- Shopping on smart speakers like Amazon Echo or Google Home is growing faster than previously expected, leading researcher eMarketer to raise its forecast for the number of people using the devices for voice commerce. U.S. consumers who shop by smart speaker is now set to rise 31.6% to 31 million this year, and by another 11.8% to 34.7 million in 2020, per the revised estimate.
- By 2021, about four out of 10 smart speaker owners in the U.S. — 38 million people — will shop through the voice-powered devices, search for products, ask about prices or make a final purchase, eMarketer forecasts.
- The number of people who complete at least one purchase through a smart speaker will rise 32.2% to 21 million this year and by another 12.5% to 23.6 million in 2020. EMarketer predicts that most of the purchases will consist of electronic media such as movies or music.
EMarketer's revised forecast of smart speaker shopping indicates that U.S. consumers are gradually growing more comfortable with the idea of using voice commands to research products and make direct purchases.
Smart speakers are most effective at marketing digital goods like movies and songs, where users can hear a trailer or audio teaser, while physical products such as groceries and electronics are less frequently purchased through the devices. While 21% of U.S. adults said they had ordered movies, TV shows or music through a smart speaker, just 8% had purchased groceries and 7% had ordered electronic devices, per a Bizrate Insights study cited by eMarketer.
Consumers tend to see smart speakers as providers of digital entertainment and information, and they worry about the security of the devices as a stable shopping platform, according to a separate report by NPR and Edison Research. Marketers and device makers will need to overcome those fears to transform smart speakers into a more viable commerce channel.
More than three fourths (77%) of smart speaker owners use the devices to play music, with 55% saying they had listened to more audio since buying the device. Other popular uses of smart speakers include tuning in to weather forecasts, getting answers to general questions and setting a timer or an alarm. Nearly 60% of smart speaker owners reported they worry hackers could use the device to access their home or personal information, per the survey.
Meanwhile, Amazon is the key driver of smart speaker shopping, aggressively promoting its line of Echo devices as a gateway to its e-commerce platform. Amazon tends to cut prices on its smart speakers during the holidays and the lead-up to its annual Prime Day shopping event. Amazon this month slashed the price for its Echo smart speaker in half as part of its promotion for Prime Day, which this year will be expanded to a 48-hour period on July 15-16.
Amazon has a 70% share of the U.S. smart speaker market, ahead of Google Home at 24% and Apple's HomePod at 6%, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. However, Google has started to take the lead in Europe by adopting more languages for Google Assistant, the voice-powered technology that runs on mobile devices and its Google Home smart speakers.