Many Canadians have privacy concerns about voice

Mindshare has just completed a survey of Canadian consumers asking how they are using smart speakers and voice search. The big lessons learned? Privacy is a major concern (who exactly is listening to our conversations?), marketers aren’t delivering good voice experiences for consumers and, even when it comes to 21st century technology, Canada shows distinct divides between English and French.

Some of the key data:
About 40% of English Canadians use voice tech at least occasionally, compared to just 33% of French Canadians.
•About 15% of English respondents and 23% of French Canadians said they don’t want voice tech, not now not ever.

Canadians tend to use voice for practical purposes like setting alarms, getting directions, playing music or asking questions (“what’s the weather?”) rather than more complex web searches or, more importantly for marketers, voice shopping. That could be because businesses aren’t providing better, more engaging experiences, said Sarah Thompson, chief strategy office at Mindshare.

“[Consumers] are really focused on using it for practical things, because much like e-commerce, we are the last to be considered in the strategies of brands,” she said.

“And those [brands] that have ventured into the space have made the experience something that isn’t valuable to Canadians. When we get brands understanding how to use it to serve a customer, then we will have more Canadians doing more than setting alarms with the devices.”

Content architecture is important, says Mindshare. Marketers need to be thinking about more Q&A formats on their sites, adopt conversational tones and consider the linguistic quirks of Canadians. If someone asks “Hey Google, what is the value of a loonie to a Euro?” will Google be able to find that information anywhere?

In terms of how Canadians use voice tech in relation to products and businesses, finding a local business was the most common use in English Canada at 53.5%. In French Canada finding information on a product was the most frequent application at 60%.

Less frequent uses—and the behaviours most marketers will be interested in—include:
•Remind myself to buy a product I need on my shopping list: 28.2% English and 21.1% French.
•Purchase a product after having browsed it elsewhere: 16.2% English and 20% French.
•Purchase a product without looking on the website first: 13.9% English and 14.4% French.

Google is dominant in French Canada, with 33% using Google Voice App and nearly 29% using Google Home; Siri is the first choice in English Canada, with 36%, followed by 24% who use Google Assistant and 20% who use Google Home. Where’s Alexa? The adoption rate for Amazon’s voice service is much lower, with just 10.4% using Alexa in English Canada and only 3.5% in French Canada. Of course, Amazon only introduced Alexa to the Canadian market a year ago.

Fears about being listened to by businesses or government remains a significant concern about voice assistants for many, though more so in French Canada. Nearly 36% of English Canadians said they are worried about companies listening to their conversations with voice assistants, and about 33.5% fear the government could be listening.

In French Canada, fully 41.5% of respondents are worried about the government listening and 40.3% are worried about businesses listening.

“We aren’t using [voice tech] to manage the smart home,” said Thompson. “This is seen as a toy and not something to manage the home, and I think the reason for that is the hurdle around privacy. We are in a time when technology, from platforms to devices, needs to build trust with people that the information they are providing isn’t being used for some malfeasance.”

Other advice from Mindshare:
•Prepare your web content to be question friendly.
•Address privacy concerns for consumers.
•Consider the differences for French and English speakers.
•Prepare for consumers who want to contact your brand directly via voice.

David Brown

David Brown