Digital Voice Assistants Prove They Are Not Just Gimmicks

Widespread use bodes well for sales of other smart devices

Author: Andria Cheng

December 4, 2017

As new technology and gadgets come to market, retailers place their bets on how big the new products will become. Some, like smartphones, disrupt the market, and some, like 3D TV, never take off. So what about smart speakers, this holiday season’s hottest gadget?

According to comScore's US Connected Home data for October and released this month, the smart speaker category has hit a “critical adoption threshold.” Among US households with Wi-Fi connections, comScore said, 11% had smart speakers in October, up each month since at least June, when the measure was 8.1%. 

The comScore data appears to be in line with eMarketer's most recent estimate for smart speaker use. In April, eMarketer estimated there will be 35.6 million smart speaker users in the US this year, representing 13% of internet users.

As smart speakers became a key deal offering over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, comScore expects the category could hit a 15% adoption rate by early next year.

“We’ve seen this mark an inflection point for adoption of smartphones and leading social networks in recent years, so we could be on the cusp of the same occurring for smart speakers,” said Andrew Lipsman, comScore’s senior vice president of marketing & insights, in a blog post. “When Amazon first made the Echo widely available in 2015, many weren’t sure what to make of the product…. As it turns out, consumers who bought the device liked it.”

The buzz about smart speakers as gateway devices bodes well for the smart home category overall, according to comScore. Smart speaker households are several times more likely than other households to use smart devices, anything from smart thermostats to smart light systems, it said.

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Amazon’s Echo Dot and other voice assistants were among key Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals at retailers such as Target and Best Buy, as well as Amazon’s own site. Meanwhile, to compete against Amazon, Google is running TV commercials pitching its Google Home line. Walmart not only discounted the Google Home products on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it offered shoppers additional discounts when they order through the Google device within a given time.

Amazon, which already saw a surge in demand after it cut prices on Echo devices on its Prime Day, said Echo Dot was its bestselling item on Cyber Monday, its biggest sales day in company history. Echo Dot and Amazon Fire Stick with Alexa Voice Remote also ranked as its best-selling devices over the Thanksgiving and Black Friday holiday weekend. And Amazon said its new $129 Echo Spot, which has a small circular screen for weather updates and other uses, is sold out for the holiday season.

Retailers and brands are testing concepts using smart speakers. Beauty giant Estee Lauder this month introduced voice-enabled, personalized, nighttime skincare regimes for customers using Google Home.

"Adding voice experiences will unlock the next level of personalization and help us reach a new generation of consumers," said Tricia Nichols, Estee Lauder’s vice president of global consumer engagement, in a statement. "Through our collaboration with Google, we are expanding our Omnichannel efforts to go beyond stores and online to in-home."

Calvin Klein, working with Amazon Fashion, features Echo devices in pop-up shops this holiday season in New York and Los Angeles. Amazon Echo Shows, which feature seven-inch touchscreens, are featured in the lounge areas of the shops, while in the fitting rooms, shoppers can ask Amazon’s Alexa various questions about Calvin Klein products, control lighting features, and play music of their choice.