Don't Stop Believing [Part 1 of 4]

Examining Fortune 100 Adoption of Mainstream Voice Ecosystems

This is a four-part letter centering around our original research on adoption of mainstream voice ecosystems. Tonight’s Part 1, which focuses on the Fortune 100, is available to free and paid subscribers, while the other three parts will be for paid subscribers only.

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Just a small town girl
Livin' in a lonely world
She took the midnight train goin' anywhere
Just a city boy
Born and raised in south Detroit
He took the midnight train goin' anywhere

Fortune ranks American companies each year by revenue, including both publicly-traded firms as well as privately-held entities for which revenue is known.

If we look at the Fortune 50, or even the Fortune 100 - the absolute tip-top of the food chain in America, on the basis of revenue - what would you expect to see in terms of adoption of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant?

Before you answer that, let’s take a look at how small to mid-size businesses view emerging technologies, and specifically, conversational user interfaces:

14% of small to mid-size businesses are using conversational user interfaces, such as Alexa and Google Assistant, right now, with that number scheduled to bump up to 25% within another budget cycle.

Let’s compare that to how we’ve observed the Fortune 50 using Alexa and Google Assistant:

A whopping 52% of the 50 biggest companies in America, on the basis of revenue, have adopted Alexa. Google Assistant’s 42% adoption isn’t too far behind.

When we double the sample size and expand our horizon to the Fortune 100, we see the Alexa adoption number hold steady, while Google Assistant adoption takes a dip:

What this means is that large enterprises are making use of Alexa more than 3x as often as small to mid-size businesses, and twice as much use of Google Assistant than their SMB counterparts.

This is actually a conservative measurement, too, because we disregarded companies which, at a previous point in time, had an Alexa skill or Google action, but now no longer make it available. If we had included these as a representation of lifetime voice adoption, these numbers in these graphs would be 5%-10% higher.

It is also possible we missed an Alexa skill or two. Some of these Fortune 50 and 100 companies are massive holding companies with a wide variety of brands and subsidiaries within them. It’s entirely possible the voice experience belonging to a smaller business unit within a larger company was missed.

No matter how you slice these numbers, they’re remarkable.

Let’s dive in deeper on these particular findings:

  • Privacy / security. No companies have more at stake and more to lose than these 50 to 100 companies at the top of Fortune’s annual list. They have millions of dollars of payroll tied up in security, insurance policies, and more. Their data practices are constantly scrutinized and questioned internally and externally.

    And yet, here they are, roughly half of them giving data away freely to Amazon and a still-substantial number doing the same with Google.

    If this many Fortune 100 companies are using Alexa and Google Assistant, it instantly becomes absurd to question the trustworthiness of these companies. This is a fascinating potential counterargument to breaking either of them up or heavily regulating them in the near to intermediate term.

  • Equal opportunity. 23 companies have both an Alexa skill and Google action, and they are Walmart, AT&T, Alphabet (yes, there is actually a Google Nest skill on Alexa), Ford Motor, Cigna, JP Morgan Chase, General Motors, Verizon, Microsoft, Comcast, Citigroup, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Target, UPS, MetLife, Walt Disney, Procter and Gamble, HP, Cisco, American Express, United Airlines, and Honeywell.

    You know what these companies have in common, besides their size? Absolutely nothing!

    It’s a clear indicator that voice is penetrating every industry, every sector, roughly the same way and roughly to the same degree. Otherwise, we would see gravitational pull of some verticals over others, which isn’t the case.

  • Amazon’s head start, manifested. Amazon’s lead in this data to me is almost purely a function of the company’s head start with Alexa back in late 2016/early 2017. There’s nothing other than institutional inertia there, and it wouldn’t be hard for Google to court these companies and get them to expand to Assistant. There are 20 companies in the Fortune 100 that have Alexa skills that do not have Google actions, as of right now.

  • Three chose Google. Three companies in the Fortune 100 have Google actions but no corresponding Alexa skill (or any other presence within Amazon’s voice ecosystem), and they are CVS Health, Nike, and Progressive. Progressive, interestingly, seems to have been Google all the way from the start, CVS Health’s latest announcement clearly ignores Amazon and Alexa entirely, and Nike gives off the same vibe.

  • Google’s drop amongst companies ranked 51 to 100. Only 7 of these 50 companies have a presence on Google Assistant, as opposed to 21 for Alexa. This is bizarre and I’m not quite sure what to make of it - when you look at who these companies are, and their potential to reach users and customers through Google’s ecosystem, it makes no sense and likely represents a growth opportunity for Google to explore.

As a final note, I was curious if there was anything else comparable to these mainstream voice ecosystems that might have seen similar uptake from the Fortune 100.

Sure enough, there was!

The percentage of large companies in the United States that publicly state their “pledge to fight inequality” is the same percentage of large companies that have adopted Amazon Alexa, either operationally or from a branding/marketing perspective.

That is wild.

And hard to spin in any negative or cynical direction, if you’re bullish on voice and AI.

Over the next three parts of this four part series, we’ll have a look at the full Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000, where more insights await, and look at some interesting takeaways related to specific industries and verticals.

Part 2 arrives Monday, Part 3 comes Tuesday, and Part 4 will publish on Wednesday, all three for paid subscribers.

If you’re not a paid subscriber, now’s the time: this is our first and last discount of any kind until the week before Christmas. Don’t miss out.

We’ll see you next week.

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