Why do people use Alexa devices?

Amazon Alexa Research


People use Alexa because:

  • It’s a useful and convenient way to get information.
  • They want to feel and appear tech savvy.
  • They want some social interaction with something that feels like it’s their friend*.
  • They want to do something*.

* Only applies to households of 1 or 2 people.

People in larger households (3+) don’t like using Alexa if they feel like there’s a security risk.

What did they do?

The researcher asked 25 questions based on academic theories of how people use technology to 724 people from the UK. Participants had to answer these questions on a 7-point scale (Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree). They participants also shared their gender, age group, education, technology expertise, and household size. The researchers took all this information and did some fancy math to find these results.

What did they find?

People use Alexa for 3 main reasons:

  • Because it’s a useful and convenient way to get information.
  • The way using something “high tech” makes them feel
  • The social interaction voice provides.

People don’t necessarily use Alexa for fun, as much as they use it to help them achieve a goal. The researchers think this might be because Alexa doesn’t have rich visuals like apps.

The researchers also found that for some people, having an Alexa device has symbolic value similar to having high-end house furnishings. It shows people you are a certain way; in this case, up to date with technology trends.

Their analysis also suggested that Alexa’s pleasantness plays an important role in people wanting to use their Alexa device. This is tied to Alexa being something that can substitute social interactions in households with 1 or 2 people. In these small households, unlike larger households (3+ people), Alexa is more likely to be a source of entertainment. Though the researchers point out that household size might not be as important as who is in that household.

Privacy concerns can make people feel less comfortable to use their Alexa devices in large households. The social aspect of Alexa in a small household is enough for people to overlook these concerns.

So what?

People generally use their Alexa devices in very utilitarian ways like completing tasks, looking up information, and making orders. Skill developers should keep this in mind when making new skills, and focus on daily tasks they can support. Yes, there are plenty of success games, but not the majority of people do not use their Alexa devices this way.

Brands should think about building Alexa skills that give value to their customers in a very task-focused way. The Tide skill from RAIN is an excellent example of a brand building a skill that helps users with a daily chore (how to deal with stains). Some brands might be tempted to do a “fun” skill, but this might only appeal to a specific subset of Alexa device owners. Brands can leverage Alexa’s social role in certain households to learn more about their customers’ preferences and habits, and build brand loyalty from the intimacy of their homes.

On a much higher level, Amazon needs to take steps to reassure and educate users on how their data is safe. This is important because in households with 3+ people, privacy concerns take precedence over any value the Alexa device may provide.

Article citation

McLean, G., & Osei-Frimpong, K. (2019). Hey Alexa… examine the variables influencing the use of artificial intelligent in-home voice assistants. Computers in Human Behavior99, 28-37.

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