What Makes Smart Speakers and Voice Assistants Creepy?

October 18, 2019

Smart speaker ownership has risen dramatically in recent years, and the use of voice assistants has also become more common. Indeed, almost half (45%) of the 5,000 people in Europe and North America surveyed [download page] by Selligent Marketing Cloud for a new report say they use voice assistants and devices such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home.

Still, that doesn’t mean that the use of voice assistants is not without its concerns – and advertisers should pay attention to practices that are considered more “creepy” than “helpful”. For example, more than half (52%) of respondents say they find it creepy when brands target them with ads based on what they have recently asked their voice assistant. Understandably, an even larger portion of respondents (69%) say that they think it’s creepy when a brand targets them for ads based on what they have said in conversations without prompting the smart speaker or voice assistant device. In both cases, only minorities feel that these are helpful rather than creepy targeting practices.

Interestingly, about half (51%) of respondents worry that their voice assistants are listening to them without their consent. Younger adults (58% of 18-24-year-olds and 57% of 25-35-year-olds) tend to be more suspicious of voice assistants listening in uninvited. And although about half (48%) of Gen Xers (36-54-year-olds) have concerns about their voice assistants, eavesdropping only concerns slightly more than one-third (36%) of Boomers.

That being said, personalization is essential to many respondents, with 80% of both Gen Zers and Millennials and 70% of Gen Xers saying that a personalized experience is very important. Even so, fewer Boomers (52%) find personalization to be important.

Respondents in all age groups feel that it’s helpful when brands do personalize in some ways, such as: offering deals on items they have searched for but not purchased (64%); proactively recommending products based on previous purchases (64%); and inquiring about how they liked their last purchase (71%).

Likewise, more than half (53%) of respondents also find it helpful when brands target ads based on what they have recently liked/favorited/saved/retweeted on social media. Younger adults especially appear to be receptive to targeted ads in general, with a recent survey from YouGov finding that about two-fifths (41%) of 18-24-year-olds believe that targeted ads are a convenient way for them to see products they are interested in.

A takeaway from this research is that while global consumers enjoy personalization, they are not necessarily happy to have it at the expense of their privacy.

The report can be downloaded in its entirety here.

About the Data: The report is based on a survey of 5,000 respondents from North America and Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. The largest share of respondents (44%) were between the ages of 36-54-years-old.

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