New Data: Smart Speakers Hitting the Mainstream

August 2018

With smart speaker ownership surpassing 43M in the U.S. (18+), these voice-activated devices have quickly expanded beyond first adopters. New smart speaker owners are emerging as a distinct audience in terms of user profile and behavior, according to the latest research from The Smart Audio Report, which for the first time offers a preview into the realities of mainstream use within the voice assistant ecosystem.

“As people build daily habits with their smart speakers, there is an opportunity for brands to be a part of people’s routines in an entirely new way,” said Gina Garrubbo, President & CEO of NPR’s sponsorship subsidiary, National Public Media. Read on for a summary of key takeaways for marketers, or, if you prefer the longer read, get the full research deck now. 


Get the Smart Audio Report: Spring 2018


Smart Speaker are Hitting the Mainstream

The Spring 2018 Report revealed two distinct users groups forming among smart speaker owners:

  • First Adopter: Users who have owned a speaker for more than one year 
  • Early Mainstream: Users who have owned a smart speaker device for less than one year 

smart speaker adoption

First Adopters demonstrate more advance use of their device, for example using it to control home security and other household devices. Early Mainstream users are using their smart speakers quite differently, relying on the technology for a wider range of daily activities including ordering food, making calls, getting traffic reports, researching products, shopping, and even facilitating family and social time.

This group of newer users is finding more ways to integrate smart technology into their daily routines, presenting unique opportunities for brands to reach this group in their homes, especially when screens are off – 38% of Early Mainstream owners say they purchased a smart speaker hoping to reduce screen time. 

  • 54% of Early Mainstream owners wouldn’t want to go back to life without their smart speaker
  • 45% of Early Mainstream owners have children in the household, compared to 36% of first adopters
  • 33% of Early Mainstream owners those with children in the home say they talk to their smart speaker during mealtime


Smart Technology is Shifting Media Behaviors

The Spring 2018 release also reveals how across user groups this technology is affecting the way consumers engage with other media. The devices are not only driving more listening overall, they’re quickly becoming a main vehicle for audio consumption. News is already a significant driver of smart speaker use for First Adopters and Early Mainstream users: 37% of all smart speaker owners listened to at least two hours of news on their smart speaker in the last week.

And podcast listening has seen growth among smart speakers users as well – nearly three-quarters (74%) of Early Mainstream users played a podcast directly through their device.  


“In homes that have had smart speakers for at least a year, they are now the number one device for consuming audio.” — Tom Webster, Senior VP of Edison Research.


Attitudes Towards Advertising

The Spring 2018 Report surveyed users about their preferences on brand activations of the platform and found that for most users, skills/features are the preferred method of brand integration with voice assistants: 81% of smart speaker owners would be open to skills/features from brands. 

Now is the time for brands to consider their voice strategy, along with ways to create meaningful experiences for smart speaker owners as adoption of these devices continues to grow. And don’t forget to consider you’re education and marketing plan, too. According to the Report, 62% of smart speaker owners don’t know enough about their device to use all its feature. 

About The Smart Audio Report: Methodology

The Smart Audio Report, Spring 2018 is based upon a national online survey of 909 Americans ages 18+ who indicated that they owned at least one smart speaker. The device owner data was weighted to nationally representative figures on smart speaker users from The Infinite Dial 2018 from Edison Research and Triton Digital.

Learn More
The Smart Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research is a recurring study on trends in smart speaker ownership and voice assistant user behavior. Since its first release in 2017, the Report has revealed trends in smart speaker adoption and usage, and insight into how voice technology is shaping consumer attitudes and behaviors.