In 2019, smart speaker ownership in the U.S. surpassed 76 million, according to CIRP (Consumer Intelligence Research Partners), up from 66 million at the end of 2018. How much higher will this number rise in 2020? As voice-assistant technologies continue to advance in smartphones, smart speakers, and in vehicles, more consumers and businesses are exploring the benefits of using this technology to make tasks simpler. Tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all chomping at the bit, hoping customers will turn to their voice assistants for increasingly complex tasks. Who’s winning this race, and why? Who are the underdogs?
CIRP’s research suggests Amazon is the current leader in smart speakers, with about 70% of the installed base being Amazon Echo devices, 25% being made up of Google Home devices, and 5% being made up of Apple HomePods. This remains relatively unchanged from the firm’s previous year’s research, with the exception of slight percentage growth from both Google and Apple in 2019 compared to 2018. Voicebot data shows a similar breakdown, with 61.1% marketshare going to Amazon, 23.9% going to Google, and 15% going to “other.”
Voicebot’s data also breaks down smart speaker ownership by demographic, providing some insight into exactly who is buying and using these devices. About one in three Americans between 18 and 29 years old (34%) owned a smart speaker at the beginning of 2019, while about one in five (20%) over the age of 60 has bought in by buying a smart speaker. Amazon’s slice of the smart-speaker pie varies depending on age group, according to Voicebot’s research—55.8% for ages 18-29, 53.6% for ages 30-44, 65.2% for ages 45-60, and 70.4% for ages 60 and up.
Microsoft’s 2019 Voice Report takes a broader look at voice and digital assistant usage beyond smart speakers. Of the 5,000 people Microsoft surveyed in its report, 69% had used a digital assistant. Most people are engaging with voice assistants using their smartphones. Microsoft’s report showed 72% engaged with voice through a personal digital assistant, while 35% engage via a smart-home speaker, 36% send voice commands to a smart TV or other non-speaker smart-home device, and 31% use voice commands inside their vehicles. While searching for information and giving commands are the most common ways people uses voice assistants today, more than half of Microsoft’s respondents said they expect digital assistants to help them make purchases within the next five years.
When factoring in voice-assistant usage on smartphones, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant gain a lot of marketshare. Microsoft’s data suggests Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant are tied for the top spot at 36%, followed by Amazon Alexa (25%), Microsoft Cortana (19%), and Other (1%). With the “other” category being so small, will there ever be challengers to the reign of those top four? There are other voice assistants by big tech companies, like Samsung Bixby, and there are plenty of options from small developers. Some examples include the Lyra Virtual Assistant and the Robin AI Voice Assistant for Android devices.
In enterprise, companies like Nuance are building enterprise virtual assistants to help customers support their customers. Nuance’s Nina virtual agent uses natural language understanding technology to offer companies consistent customer-service experiences across digital channels—an increasingly important requirement in today’s connected world. Going forward, the growing adoption of smart speakers and the increasing use of voice assistants across numerous devices will help AI-enabled assistants become the norm. As it does, enterprises must look to leverage this technology in ways that will improve how their businesses run and how they connect with customers.