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Almost half of smartphone owners in SG tried voice assistants: Study

Singaporeans will soon be using AI-powered voice technology to perform a wide variety of tasks, according to a new study. Speak Easy, a global study conducted by J. Walter Thompson, Kantar and Mindshare, explores how people are currently using voice technology, their expectations for the future and the implication for brands.

It reveals that almost half of Singaporean smartphone owners have tried voice technology services such as Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s S Voice and Google Assistant. Over a quarter (28 per cent) use voice at least once a month, while 17 per cent are using it weekly. In addition, there is appetite from those who are not currently using it, with 41 per cent saying they would consider using it in the future.

Currently, the most popular uses of voice technology are ‘asking fun questions’ (32 per cent), performing an online search (30 per cent) and playing music (27 per cent), however the functionality will expand beyond the realms of smartphone assistants as connected devices start appearing in and outside the home. 60 per cent of Singaporeans expressed an interest in having voice technology in their car, 59 per cent would like a voice assistant that communicates with stores, and 42 per cent like the sound of a changing room with a voice assistant which could order new sizes and make recommendations.

Beyond ease and convenience, Singaporeans are excited by the possibilities of AI-powered digital butlers with 55 per cent of smartphone users wanting their voice assistant to ‘anticipate what I want and take actions or make suggestions.’ Brands need to find their own voice in this space, with 72 per cent of global users stating that brands should have ‘unique voices and personalities for their apps’.

With Amazon entering the market this year, the potential for the uptake of voice technology is high. The online retailer’s voice assistants Echo and Dot, powered by Alexa, have proved popular when introduced to other markets, delivering more advanced applications of voice technology.

However, more can be done to explain the value of voice technology, with 38 per cent of Singaporeans want more information about what a voice assistant can do, whilst 34 per cent of those not using voice already ‘don’t understand the point’.

There is also a barrier in terms of privacy. Today, Singaporeans are only comfortable using voice in a private domain, with 80 per cent saying they feel too embarrassed to use voice technology in public, compared to just 57 per cent globally. But as the technology improves and examples of the positive impact voice can make on people’s lives emerge, adoption is likely to grow.

Ida Siow, Head of Planning, Singapore & SEA at J. Walter Thompson, said, “Voice is the most intuitive human interface. A voice-activated world presents an opportunity for future-facing brands to forge a more intimate and utility-driven relationship with their customers. We are seeing business and clients across categories from banking, hospitality and FMCG fuse voice and data intelligence to communicate the right message, at the right place, right time, and now through the right voice.”

Zoe Lawrence, APAC Director – Digital, Insights at Kantar, said, “Voice is absolutely the next frontier of consumer connectivity and is set to further transform how consumers make decisions and engage with brands. With any new technology, brands need to enter into the environment very carefully, and this is even more acute with voice technology – it’s such a personal environment that any brand presence needs to feel completely appropriate and non-invasive. For brands that are beginning to think about ‘skills’ or ‘actions’, ensuring that they are adding value to the customer experience is essential to get accepted.”

Caroline Simpson, Head of Digital, Mindshare Singapore said,  “The voice revolution has not hit Singapore shores yet, but it is coming. When it does come, we expect the impact to be felt rapidly. As with any disruption, this will create opportunities for brands who are primed to innovate, so now is the time to get prepared.”