2 Billion Consumers Projected To Use AI-Powered Virtual Assistants

Consumer adoption of artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistants will increase, but some brands don’t see the capabilities fully replacing humans.

The number of active users of virtual assistants will grow to 2 billion consumers in 2021, up from 390 million last year, according to new research from Tractica.

Global revenue generated by virtual assistants will grow to $16 billion by 2021, up from $2 billion last year. The majority (75%) of revenues will come from the consumer side of the market, according to Tractica.

The Asia Pacific region will lead the market in revenue and multiply in value by 10 times to account for more than $5 billion by 2021.

“The consumer and enterprise use cases for virtual digital assistants are proliferating rapidly thanks to accelerated innovation and scalability of underlying technologies, such as natural language processing and artificial intelligence,” Mark Beccue, principal analyst at Tractica, said in a statement.  

“Meanwhile, most of the world’s technology giants believe virtual assistants will be vital to their businesses in the future, and they are investing significant resources to capture market share at this early stage.”

Smart audio devices like Amazon’s Echo or the not-yet-released Google Home act as the physical bridge connecting consumers to their virtual assistant services and that market alone will generate more than $5 billion by 2020, according to a recent study by Juniper Research.

The driving force behind increasing consumer adoption of virtual assistants is the demand for smart software or devices that can carry out time-intensive tasks, complex tasks or uninteresting tasks, according to Tractica.

Scheduling meetings and coordinating calendars is an example of a use case where virtual assistants can provide value to consumers. Rather than relying on a consumer’s time to carry out repetitive tasks, an artificial intelligence component can analyze calendars, automate e-mail messages and coordinate optimized meetings.

Some brands are developing online remote services that do just that, such as Clara, an online office scheduling assistant centered around artificial intelligence.

However, others see opportunity in using such AI components as a complementing power to humans, rather than a full replacement.

Lola Travel, a travel concierge app from the founders of Kayak, utilizes the power of AI to improve efficiency of tasks that normally would tie up the time of their human representatives, according to Lola VP of product Ellen Chisa, who recently spoke at the Future of Consumer Mobile event in Boston.

However, the objective is to play to the strengths of current AI capabilities, which means automating analytic and repeatable tasks, in order to free up the company’s humans to play to their strengths.

As a result, the opportunity for deeper, more genuine human-to-human interaction is larger, which ultimately can improve the customer experience, according to Chisa.

Overall lack of consumer confidence in compelling use cases and the inability to automate the interpretation of human communication are barriers to the success of virtual assistants, according to the Tractica research.


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