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As More Smart Speakers Turn Up In Homes, What’s Motiving Their Purchase And Use Is Changing.

More than a third of American adults aged 18 and older are now using a smart speaker, with the reach of the technology doubling during the past five years. The latest data from Edison Research shows 35% of adults say they own at least one smart speaker, a three-point jump from a year ago. And that is up from 16% in 2017 according to Edison’s annual Smart Audio Report, produced with NPR.

The biggest factor for using smart speakers has not changed. Most people say they buy it to listen to music. But upgrading their personal technology is more of a factor today that it was in the past. Half (51%) say they bought a smart speaker to replace a traditional radio receiver. That compares to 39% who said that five years ago.

“Upgrading to new tech is a motivation for a majority of new owners,” said Lamar Johnson,” VP of Sponsorship Marketing at National Public Media. “People are also looking to control smart home devices. There are certainly analog holdouts, but the analog world is increasingly appealing to Americans,” he said on a webinar Thursday.

With everything from smart refrigerators to air conditioners, the smart home is leading to adoption as well. Edison says 53% of those surveyed say they bought a smart speaker to control other smart devices in their home. A growing number also use it to help with accessibility issues among the elderly and disabled.

Yet even as 86% of those surveyed say smart speakers are making their lives more convenient, the smart speaker is often used as a way to consume media. Nearly half (47%) of adults who have bought a smart speaker during the past year say using it to listen to podcasts is one of the reasons they bought the device. That’s up from 40% in 2017.

It is not just the spoken word. A majority 53% see it as a way to discover new songs.

“An increased interest in content discovery through the smart speaker shows that people use smart speakers as a hub of information in the home,” said Edison VP Megan Lazovick. She pointed to results showing eight in ten smart speaker owners think the devices make it easy to discover new content overall.

Edison’s Share of Ear data also confirms that when someone buys a smart speaker, they tend to listen to more of their audio through it. That is more true today than in the past.

When stacked up against other options, the data shows smart speaker owners spend one of every five minutes of their audio consumption time with the device. That is the same share they spend listening to an AM/FM radio. But with the mobile phone capturing the biggest share, Edison says the age group that gives the smallest portion of its time to smart speakers is the highly-mobile 18 to 24 demo. They spend just 4% of their audio time listening to smart speakers.

Smart speakers remain a small part of the ad market today, but as they become more common that is likely to change. Already half of smart speaker owners have heard an ad on their smart speaker. And 53% of those people agree they are likely to respond to ads on their smart speaker. Nearly as many (48%) also say that compared to hearing an ad in another place, hearing it on their smart speaker would make them more likely to consider the brand.

Yet there is a downside too that calls into question how big the device can grow as an ad platform. Edison says 73% of those surveyed say it bothers them when a smart speaker suggests they buy a product without their prompting. Lazovick said the key to not turning off users seems to be inserting messages that feel more helpful than obtrusive.

The Smart Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research is based on a national online survey of 1,190 U.S. adults age 18+ who own a smart speaker, as well as 560 U.S. adults age 18+ who do not own a smart speaker but use voice assistants on other devices such as smartphones, and another 584 U.S. adults 18+ who do not use voice assistants at all. Surveys were conducted Feb/ 28 to April 18.

Download the full report HERE.

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