How are personal assistant apps shaping digital consumer habits?

Today, Verto Analytics released its newest report, Rise of the Machines: How AI-Driven Personal Assistant Apps Are Shaping Digital Consumer Habits, which delves into fresh Verto data collected during the past 12 months that examines how AI-driven apps are influencing consumer behavior on smartphones.

Over the past year, we’ve published critical research identifying and tracking rapidly-emerging trends in consumer behavior, particularly on mobile devices. From the rise of multitasking to the continued influence of cross-device behavior, one thing is clear: consumer habits are changing faster than before, aided by an increasingly rapid technology and device innovation cycle.

Are Personal Assistant Apps Creating Another Disruption in Consumer Behavior?

Within the past few years, we’ve witnessed the rise of AI-powered apps, which harness cloud-based natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to power a more sophisticated wave of apps and services. In many ways, these apps, such as Amazon Alexa, are replacing and providing a next-generation user experience for digital content and everyday tasks. Many of these apps provide a more contextually-driven, seamless way for consumers to perform tasks like checking news, weather, or directions. And new apps and services are not the only ones making inroads into the AI space: existing user interfaces on both Android and iOS devices are also evolving quickly. It’s not always easy to see these services as distinct concepts.

How Often Are Consumers Actually Using Personal Assistant Apps?

User numbers are useful to examine, but they don’t tell the full story about consumer behavior. Just how prevalent are personal assistant apps in consumers’ daily lives? What are these apps being used for, and how often are they actually being used?

Verto Analytics data shows that 44% of all smartphones in the U.S. (owned by adults ages 18 and over) had a personal assistant app that was used at least once in May 2017. While this is a greater share than the 34% of smartphones that had a search app (such as Wikipedia, Yelp, or the Google search app) installed and used during the same time period, it still significantly lags behind the use of website-based search: 87% of the smartphones in the U.S. had a web browser installed and used a search website during May 2017.

Despite the 44% app reach of personal assistant apps, Verto Analytics data shows that the amount of time consumers spend in these apps (as a percentage of total time spent in apps) is still very small. Specifically, usage averages about 12 minutes per user, per month – or, less than 0.1% of the total time users spend in smartphone apps overall. In fact, during the past 12 months, consumers seem to have spent even less time using such apps: while the average number of personal assistant app users overall has remained relatively stable, the average amount of time spent per user has actually decreased over the same time period. We need to remember that the user base for these apps is still low, and the availability of content and use cases restrictive. Another possible explanation for the low app AI usage is the growth of AI standalone devices, which have seen dramatic growth over the past year. It is therefore interesting to see how these engagement levels trend toward the future, as we assume more users will start to experiment with personal assistant apps.

Interested in learning more about how personal assistant apps are impacting consumer behavior? Click here to download the full report, Rise of the Machines: How AI-Driven Personal Assistant Apps Are Shaping Digital Consumer Habits.