Sep 18, 2020 - Technology

Exclusive: Coronavirus lockdowns giving smart speakers a workout

Photo of an Amazon Echo Plus speaker on a kitchen counter
Photo: Olly Curtis/Future via Getty Images

More Americans own a smart speaker than ever before and the devices are also seeing an increase in usage, according to a survey from Adobe, results of which were shared first with Axios.

Why it matters: Smart speakers and displays not only represent a new frontier for computing, but also could shift the balance of power in search and advertising, as Google faces tough competition from category pioneer Amazon.

By the numbers:

  • 39% of respondents said they own a smart speaker, up from 36% in February 2019 and 28% in January 2018.
  • Among those who do own a smart speaker, 46% said that they used the devices' voice assistants more often during the three-month period from April through July than they had previously.
  • Listening to music remains the most popular use (reported by 60% of survey respondents), followed by asking about the weather (55%), "asking fun questions" (46%) and searches (45%).
  • Roughly 39% of people said they used their smart speakers for each of the following: basic information queries, checking the news, and setting reminders or alarms.

Between the lines: We still don't know how quickly smart speakers will take off as an advertising platform, or how effective such ads are.

To that end, Adobe said that 51% of those surveyed said they have heard an ad on their speaker, double the number that said so in May 2019. Of those who are hearing ads, 85% said they hear them at least weekly.

  • 58% of consumers find smart speaker ads to be less intrusive than other major formats (TV, print, online, social). That's up from 43% in May 2019.
  • Similar majorities say they find speaker ads more engaging and more relevant to their needs and interests.
  • 53% reported that a smart speaker ad eventually drove them to make a purchase, up from 39% in May 2019.
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