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UK approaches mass adoption of smart speakers but concerns around privacy grow

Sales over the Christmas and Peak Retail period show that the UK has reached ‘mass adoption’ of smart speakers as voice-activated technology firmly embeds itself in the lives and habits of consumers – but concerns around data & privacy are increasingly significant.

New research from customer consultancy Quadrangle found that 22 per cent of people in the UK now have a voice-activated device in their home – up from just 9 per cent in 2017. Adoption is driven by millennials and Gen-Z who regard the technology as increasingly important. Over half of millennials (53 per cent) and Gen-Z (52 per cent) believe that voice-activated technology is the future - while only 34 per cent of Baby Boomers share this opinion.

Despite the growth in adoption, privacy remains a key issue for UK consumers. Quadrangle’s ‘Post Digital Customers’ report, based on a nationally representative survey of 5,000 consumers using Dynata’s online panel, shows that 70 per cent of the UK public is uncomfortable with how brands store and use personal data.

51 per cent of Baby Boomers stated they would never have a voice-activated device in their home because of privacy concerns, which perhaps isn’t surprising given their scepticism towards the technology. However, 46 per cent of Millennials and even 47 per cent of Gen-Z also share this sentiment, similar to the percentages who believe voice to be the future.

Despite privacy concerns, 53 per cent of UK consumers agree that sharing data is unavoidable if you want to use the internet properly, while 36 per cent of people confess that they would use voice-activated devices if they ‘make life easier’.

This trend was also apparent when we looked at personalisation, 56 per cent of Gen Z, 57 per cent of Millennials and 43 per cent of Gen X believe that brands have to personalise their products if they want to be successful. However, only 31 per cent of respondents said that they were happy to share their data with brands to enable them to make more personalised products, with 44 per cent unhappy and 25 per cent neutral.

For brands looking to win a sceptical public over, openly explaining how data gathering benefits both customers and the brand itself will generate trust and permission. Brands that build this openness into strategies around personalisation or developing voice will the ones that succeed.

Ben Skelton, Group CEO of Quadrangle said: This report clearly illustrates the data privacy concerns that stretch across all generations. Brands need to find a balance between personalisation, transparency and humanity when engaging with consumers. Voice technology can potentially unite all three of these to manage customer interactions with brands - but it requires brands to communicate how data is being used with clarity and to be transparent about the benefits and drawbacks. Voice-activated tech has the potential to be a powerful tool for brands looking to get closer to their customers. Now that a critical mass is open to using voice-activated technology to manage their interactions, brands should think seriously about how voice can augment customer strategy.”

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