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Using Siri and Alexa for Human Insight

“Hey Siri—find me the closest coffee shop.” It’s getting hard to remember a time when you couldn’t literally ask your phone to find something for you. Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant and Alexa have changed how we interact with the world, and smart speakers and voice assistants are doing it again. “Alexa, play The Man in the High Castle.”

Someday soon, you might never have to tap on your phone or use a TV remote. When Alexa can tell you jokes, Google Assistant can manage your calendar and Cortana can tell you what song is playing, the possibilities start to look limitless. 

The rise of voice-controlled assistants and smart speakers, believe it or not, has some interesting lessons for research which, in turn, can deliver better brand and cultural insight.

As a human insight company, brands hire us to help them solve problems and understand people. 

So we focus on those brands, and establish the relationship people have with their products and services. We help them understand what their customers really value, what their latent needs are, and how they can satisfy them. We help them create new digital services, customer propositions, and other digital solutions that make life better for their customers. We work with them to figure out what kinds of products and services will be gain greatest traction and subsequently deliver greater value on both sides of the fence, and we can’t lose sight of that. But we also have to be sure not to lose sight of the consumer.

People are the focus of qualitative research, and that’s something we always need to bear in mind. Life is changing quickly for people - a few years ago, we never would have thought to ask a speaker in their kitchen to order a pizza. Now we do it without thinking, and that has fundamentally changed how we see and interact with the world. We need to take that into account. What does it mean? In the past, it meant that we used smartphone apps to collect data. In the future, it could mean that we have Siri or Alexa ask people what they’re seeing, thinking and feeling. Judging by recent news headlines, 'Smart speaker recordings being reviewed by humans', you may think we'll get there sooner rather than later.

In a few years, it might mean something totally different. But researchers and strategists need to keep these things in mind. Because in the end, we’re communicating with consumers. No matter how much we can do for the organisation that hires us, our primary task is to capture data and information natively from people who are using their digital assistants to help them get directions to the airport. And now, with the advent of some powerful new tools to analyse unstructured data, the potential is growing. 

The best research tactics are to try and not get in people’s way, to be a passive observer rather than a disruptive force that changes their natural behaviour. They make things easy. That’s why we use unobtrusive apps that let people share information in a moment. We followed the consumer. To continue to conduct the best possible research into human behaviour, we’ll continue following them, in their world’s. It’s a trend we hope the rest of the research industry follows.

Want to explore the possibilities?

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