Smart Speaker Installed Base is Growing Rapidly
The smart speaker market is growing at a very rapid pace and their use cases are getting more and more diverse, according to the results of a survey from AI-focused publication Voicebot. For the report, released in March, Voicebot—in collaboration with PullString and RAIN Agency—surveyed 1,057 U.S. adults to find out more about the current makeup of the smart speaker market, what owners do with those products, and how the market could evolve over the next several years.
Above all else, the key takeaway from the report is that 19.7 percent of Americans reported having a smart speaker, or roughly 47.3 million people. That’s a small number in the grand scheme of the entire U.S. population, but it’s also some 2,000 percent growth over the 1 percent of Americans who owned a smart speaker just two years ago. Further, the report found that consumer adoption of the smart speaker could grow nearly 50 percent in 2018.
“Smart speakers were the number one gift during the 2017 holiday season,” Voicebot said in its report. “Sixteen percent of our survey participants reported either giving a smart speaker as a gift or receiving one as a present.”
Beyond the high-level ownership statistic, Voicebot found that the average number of per-household smart speakers is 1.8. Nearly two-thirds of consumers have just one device in their home, while 19.3 percent have two, 8 percent said they have three, and 7 percent said they own four or more smart speakers. And in terms of placement in the home, the living room (45.9 percent), kitchen (41.4 percent), and bedroom (36.8 percent) were the most popular rooms for smart speakers. No other location really came close to those three, with the home office coming in at a very distant fourth with 10.9 percent.
Not surprisingly, Amazon still holds a very significant lead in the total market share of installed smart speakers. It’s Echo products represent 71.9 percent of the smart speaker market, while Google’s Home products make up 18.4 percent. That leaves 9.7 percent for the rest of the market, which included products from Sonos, Harman Kardon, JBL, Sony, and a few others. Apple’s HomePod, which hit the market in early February, isn’t considered part of this portion of the survey. However, of the non-owners who participated in the survey, 9.8 percent said they intend to purchase one in 2018, and of those who plan to buy one, 26 percent said they are focused in on the HomePod.
While on the topic of Apple products, it was interesting to note that the survey found iPhone users were 22 percent more likely to own a smart speaker. Additionally, that smart speaker is most likely an Alexa-enabled product—Voicebot found that iPhone owners were 30 percent less likely to own a Google smart speaker.
There was a bit of a bell curve in terms of how often consumers use their smart speakers. The most popular answer among consumers was one to two times per day (28.6 percent). It trickles downward on either side of the scale from there—21.4 percent said they use it three to five times per day, 12.7 percent said six or more times per day. On the other side 23.2 percent said they use their smart speaker monthly, while 12.7 percent said rarely or never.
Listening to music was by far the most popular use case for smart speakers with 41.9 percent of consumers saying they do this daily and 76.2 percent saying they do it monthly. Other popular daily smart speaker routines included checking the weather (41.4 percent), asking a question (33.3 percent), listening to the radio (25.5 percent), setting an alarm (25.3 percent), and setting a timer (24.1 percent).
Interestingly, just 20.8 percent of consumers who own a smart speaker said they use it daily (29.9 percent monthly) to control their smart home products. Theoretically, as one of the main draws of owning a smart speaker, consumers aren’t using these “hub” devices to frequently control those other smart home products. An easy explanation for this could be because they’re already walking around with their smartphone in hand, which can accomplish those same tasks with just a few taps.
As far as voice commerce is concerned, Voicebot said it was pleasantly surprised by the response to a few of its voice-shopping-related questions. According to the survey, 26 percent of smart speaker owners said they have made a purchase using their voice. Further 11.5 percent said they make purchases by voice monthly. Of the general population (all consumers surveyed), 16.7 percent said they’d be likely or very likely to order products by voice. “There was widespread skepticism about the likelihood of voice becoming a purchasing channel, but apparently consumers are more interested in this feature than the experts,” Voicebot said in the report.
Still Some Skepticism
For those consumers who don’t own a smart speaker, the reasons why were varying. Nearly 40 percent said they simply were not interested in having a smart speaker in their home. Another 21 percent said that their smartphones provide all of the functionality that they need, making a smart speaker not worth the investment. Traditionally thought to be the most popular “why-not,” only 16 percent cited privacy concerns with smart speakers. And just 8.8 percent said they cost too much.
Still, nearly 10 percent of non-owners said they plan to purchase one this year, so the smart speaker market is starting to show its worth and build an impressive install base. If that figure turns out to be accurate, by 2019, nearly 30 percent of U.S. adults will have at least one smart speaker in their home, making this a very significant potential market to tap into. Brands, retailers, and more really need to start thinking about how to communicate with their customers through this new and emerging channel—if they haven’t already.