- Amazon's global share of smart speaker shipments fell to 41% in Q2 2018 from 76% a year earlier, while Google boosted its share to 28% from 16% during the same periods, according to researcher Strategy Analytics. The firm estimated that device makers shipped nearly 12 million smart speakers in Q2 2018, about 8 million more than a year ago.
- Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba came in third place with a 7% share for its smart speakers after introducing the Tmall Genie last year. Its AliGenie digital assistant powers the device with voice commands for news, music and other apps. Apple had a 5.9% share for its HomePod, which shipped in February after delays around the holidays.
- Samsung, which is absent from the Q2 data, last week introduced its Galaxy Home smart speaker that uses its Bixby digital assistant to respond to voice commands. The tech giant also announced a partnership with Spotify and is planning to integrate the streaming service into a range of devices that includes phones, TVs and the Galaxy Home.
Though Amazon helped pioneer the market for smart speakers with its line of Echo devices that power its Alexa digital assistant, the Strategy Analytics estimates show that the e-commerce giant isn't invulnerable to the advances of other device makers in a space where adoption is expected to continue to grow and is therefore attracting more competitors. Amazon has marketed the Echo as the central hub of a smart home for connected appliances that consumers can control with their voice commands, and as entryway to its e-commerce platform. The company this month expanded Alexa's features to let shoppers use their Echo to shop at Whole Foods, which Amazon acquired last year for $13.7 billion.
But the Google Assistant has grown to be more popular than Alexa with shoppers, a separate study suggests. Among consumers who use voice search to shop, Google Assistant was more popular with 14% of respondents compared with Alexa's 9%, RichRelevance found. The firm also found that most U.S. consumers (70%) haven't used a voice-enabled digital assistant to find product information or make purchases, and are more comfortable using tech like personalized search or image search to shop. This signals that tech companies will have to continue evolving their assistants to make consumers more comfortable with using voice to shop.
Amazon and Google have been very aggressive with the pricing of their smart speakers, which leaves little room at the bottom end of the market, Strategy Analytics Vice President David Mercer said in the report. The premium end of the market offers more opportunity to entice consumers with superior audio quality, he added. Apple and Samsung, two late entrants to the smart speaker space, are touting better sound quality to match the higher prices of their devices.
Voice-enabled devices are becoming a more viable marketing platform, especially for music streaming, news subscriptions and other informational services. Marketers are starting to leverage these platforms as part of creative campaigns, such as Amazon delivering a giant "Jurassic World" box in a cross-channel marketing stunt earlier this summer that included audio clues about what was inside the box to unlock an interactive experience. Sony Pictures promoted last month's release of "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation" with a campaign that let Alexa users listen to a new story, nursery rhyme or joke voiced by characters from the animated feature every day.
Aside from promoting upcoming film releases, marketers are experimenting with how to spice up consumer experiences through voice. Gwynnie Bee, an online clothing rental service, this month launched a voice-activated unboxing experience through Alexa. The feature lets shoppers interact with and learn about the retailer's subscription service as they open their delivered box of products and try on their items in real time.