At the beginning of December, I presented a webinar on the “Future of Voice.” At that time, the penetration of smart speakers was slightly more than 13 percent. Recently-released Comscore Connected Home data from February show the penetration of smart speakers is now at 20 percent of Wi-Fi homes! In just three months, that’s more than a 50 percent increase to an astounding 18.7 million U.S. homes using a smart speaker.
So, what factors can we attribute for this dramatic increase in smart speaker usage? I explore areas of impact below.
Holiday Season Impact
Looking at a chart trending the data over the past nine months, we see the holiday season is when adoption peaked, after a small spike in July attributable to Amazon Prime Day device discounts.
Driving this uptick in adoption was a larger variety of devices as well as lower price points. Google released the Home Mini on October 19 and kept the price at $29 for the holiday season. Amazon expanded its lineup prior to the holiday season with new devices – Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Show, Echo Spot and Echo Look – and also offered its entry-level device, the Echo Dot, for $29.
The increased penetration in November came from smart speakers figuring prominently in Black Friday advertising and promotions, which afforded brick-and-mortar retailers a share of the sales of these decidedly digital devices. Interestingly, the nation’s largest retailer, Walmart, sold only Google – not Amazon devices – and Apple did not capitalize on smart speakers at all this holiday season, releasing the HomePod in early February. With a price tag of $399, I anticipate adoption of the HomePod is going to be much slower than its less expensive competitors, mainly attracting Apple devotees such as the people who have purchased the iPhone X.
As penetration of smart speaker devices increases – particularly due to lower-cost options – we see the demographics shifting away from the traditional early innovators and early adopters to the early majority. While smart speaker homes continue to over-index for high income households, lower income households are gaining ground.
As of February 2018, smart speaker ownership was almost equivalent in homes with the youngest (18-to-24-year-olds) and oldest (65+) adult segments. I can imagine in just or a year or two, a smart speaker will be a must-have for incoming college freshmen. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that children really enjoy voice interaction with digital devices. The 2018 holiday season could see a device in every child’s bedroom (and enhanced parental controls, so kids aren’t up all night interacting with the device – a modern-day reading-with-a-flashlight-under-the-covers situation).
Opportunities for Additional Growth
We are already seeing solid growth in the number of households with multiple smart speakers, from 20 percent in June 2017 to 30 percent in February 2018. In fact , 10.5 percent of households had three or more of these devices in February 2018.
With more households owning multiple smart speakers, the foundation has been laid for the continued expansion and adoption of the fully smart home – as the smart speaker is often the gateway device to enable a smart home.
Comscore provides a unique perspective into the smart home with its Total Home Panel™ – a breakthrough, single-source solution that measures consumer behavior across home network-connected devices. The Total Home Panel allows clients to better understand cross-platform media consumption and consumer engagement with technology. To learn more about how Comscore can help you measure usage of smart devices, click here to request more information.