US Insights

Brands' best friend?

David Wright

Innovation Specialist

Mobile 12.22.2015 / 01:00

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Device makers are ceding the customer relationship to search engines, and other results of our study of digital assistant use

Large internet companies are putting an awful lot of effort into building or improving Digital Assistants (DA).

Facebook has launched M, Baidu Duer, Amazon Echo and Microsoft Cortana. Meanwhile Apple's Siri now can be activated by saying, "Hey SIRI!" No click required; Apple copied "OK Google" (sigh). SIRI also has been built into Apple TV. And, Apple recently acquired UK AI start-up VocalIQ with the possible goal of making SIRI more conversational.

Google has taken a different strategy. On Google Mobile, standard search is becoming more and more like interacting with a DA. Google also has avoided the often sassy personification offered by SIRI (try asking SIRI, "What is zero divided by zero?").

Beyond the giants, some amazing start-ups are emerging. has created an assistant, "Amy," that will schedule meetings for you - not only ending calendar ping-pong but democratizing personal assistants so everyone can have one, not just the boss. This is the one I really want to use!'s visionary founder Dennis R. Mortensen describes his assistant as a "vertical AI" in that it does one job well. By the same logic, M, SIRI, and Cortana are horizontal AI's as they perform numerous tasks, but mostly in a question-and-answer format.

DA's are the current AI battleground, making for a very busy and competitive space.

Kantar behavioral data: SIRI usage

To get an idea of how people are using DA's in practice, I found a group of more than 3,000 panelists on our US mobile behavioral panel who have used SIRI in the past year. While we cannot measure when a panelist has made an internal device call, such as setting an alarm, we can evaluate searches that require SIRI to connect to one of its content partners (i.e., Bing for web searches, Wikipedia for factual information, or Wolfram Alpha if calculations are required).

We were able to capture almost 70,000 of these SIRI connections and classify their purpose. What we found was that 63% of the searches from SIRI resulted in a Bing search for information. The next largest category was Maps/Location at 29% of searches.

For 10% of SIRI searches processed by Bing, a photo is also displayed. Often photos are displayed if you search for something factual, particularly if that fact is resident on Wikipedia, the bonus being that Wikipedia's companion site Wikimedia has a ready supply of Creative Commons licensed photos.

For the photos I captured, sports data figured prominently. The largest category was that of portrait photos of sportsmen, very likely for searches relating to player stats and information, a service which has been heavily integrated into SIRI. Sports logos and movie posters were the next largest photo categories. The nature category also was interesting: sharks, spiders and snakes featured prominently.

However, as interesting as the photos are, they represented just 10% of the Bing calls and only provided an indication of the things people search for, and the visuals they are used to experiencing.

Kantar behavioral data: Google mobile search

I mentioned above that it feels as if Google Mobile search is becoming more like a DA. So, using our mobile behavioral panel, we isolated searches that contained, "How…?" (3% of search on our panel) and "Near…?" (1% of search). These are the sorts of searches that suit the rapid-fire, useful and practical questions a person would ask a DA when in a mobile moment of need.

Searches containing "Near…?", unsurprisingly, related strongly to hotels, shopping and eating out. How…? questions, on the other hand, are an interesting category and much promoted by Google's YouTube regarding the creation of how-to videos. Interestingly, TV was the most searched item in relation to "How…?" Particularly apparent were technical questions such as: "How do I connect YouTube from phone to TV?" Phone-to-TV connectivity was a significant trend in the data.

"How do I edit my contacts on my Samsung Galaxy?" What was striking was the number of technical questions relating to mobile devices that are being fed through search engines. It did make me wonder whether device manufacturers should be onboarding this information into their devices so that they manage the customer relationship, as opposed to a search engine indexing tech support log sites.

Why is this important?

At a simplistic level, accurate and speedy typing on a mobile screen is troublesome (and on a smartwatch, impossible). The current vision is that a DA could become a central port of call that seamlessly manages variety of tasks. For instance, "Book me tickets to 'Star Wars' after 7pm tonight, and arrange a taxi to get me there".

The future vision is that the DA will take your request and, within microseconds, its AI will weigh the information it finds (from various API's) against your detailed profile information and context (where you are, what time it is, what your interests are, what your personality type is, your mood, etc.), and present only the most useful response. No more long lists of blue links, no more SEO or SEM in its current form.

Brands need to start thinking about how this rapidly approaching reality can be leveraged to their advantage.





Source: Kantar

Editor's Notes

Download the full article and accompanying data above. The results included here were derived from the Kantar Behavioral Panel of both iOS and Android device users in the US. Panelists agree to install an app on their mobile/tablet device which captures all their daily digital activities, allowing the measurement of actual, not reported, behavior. The respondent is not required to do anything else. With their consent, Kantar can then view and analyze their digital behavior. This game-changing technology enriches your data in a way that has never been possible before. Mobile usage, ad exposure, and location awareness can all be measured and analyzed.

Journalists, for inquiries about these results, contact us. Follow us @Kantar and sign up for our alerts.

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