Ever since Apple introduced Siri in October 2011, voice assistants have been a mainstay of the US technological landscape. While voice assistants enjoyed phenomenal growth throughout the early-to-late 2010s, over the past few years, adoption stagnated. But with the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, demand for generative AI integration across the virtual technology landscape is surging. Whether voice assistants evolve to leverage generative AI is still to be determined.

What are voice assistants?

A voice assistant is an intelligent software that responds to voice commands and can run on any device, including smartphones, speakers, desktop/laptop computers, tablets, wearables, gaming consoles, TV consoles, VR headsets, cars, and internet of things devices. Examples include Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana.

How do voice assistants work?

Voice assistants use AI natural language processing technology to interpret human speech and respond accordingly in a human-like voice.

Voice assistant market share 

By the end of 2023, there will be 145.1 million voice assistant users in the US, according to Insider Intelligence’s forecast. Insider Intelligence expects growth to hover around 3% each year through the end of the forecast period in 2027. 

Among the top voice assistant companies in 2023, Google Assistant is the most popular with US consumers at 85.4 million users, followed by Apple’s Siri (81.1 million) and Amazon’s Alexa (73.7 million).

Who is most likely to use voice assistants?

Among US voice assistant users, 88.4% will engage with the tech on smartphones in 2023, according to Insider Intelligence’s forecast. This number is expected to rise to 89.7% by the end of the forecast period in 2027. However, advances in smart home, connected car, and smart TV tech could indicate that voice assistant use will become more widely integrated. 

The benefits of voice assistants for companies and marketers

Money and interest toward using generative AI solutions to streamline costs, increase efficiency, and scale organizations is flowing. The best ways voice assistants can help companies and marketing professionals are through integrating established customer support services and collaboration tools, as well as developing company-specific versions of those tools.

  • Companies have begun integrating AI-powered voice assistants into their call centers. In many cases, these voice assistants are part of a suite of AI-powered customer support tools, including text-based chatbots. Banks and financial institutions in particular, such as Bank of America and U.S. Bank, have seen rapid adoption rates of these tools, with some banks even using voice-activated commands to perform tasks. But be warned: AI glitches and privacy concerns have left some customers wary of the tech, especially where sensitive data is concerned. Be sure to test your support voicebots thoroughly before unveiling them to the public.  
  • Businesses can use developer-centric platforms—like Google’s Dialogflow and IBM’s Watson—to help scale their operations by integrating AI across a wide array of applications, including voicebots. 
  • In August 2023, Voiceflow, a company dedicated to building and launching conversational AI agents, raised $15 million in funding. The startup has clients from established brands like Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and The Home Depot, and is just one example of how lucrative integrating AI voice features can be.      

What is the future of voice commerce?

Voice assistants have historically been unable to convert many consistent voice commerce users due to a limited response range, no visual interface, and privacy concerns. With advances in generative AI, some problems can be smoothed out over time, but others—particularly the lack of a visual element—won’t be going away anytime soon.

What are voice assistant privacy concerns?

While progress is being made in making voice assistants more sophisticated, the tech’s always-on nature and myriad scandals over privacy issues have made it difficult for some consumers to fully trust it. 

For example, in June 2023, Amazon came under fire for “prevent[ing] parents from exercising their deletion rights under the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, … [keeping] sensitive voice and geolocation data for years, and us[ing] it for its own purposes, while putting data at risk of harm from unnecessary access,” according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC’s fines cost Amazon a combined total of nearly $31 million, but the blow to its reputation and prospects of expanding the Alexa line (which Amazon was already on track to lose $10 billion from in 2022, according to Ars Technica) still remain to be seen.   

Consumers will fully embrace these technologies only when privacy and security issues are addressed. Firms that are developing the technologies, as well as the clients utilizing their tools, need to be transparent about their privacy policies and actively build those standards into the technology.