good afternoon, Jay. You can increase your time on this planet if you walk just another 1,500 steps per day.” Healthcare providers would also be interested in this information. If healthcare providers had enough fitness tracking data, they might be able to compute new lifetime age expectations and offer discounts to customers who maintain a healthy lifestyle (which is tracked on the fitness band/watch).  

Based on connected cows, the possibility of this seems all too real. The question is: will we be willing to share the personal information needed to make this happen? Remember: nobody asked the cow if it wanted to share its rumination information with the boss.

Dr. Jay Weiner is CMB’s senior methodologist and VP of Advanced Analytics. He is completely fascinated and paranoid about the internet of things. Big brother may be watching, and that may not be a good thing.

Topics: technology research, healthcare research, data collection, Dear Dr. Jay, internet of things, data integration