While traditional digital devices like phones and desktops continue to hover at high penetration levels in the US, emerging technologies are seeing compelling growth in adoption. Smart Speaker reach, in particular, has more than doubled between 2017-2019 in US households with WiFi, per recent research from Comscore, which finds that the average WiFi household owned more than 9 connected devices as of November 2019.
Ownership of phones remains the highest of all digital media devices, resting at 89% in November 2019. Desktop ownership is high as well, but the share of WiFi households owning these devices has dropped slightly, from 89% in November 2017 to 86% in November 2019.
Tablets have also seen a decline in adoption over that two-year period, dipping from 60% to 55%. This, however, may not be uniform across generations, as separate data from Pew Research shows that while tablet ownership among Gen Xers decreased significantly between 2018 and 2019, adoption by adults 74+ rose.
With subscription video streaming services now reaching three-quarters of US households, it’s no surprise that ownership of video-related technologies such as streaming sticks or boxes and connected TVs has increased. More than half (54%) of WiFi households had a streaming stick/box by late 2019, compared to the more than two-fifths (42%) of households with one in late 2017. Similarly, while 34% of households reported having a connected TV in 2017, this has risen to 45% in 2019.
Smart Speaker ownership has also grown a great deal, with 3 in 10 (29%) households owning at least 1 such device by the end of 2019, up significantly from 12% in 2017. And, although adoption of Smartwatches and Smart Thermostats remains relatively low in households with WiFi, both devices have double the reach they did in 2017.
As the digital media device with the largest growth in the past couple of years, Smart Speakers warrant a closer look.
Smart Speakers: When and How They’re Used
Recently, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) forecast revenues from the sale of Smart Speakers to grow by 14% y-o-y in 2020 to reach $4.2 billion. This growth has occurred even though some consumers report being concerned about privacy when using their devices.
Comscore’s report illustrates that while Smart Speakers are used consistently throughout the day, mornings (between 8 AM and 12 PM) tend to be when users interact with their speakers the most on weekends (with a spike at 11AM), while evenings (from 5PM onwards) see the highest usage during the weekdays. These patterns differ from those of phones and streaming boxes/sticks, for which usage peaks in the evening hours.
Previous research from NPR and Edison has indicated that Smart Speaker owners tend to use their devices to perform basic functions like streaming audio, inquiring about the weather or asking general questions. Comscore’s data shows that not much has changed. Users are still using their Smart Speakers to ask general questions (55%), get updates on weather, traffic, travel, or sports (45%), stream music from built-in streaming services (35%) and set timers or alarms (33%). Streaming music should be of particular interest to advertisers, given the hundreds of millions of minutes of ad-supported music that Americans are listening to. And, while almost one-fifth (18%) of households use their Smart Speakers for home automation tasks such as turning on and off lights, far fewer are using them to find local businesses (13%) or order food or services (10%).
You can read more about the study here.
About the Data: Findings are based on Comscore Connected Home data for November 2017 and November 2019.