It’s been nearly seven years since the release of the Amazon Echo first generation. Today, there are a ton of options available to consumers in the market for a smart home assistant. Will you choose a smart speaker or a smart display? Google, Amazon, Apple, or another brand? A deluxe or budget model? 

With the AI voice assistant market expected to keep growing, CivicScience looked at current market trends surrounding smart speakers/displays and indicators for the year ahead. 

Fourth quarter survey results reveal that just under 40% of U.S. adults (n=45,389) currently own a smart speaker, such as the Google Home Mini or Amazon Echo Dot. Ownership has grown steadily over the past several years, and is 22% higher than Q4 2019 rates.

However, tracking shows things remained relatively static in the second half of 2021 (among all age groups), raising the question of whether or not the market is plateauing.

Increased rates of intent-to-buy witnessed this year may indicate future growth is on the horizon, which is most likely to occur among younger audiences. While more than 40% of Gen Z and Millennial adults own smart speakers, intent to own is far higher among these demographics. This is especially true for Gen Z, of whom one-quarter hope to purchase a smart speaker.

Smart Displays

The introduction of smart displays further diversifies the smart home assistant market. Devices such as Google Home Hub and Amazon Echo Show combine both the AI voice assistance of smart speakers with a visual interface, giving users the option to toggle between a screen and voice commands.

Current ownership of smart displays among survey respondents stands at 25%, up from 18% in Q4 2020. Intent to own and overall awareness have also increased from year to year.

Value to Users

Ownership is one thing, usage is another. Owners of smart home assistants vary widely in how they use (or don’t use) their devices. A fascinating insight revealed by the survey finds that 61% of smart speaker or smart display owners feel the devices are “not at all important” in their daily lives.

Furthermore, when it comes to high-level usage trends, the majority (53%) of owners say they use their device less than on a weekly basis and nearly 30% never use it. Around one-quarter of owners use their device daily while 20% use it weekly.

Who is more likely to use their device(s)? 

Gen Z and Millennials. For one, younger adult owners (18-34) far outweigh older adults when it comes to how much they value their smart speaker or display. Millennials (25-34) in particular are the most likely to feel their device is very important in their day-to-day life – more than 4 times that of older adults.

Smart home owners. People who own other smart home devices, such as Nest products, Ring security cameras, or smart lighting systems, are also significantly more likely to feel their smart home assistant is important to them. A smart speaker or display can act as a central hub to control smart home devices. Eighty-three percent of smart home owners also own a smart speaker or display.

Amazon Prime members. Hands-free shopping is another key perk of owning a smart home assistant. Weekly Amazon Prime users are much more likely to say their smart home assistant is important to them.

Taking stock, as 2021 comes to a close, the majority of U.S. households do not own smart speakers or displays and more than half of current owners are largely unengaged with their devices. The market may have plateaued for adults 35 and up, but shows signs of life among Millennials and Gen Z, who are more likely to be future buyers as well as to value and regularly use the devices.