Searching for facts, directions, local businesses are top digital assistant use cases, says survey

Searching for facts, directions, local businesses are top digital assistant use cases, says survey

Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of smartphone owners are using digital assistants, according to a new report from Microsoft. The findings are based on two surveys – one from mid-2018 that includes an international sample, and a 2019 follow-up involving 5,000 U.S. consumers. The study also found that 35 percent of the survey population had used “voice search” through a smart speaker.

Google and Apple tied for usage lead. In terms of usage market share, the report found Siri and Google Assistant tied at 36 percent, followed by Alexa (25 percent) and then Cortana (19 percent). The overwhelming majority of Cortana’s usage is on the desktop. These figures are not the same as device share. Google Assistant is available on more than a billion devices and Amazon dominates the smart speaker hardware market.

Top assistant use cases. Like many reports covering digital assistants, this one sometimes fails to make clear distinctions between smart speakers and smartphone usage. However, the report spends considerable time discussing smart speaker adoption and use cases.

In the context of that smart speaker discussion, Microsoft presents the following hierarchy of digital assistant usage:

  1. Searching for a quick fact — 68 percent
  2. Asking for directions — 65 percent
  3. Searching for a business — 47 percent
  4. Researching a product or service — 44 percent
  5. Making a shopping list — 39 percent
  6. Comparing products or services — 31 percent
  7. Adding items to a shopping cart — 26 percent
  8. Making a purchase — 25 percent
  9. Contacting customer service or support — 21 percent
  10. Providing feedback for a product/service — 19 percent

Some of the answers on this list (e.g., comparing products or services) suggest that respondents were commenting broadly about assistant usage – not just smart speakers. Indeed, the absence of responses such as “checking the weather” or “playing music” (answers common in other smart speaker surveys) suggests this as well.

The study found that 80 percent were “satisfied” with their digital assistant experiences (most likely on smart speakers this time), while 14 percent were “neutral” and only 6 percent were dissatisfied.

22 percent jump in ownership. In terms of smart speaker ownership, the 2018 survey discovered 23 percent of respondents had one. That number has jumped to 45 percent this year. Under the assumption that this is a U.S.-based population, that would mean roughly 112 million Americans today own at least one smart speaker, with an additional 26 percent saying they’re going to purchase one this year.

A very interesting finding surrounds brand-purchase intent. Amazon Echo has gained compared with 2018 and Google Home has lost share of intent to purchase. The number of people who said they want to buy a Google Home speaker declined from 58 percent in 2018 to 17 percent this year. It’s possible that the 58 percent bought Google Home devices, hence the drop. But the decline is noteworthy.

The Google Home Mini didn’t suffer the same decline in purchase intent. Finally, 26 percent of the audience said that they were interested in buying an alternative brand, which may include Sonos and the Apple HomePod, although that’s not clear from the report.

Digital assistant privacy concerns. A substantial minority (41 percent) of respondents said they had “concerns” about digital assistants — again, probably smart speakers here. Asked to elaborate, the top response was “that my personal information is not secure” (52 percent), followed by “that it is actively listening and/or recording me” (41 percent) and then “I don’t want my personal information or data used” (36 percent). These fears are not entirely unfounded, given recent revelations about Amazon employees listening to Alexa recordings — justified to improve voice recognition and understanding.

The surveys also asked about shopping using a digital assistant or smart speaker. Just over 41 percent said they had made a purchase through one or both channels (with 6.5 percent saying they didn’t enjoy it). The other roughly 59 percent had not made a purchase, with 27 percent in that group saying they that they were interesting making future purchases using assistants. More than half (54 percent) of respondents said they believed that digital assistants will help them make retail purchases within 5 years.

Why we should care. Both consumers and retailers expect smart speakers (and smartphone assistants) to become an important purchase channel in the next few years. The activities detailed in the list above argue that some search behaviors will transfer to voice channels over time.

There are clear implications for marketers, tied to voice optimization and other tactics. For example, if you’re a local service business there are specific things that must be done to appear in Google Home local listings. It’s also incumbent upon marketers to experiment with smart speakers to determine the most effective use cases for their brands and content.

Finally, certain shopping and commerce experiences may become common through smart speakers. Walmart’s updated voice grocery shopping experience represents a potentially successful voice-commerce model, involving list creation and reordering. 


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He researches and writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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The future of the digital customer experience: 6 experimentation trends for disruptive businesses in 2019

The future of the digital customer experience: 6 experimentation trends for disruptive businesses in 2019

You are the catalyst for future growth.

This past September, hundreds of specialists at organizations across industry verticals flocked to #Opticon18, the largest experimentation conference in North America; and it was clear; the driving force is you—the Optimization Champion.

Experimentation as a strategy for future business evolution and innovation is happening now.

The most successful organizations are experimenting (or at least planning to!) across all customer touchpoints. Because customer experience is king.

To keep pace, you’ll need to stay on the pulse of what’s happening with experimentation: new tech and tool developments, the latest strategies for scaling experimentation, and the emerging trends that will define your business in the future.

Because your ability to adapt will lay the foundation for the radical change that is set to happen in the business world:

The next 10 years will generate an order of magnitude more change than we have seen in the last 10 years.

Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick

In 2019, you will want to accelerate your strategy with these six experimentation trends that will pave the future of your digital customer experience:

Trend 1: The currency of business insights

Customer data, machine learning algorithms, the latest technology stack—no technological development is worth implementing if you can’t leverage that data into business insights.

Business insights are the valuable intel that allows you to experiment and evolve. To innovate and proliferate your learnings across your entire organization.

Data is the red blood of an insights-driven business—there can never be enough flowing in the veins. Look always to tap more—and more relevant—data.

Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick

Your ability to accelerate the speed and transmission of insights across different teams is the currency of the future. Business insights will underpin the radical change we will see in the next 10 years.

Data analytics and software enable insights-driven organizations to sift through an immense amount of information to glean transferable insights.

Because this trend hinges on human intelligence: the ability to accumulate a large quantity of quality data sources and to be able to glean actionable insights. Insights that reveal something about your systems and processes, your product or services, and especially your customer:

Insights-driven businesses bring insight, not just data, into every decision, and they know exactly how to use them for greatest advantage across the entire customer life cycle. For these firms, digital insights and what they do with them are their secret weapons to disrupt your market and steal your customers.

Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick

But more importantly, the most successful organizations will find ways to close the loop—bring insights forward and experiment with them at different touchpoints.

Insights-Driven Experimentation

The flow of insights drives your experimentation program, maximizing your organizational learning capacity.

Share the insight:

You must democratize your data and insights so anyone in the organization can harness them for an improved customer experience.

At Uber, for instance, 50% of their employees have access to an insights database which helps to inform their decision making on a daily basis, according to the Forrester report.

Because information is power.

There are many things that you need to get right to create internal alignment and scale insights across the enterprise. However the most important is having the executive team demanding this approach and a top-down strategy guiding the synchronization of teams around a common practice.

But this is a challenge for any traditional, non-agile organization.

In fact, Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler and James McCormick predict that insights-driven businesses will grow eight times faster than the projected 3.5% global GDP Growth. More granularly, their predictions include that insights-driven public companies will grow 27% annually and startups will grow 40%.

But this might not be possible without the top-level support of changed processes and systems.

What processes and protocol can you document to ensure that business insights are spread throughout your organization?

A Marketer’s take on this trend

The dissemination of insights is crucial if you really want to move your organization forward. The learnings you generate from experimentation can’t live in a single team – particularly those insights about your customer’s emotional states and contexts. Because these insights can most likely be applied and tested at many touch points throughout your business.

Now is the time to figure out what systems you need in place to ensure the right people have access to insights from data, experimentation, and customer research. This may be as simple as an experiment insights archive, or it may require a more intentional dissemination effort.

Natasha Wahid

Marketing Lead

Resources to get you started…

Trend 2: The cross-organizational experimentation mindset

Thomas Edison would be thrilled to be alive today, if he could see the stuff that is really going on, the stuff that you are all doing.

It’s not a surprise that Forrester analysts predict unprecedented growth for insights-driven businesses in the next decade. Experimentation refines ideas into validated insights, evolving the digital customer experience.

And with more organizations adopting the experimentation mindset of testing and learning across every department, the ability to generate and leverage business insights increases exponentially.

In the next 10 years, we will see widespread adoption of experimentation across all touch points to validate all marketing activity and focus our limited time and resources on the high-impact areas.

Nick So

Director of Strategy

The future of the digital customer experience is through experimentation. In the next 10 years, you will see more and more organizations experimenting across every customer touchpoint, in order to optimize their entire journey.

Your first step is to de-silo experimentation in your organization. Instead of relegating experimentation as a side-strategy, organizations will need to implement the structures and processes to enable experimentation in every team.

To become a true experimentation organization, you need scale and scope. Scale is about running many experiments and scope is about getting all groups across an organization to participate in experiments.

The most successful organizations are already on board with cross-organizational experimentation. According to Stefan Thomke, at organizations like P&G, Uber, Airbnb, or Bing, experimentation is going on at all times.

[At Bing, at] any point in time, there’s billions and trillions of variations,” explains Stefan Thomke. “And by the way, the success rate at Bing, alone, is only 10-20% of what they try.

WiderFunnel High Velocity Experimentation Examples

Real-world examples of experimentation at scale

The most successful organizations are experimenting at a high velocity, gathering insights from both winning and losing variations.

Share the insight:

And despite a low win-rate, these organizations are investing in experimentation as their cross-organizational strategy. Because it’s not about winning or losing — that’s thinking too small, too immediate.

That’s because experimentation competency across their organization is their competitive advantage. They are testing large-scale and high-velocity because they involve every team, every department. Experimentation is all about gathering business insights.

At its peak maturity, experimentation is a cultural mindset that spans across organizational departments, marketing channels, and throughout executive management.

So where do you get started? We’ve got it figured out.

The 5 pillars of an effective experimentation program

Cross-organization experimentation requires a scaling strategy. It requires focused intention, a multi-pronged approach to your process, your metrics, your culture, your expertise, and your tech stack.

Based on years of analysis of experimentation programs, and through surveying Optimization Champions at organizations all over North America in “State of Experimentation Maturity 2018” report, we’ve identified what makes the most successful programs gain traction across departments, across activities.

And it’s called the PACET framework.

The PACET Framework

WiderFunnel PACET framework for scaling experimentation

WiderFunnel’s PACET Framework

By focusing on the five core pillars of process, accountability, culture, expertise, and technology, you can scale and mature your experimentation program.

Share the insight:

Our findings informed WiderFunnel’s framework: PACET. And it includes these five pillars:

Process

This pillar includes an organization’s experimentation protocol and methodology, process for ideation and prioritization, experiment design, and measurement of success.

Accountability

The most mature organizations keep process and accountability at the core of their experimentation strategy, fuelling how experiments are developed, and results are analyzed, understood, and leveraged.

Culture

Culture is crucial when defining experimentation maturity: Does your organization celebrate testing and learning? Are people encouraged to try (and fail) and try again?

This pillar includes organizational buy-in for experimentation, program support from the C-level, and cross-team participation in an experimentation program.

Expertise

An experimentation program needs expertise and resources. The amount of time and full-time team members dedicated to experimentation is reflective of an organization’s maturity.

This pillar includes people and skill sets: strategists, analysts, designers, developers, project managers, product owners, third-party partners, as well as hours dedicated to experimentation.

Technology

Experimentation maturity requires a well-rounded technology stack. Experimentation and personalization tools, visitor engagement tools, customer data tools, project management tools. Mature organizations have the right tools in place to ensure they can develop the best possible hypotheses and have reliable data.

Your first step is to evaluate how developed each of these core pillars are within your organization, so you can set your sights on your future growth.

Trend 3: Empowered product experimentation

Experimentation has become the product. Your product is the culmination of user feedback and quantitative data tied to your business goals. And experimentation is the engine that brings it all together to validate the way forward.

Just as Stefan Thomke mentioned, your experimentation program’s scale and scope are essential for driving your future growth. If you are considering how to grow your program, empowered product experimentation should be your next step.

There are numerous untapped opportunities:

Server-side experimentation has really opened up what is possible with product experimentation. Allowing development teams to build experimentation directly into their sprints and workflows,” clarifies Thomas Davis, Senior Web Developer at WiderFunnel.

WiderFunnel Experimentation in Product Development Cycle

The product lifecycle

You can experiment deeper into your stack with product experimentation, including with machine learning algorithms, log-in states, and more.

Share the insight:

But besides the ability to experiment throughout the development lifecycle, you also have the opportunity to maximize your digital customer experience by building off the value that is already created.

Successful product managers create an experience that delights, an experience that meets the customer’s emotional needs and states in the context of your product. And continuous and iterative experimentation makes certain that you are moving toward this end goal.

You can heighten the positive emotions that your customer experiences, and minimize the friction points to make it more sticky.

And that experimentation mindset will be critical to ensuring the longevity of your product in the marketplace.

A Developer’s take on the trend

Nothing is more frustrating than building out a fully integrated feature that has a negative effect on the business. Product experimentation stops developers wasting time building out fully polished features that will just be rolled back.

Thomas Davis

Senior Web Developer

Trend 4: The evolution of the Digital Experience Stack

Delivering exceptional customer experiences at scale is high-pressure for the disruptive business leader. It’s a fast-paced market and they know they have to keep up.

Marketing is a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ discipline,” explains Sergiy Bondarenko, Marketing Operations Analyst at WiderFunnel.

Marketers have to be experts in copywriting, sales, design, psychology, web technology, app technology, SEO, paid traffic acquisition and demand generation, social media, public relations, etc.

Naturally, there isn’t a single person who can excel in all these disciplines. This is where many tool vendors come in, promising to ‘fill gaps’, and marketers fall into the trap of thinking a tool can replace skills.

When it comes to technology, gone are the days of finding that traditional one-tool solution. These legacy suites evolve slowly, delivering mediocre results across the board. At that pace, how could you ever stand out amongst your competitors?

Insights-driven businesses are 137% more likely to differentiate with data and analytics.

But implementing new tools and technologies without an overarching martech strategy will lead to poor results as well.

Since 2007, we have gone from ~150 martech vendors to over ~7,000 in 2018. Unsurprisingly, marketers are now suffering from the ‘shiny object’ syndrome—every new tool promises to solve every problem there is, and if it’s trendy, then it’s almost an obligation to work it into the existing workflow—or risk being seen as a laggard.

Sergiy Bondarenko

Marketing Operations Analyst

The new Digital Experience Stack is an innovative solution, particularly for those disruptive businesses that want the best of the tech worlds.

WiderFunnel The Digital Experience Stack DXS
Some of the best-in-class tools have partnered to create The Digital Experience Stack (DXS). Source: Optimizely.

And it ensures you have the well-rounded technology stack to empower your organization’s experimentation at scale.

If you have 100 tools that are fragmented, don’t have an open API, and are sparsely used, then you have a problem on your hands,” states Sergiy Bondarenko.

Firstly, team productivity and happiness will suffer. This will eventually trickle down into underperforming operational metrics and will have a negative impact on the KPIs.

A bloated martech stack also means a bloated budget, and you never want to have a bloated marketing budget—it creates tension and a lack of trust with organizational leaders like the CEO and CFO.

And no organization wants that.

An Experimentation Strategist’s take on the trend

The digital experience stack is a great approach that enables businesses to work with a diverse range of best-in-class technologies, and enables technology companies to continue to focus on their area of expertise. Collaboration, not competition, to better support the industry as a whole.

James Flory

Senior Experimentation Strategist

Trend 5: The re-framing of personalization

Experimentation ensures that businesses are innovating and evolving. But, it doesn’t mean that it is a separate strategy. It is the underpinning methodology of getting any and every strategy right.

Personalization is just one technique within the methodology of experimentation.

It’s not one or the other.

So, your experimentation team shouldn’t be siloed from your personalization efforts.

We’ve seen a lot of hype around personalization in recent years, but many organizations are only aspiring to the level where they can deliver individualized experiences to their customers. That’s the 1:1 experiences that many tools claim to provide.

WiderFunnel Marketing Personalization
Providing a more customized user experience often starts with segmenting your audience, but any personalization tactic needs to be validated through experimentation.

But, as Mike St. Laurent, Director of Experimentation Strategy and Product Development Lead points out: “Most companies do not have the necessary data collection and segmentation capabilities in place to even be thinking about personalization as a strategy.

2019 will be the year of laying the technical groundwork so that companies have the tools they need to test relevant customer experiences effectively.

Mike St. Laurent

Director of Experimentation Strategy and Product Development Lead

You also need to keep in mind that any tactic needs to be proven; not every implementation of personalization will deliver results.

If you have an idea on how to leverage personalization in your strategy, validate your hypotheses through experimentation.

The end goal is to create digital experiences that are highly relevant to the customer in your business context. But you should only want that as a means of generating a higher customer lifetime value.

An Experimentation Strategist’s take on the trend

Creating relevant experiences can be an effective way to improve conversions, but companies are realizing they shouldn’t be personalizing just to say they are doing it.

Companies are starting to understand that just because something is “personalized” doesn’t mean it’s more effective. A personalized experience needs to be tested the same as any other change to a digital experience.

Mike St. Laurent

Director of Experimentation Strategy and Product Development Lead

Get well-versed on this topic…

Trend 6: True customer empathy

Businesses have long been trying to solve their customer’s pain points. But what has been missing from the conversation is true customer empathy.

Because you don’t want your customer to only have their problem solved. You want them to feel an affiliation with your brand and with your experience. You want them to be delighted.

widerfunnel customer delight
Are you creating delight for the individuals who are your customers?

True customer empathy means understanding your customer’s full spectrum of emotions within your experience: knowing what emotions they feel when their expectations are met and how they feel when their expectations are not met.

In the digital world, customers can access your brand on many touch points: social media, email newsletters, your website. All of which offers plenty of opportunities to connect with your customers.

Where are the points of friction and where are the points of delight in your experience?

Unfortunately, at least one unintended bad customer experience is part and parcel of any new launch; companies simply can’t predetermine how every part of their customers’ experience is impacted by design or development decisions made during the feature development process.

A crucial post-launch practice at FullStory is something we call ‘game film‘—a process where we auto-play sessions of users interacting with the new feature and note down how many bad experiences they encounter.

Whether through game film or some other practice, the point is that everyone should have a built-in mechanism to monitor these empathy-inducing moments of frustration for customers.

Jordan Woods

Marketing at FullStory

True customer empathy leads to an understanding of how you can maximize and minimize the feelings your customer experiences at these different points within your experience, so that your brand can align more closely with your customer’s emotional needs and states.

In 2005, when Bain & Company surveyed 362 firms, 80% of companies stated that they were customer centric. That sounds promising until you consider their customers’ response: Only 8% of customers agreed.

Clearly, there is a disconnect.

So, how can you get deeper than demographics to not only understand your customer, but to anticipate their emotional response? How can your organization become genuinely empathetic to their customers?

Start by listening to your customers at every touchpoint.

Marketing Trends Customer Journey
The customer experience is a holistic journey across multiple touchpoints. Having empathy for your customer’s emotional needs and states is crucial for making their experience delightful.

Live chat. Social media listening. Customer surveys. These methods are a starting point. But true customer empathy only comes from deep inquiry and the thick data that results:

Research techniques — such as contextual inquiry, diary studies, ethnographic research and others — can generate thick data that allows you to understand your customer’s emotional needs.

True customer empathy is also a rich source of hypothesis ideation. You can validate this deep understanding of your customer through experimentation to see if your hypotheses stand true.

A UX Researcher’s take on the trend

People will always be the centre of any business. Understanding those people — your users — and their circumstances will help you generate powerful hypotheses. But the key is to take these insights forward through each of your experiments to drive and scale a sophisticated experimentation program.

Kim Quach

UX Research Specialist

Remember what you do now counts.

Your leadership, your strategies, your experiments are driving your organization into the future. What you do now accelerates the growth of your company.

It takes just one person to lead the change. The more you embrace the trends and technologies of the future, the more ready you are to embrace the pace of change.

But know that you don’t have to bear the burden alone.

Build the right insights partnerships – don’t go it alone. You probably won’t own all the data, expertise, or technology. We expect most companies to work with a wide variety of insights services partners.

Brian Hopkins, Ted Schadler, and James McCormick

You can still lead the charge.

As the more determined you are to push the boundaries of how your organization operates, the more likely you can evolve with the rapid growth that your organization can facilitate through experimentation.

But it’s not just about you and your organization—it’s about your organization’s purpose, your vision—the reason why behind your work.

And that is your customers.

Because a delightful digital experience is how your brand stays relevant—now and in the next decade.

What trends stand out as most important to your future growth? Let’s start a conversation in the comment section below.

Author

Lindsay Kwan

Marketing Communications Specialist

Benchmark your experimentation maturity with our new 7-minute maturity assessment and get proven strategies to develop an insight-driving growth machine.

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4 simple ways small businesses can use data to build better customer relationships

4 simple ways small businesses can use data to build better customer relationships

In a world where customers are bombarded across every possible channel with brand messages, targeting is more important than ever before. Small businesses need to be able to make their campaigns feel relevant and personal in order to keep up, but the processes involved – collecting, organizing and interpreting customer data to make it actionable – are often intimidating to small businesses and solo entrepreneurs with limited time and resources.

Collecting, organizing and learning from your customer data is critical no matter how large your team is or what stage of growth you’re in. In fact, there’s no better time to consider your processes for data than when you’re just starting out. And getting started with basic strategies for building customer relationships doesn’t have to be difficult – there are some simple steps you can take to save yourself a lot of time as your business grows and scales.

From the moment you start your business and establish an online presence, you should be laying the groundwork for effective CRM strategies. This includes: establishing a single-source of truth for your customer data, being thoughtful and organized about how you collect information and setting up the right processes to interpret that data and put it to work for your marketing. Here are some actionable steps (with examples) to take now:

  • Collect: Make sure you’re set up to onboard people who want to be marketed to. Whether you’re interacting online or in person, you should be collecting as many insights as possible (for example, adding a pop-up form to your website to capture visitors, or asking people about their specific interests when they sign up for your email list in store) and consolidating them so you can use them to market.
  • Organize: Once you have this data, make sure you’re organizing it in a way that will give you a complete picture of your customer, and make it easy to access the insights that are most important for your business to know. Creating a system where you can easily sort your contacts based on shared traits – such as geography, purchase behaviors or engagement levels – will make it much easier to target the right people with the right message.
  • Find insights: Find patterns in data that can spark new ideas for your marketing. For example, the realization that your most actively engaged customers are in the Pacific Northwest could lead to a themed campaign targeting this audience, a plan for a pop-up shop in that location or even just help you plan your email sends based on that time zone.
  • Take action: Turn insights into action, and automate to save time. As you learn more about your audience and what works for engaging them, make sure you’re making these insights scalable by setting up automations to trigger personalized messages based on different demographic or behavioral data.

Doing this right won’t just result in more personalized marketing campaigns and stronger, more loyal customer relationships – it will also help you be smart about where you focus your budget and resources as you continue to grow.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

As VP of Marketing, Darcy Kurtz leads Mailchimp’s product marketing team. Her team aligns product strategy with marketing execution to make Mailchimp’s sophisticated marketing technology accessible for small businesses worldwide. Darcy joined Mailchimp with more than 25 years of experience leading global marketing at companies like Dell, Sage and Outsystems. She has a career-long passion for serving small businesses.

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