Thoughts on the Spring 2018 Smart Audio Report

The new Smart Audio Report from NPR and Edison Research was published yesterday, and there are some interesting findings in it. Here are a few of the things that stood out to me.

Things just got Mainstream

Around 18% of American Adults now own a Smart Speaker. This means we have moved out of “Early Adopter” and edged into “Early Majority”.

Smart Speaker Adoption Curve

With that shift, we are also seeing the average age of Smart Speaker owners getting lower. This is interesting, as it may seem like the early adopters for a new technology would be younger people. Likely the initially higher costs and the fact it’s a “static” rather than mobile device slowed the uptake in groups who have mobile devices capable of the tasks now being provided by a Smart Speaker. It’s interesting to think that a Smart Speaker is now one of the cheapest computers you can buy.

Smart Speaker Owners Age Breakdown

Things got Really Mainstream

The tasks that Smart Speakers are now being used for don’t require any specialist equipment or knowledge. Some of them you may not even have realised pre-Smart Speaker were possible to make any easier for people — setting a timer, adding something to a shopping list. 65% of people use it to check the time!

Smart Speaker Activities

They are also being used for a wide range of things all through the day, providing value in almost every areas of people’s day to day lives.

People like the Technology rather than a particular Device

There is no doubt that people are embracing Voice Interfaces, but the interesting thing is that it does seem to be the technology rather than a particular vendor product that they are embracing.

Reasons why users want to buy another Smart Speaker

58% of those planning to buy another speaker said they it was to “to try the technology from another type of Smart Speaker”. 56% said that since getting a Smart Speaker they were using the voice-operated assistant on their smartphone more.

Using Smart Speakers has made users much more willing to use other Voice Interfaces. This will drive adding Voice-Enablement into all sorts of new things.

Voice is making computing much more accessible — you don’t need to click through menus or find the right option. Users are finding that using Voice and Conversation to interact with technology is an easy and natural next step in Human-Computer Interaction. The Smart Speaker is a stepping stone to the Smart House. We’re putting static devices into our rooms to make the room smart — we expect to just be able to voice our needs and have it get done.

Things are looking good for Companies

Although the most used features right now are around personal day to day tasks, it seems people are moving towards Voice-Commerce, and are open to interacting with Brands through this medium.

Most people with a Smart Speaker are already buying things through it, and with more Voice Payment options being available it would be likely we would see this trend continue. Brands that offer options to buy straight from this new channel should find customers more and more open to this — and maybe eventually expectant of it.

Purchasing Statistics through Smart Speakers

Brands should also be highly encouraged that people are very open to interacting with them on this new platform. 22% say they actually like when Brands offer some functionality, and a further 59% say they don’t mind. That’s 81% of people who will be willing to try out your Brand’s skills and features, much more than want to just listen to an advert for your company. There is value and opportunity to be realised by getting functionality out there as quickly as possible.

Attitudes to Advertising on Smart Speakers


There are a lot of other great insights in this report, and I would encourage you to take a look at it in its entirety. One thing is very clear — Voice Assistants uptake is moving very fast, and looks like it is here to stay. We’re moving back to the interface we all know — conversation. In the future we won’t remember how we ever did without it.

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