It was a “record holiday season for Amazon Devices and Alexa,” Amazon’s post-holiday press release proclaimed. The company said that it sold “millions more Amazon Devices compared to last year,” with Echo Dot leading the way.
Google didn’t put out a comparable release about the sale of Home and Nest products, but overall increased sales appear to be validated in extrapolated ownership data from NPR and Edison Research in their latest Smart Audio Report.
60 million people, 157 million speakers. The report is based on a telephone survey of just over 1,000 U.S. adults. It reports that 24% of people over 18 own at least one smart speaker. That translates into about 60 million people. Because people typically own more than one smart speaker, the report estimates there are now 157 million of these devices in U.S. households. That’s up from roughly 119 million a year ago.
In 2017 the average number of devices per household was 1.7. That has grown to 2.6 in December 2019. (By comparison, there are roughly 10 in my home: a mix of Google and Amazon speakers and displays, and one Apple HomePod.)
Voice penetration continues to grow. The report also says that “54% of U.S. adults 18 have ever used voice commands” and 24% of that group does so daily. These statements are context-free, so it’s unclear if the report is referencing smart speakers. However, given these numbers, we must infer that smartphones are in the mix because 54% of U.S. adults don’t own smart speakers.
Missing from the report released this week are use cases, detailed usage data and attitudes toward future purchases. Last year, for example, the same report found intent to purchase additional devices flat-to-declining. However, Amazon’s press release and these figures suggest robust demand over the holiday.
According to the most recent third party estimates, Amazon continues to dominate the market. Amazon controls roughly 70% to 75% of the smart speaker/display market according to analyst reports. However, we should get updated figures in the next month or so.
Why we care. While we’ve arguably reached critical mass with smart speakers and displays, it’s not hard to imagine that this same report next year will tout 200 devices in U.S. homes. Despite their impressive mainstream adoption, smart speakers are barely utilized as a marketing or commerce channel by retailers and brands or by Amazon or Google themselves.
It’s important to note that smart speaker market share is not the same as virtual assistant share. Voice assistants or virtual assistants, whichever you prefer, have reached critical mass in usage because of their deployment on smartphones. And voice is increasingly used as a way to get directions, search for information, send texts and so on. Consumers have embraced the “voice habit,” and Google has responded (see BERT). But it’s still not entirely clear how marketers will capitalize on the behavior.
We’ll have a tactical discussion about how brands can take advantage and optimize for voice search at SMX West, February 19-20 in San Jose.