When new technology takes off, we sometimes assume the only early adopters are the young. While millennials are no doubt talking to the new wave of voice-activated speakers, it turns out that Google Home and Amazon Echo are really resonating with baby boomers. In fact, our research has found that boomers see their voice-activated speakers as more than a simple device.
Here are three key things we discovered when researching boomers who own voice-activated speakers.
It’s a companion
Boomers are clearly using their devices for practical reasons. “Obviously it can be integrated into a smart home,” said one smart-speaker owner, who called his “an overall valet for your day-to-day life.”
But the relationship goes deeper than that. “It becomes a device that isn’t a device anymore. It’s an entity in your life that’s always behind the scenes for things you need.” He’s had his speaker for over a year now and “it hasn’t let me down.”
“It's an entity in your life that's always behind the scenes for things you need.”
Another owner who’s had his voice-activated speaker for over a year said, “I tend to talk to it as if I’m asking a friend a question.”
“I’d call it an ‘e-lative,’” said one person, who’s owned two speakers for six months. It’s “like an electronic relative.”
“A lot of people are alone,” another respondent told us. “This device could be their friend, somebody to talk to them.”
It has serious potential
Boomers take the “device-as-companion” concept an extra step, laying out developments that could make voice-activated speakers even more useful to them in the future. They seem particularly focused on health and safety.
“If your wife has an issue with sleep, this device could tell her to roll over when she’s not sleeping properly,” said one.
Another noted that a voice-activated speaker could “let older folks know if they’ve taken their pills today.“ He even saw the speakers as potential life savers. “Nobody has to have a button around their neck anymore. Just say out loud ‘I have chest pains.’”
It’s empowering (and they want more)
Boomers also see their devices as a source of information. While other audiences were more likely to say they use voice-activated speakers to multitask or do things without a screen, 51% of those 55 years old and over said a top reason for using their voice-activated speaker is “it empowers me to instantly get answers and information.”1
"It is split between business and personal for me. Asking it for the weather, basic questions, a timer for grilling,” said one person. Or, “When I'm working at home with my laptop, I see a phone number pop up and ask [my digital assistant] 'What area code is 209?' It's helped me continue to do my work."
Interestingly, boomers aren’t afraid to spell out how marketers can play into this desire for information and empowerment. Boomers are more likely than millennials to say they want their voice-activated speakers to deliver information about deals, sales, and promotions.
“If a company like Nike came out with a new mountain-climbing shoe and [the voice-activated speaker] knows you watched climbing videos, maybe it would bring the product to you,” one owner said.