Smart Speakers have been selling like wildfire in the past year or so. Largely because it’s something that people were already buying, but without the “smarts” of Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Apple Siri. Now people are getting the same speaker, for the same price, and it’s now smart. So it’s easy to see why it’s growing so much. But in the third quarter of this year, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners or CIRP, the growth rate of the market has dropped pretty substantially in the quarter. The install-base only reached 53 million, after hitting 50 million units the quarter before. Typically, that wouldn’t sound too bad, but compared to the first quarter which saw 16-percent growth compared to the second quarter. The third quarter only saw six-percent growth. Which shows that smart speakers are starting to slow a bit.
Amazon Echo still owns the market, with around 70-percent of the install base, but Google Home has grown to 25-percent and Apple HomePod to five-percent. These are slight changes from the previous quarter, Amazon has dropped a tiny bit, but it is barely noticeable. For Google Home, the uptick is likely due to Google giving out Home Mini’s with just about any purchase right now. Of course, that is what Amazon has been doing for quite a few years already, and how it grew to 70-percent market share here. HomePod has seen a very small increase, it’s almost not noticeable here. Part of this is because Apple has not released any other HomePod speakers, and just has the one speaker that is nearly $400. That’s not a surprise for Apple, but it does make it harder for Apple to overtake the market, with a single, much more expensive speaker.
CIRP also found that most smart speaker owners also had at least one kind of smart home accessory. About 70-percent of Google Home owners and 60-percent of Amazon Echo owners own at least one smart home product. It’s a bit surprising to see Google Home with the lead there, considering the fact that Amazon Echo works better with smart home products and does support more brands. CIRP also found that 49-percent of Google Home owners and 36-percent of Amazon Echo owners have a connected home security accessory (like a security camera, smart lock, doorbell, etc). A lower percentage of each have smart thermostats and appliances, and that is likely because they do cost more than smart bulbs, or security cameras.
Background: Smart Speakers are being used as a “gateway drug” into the smart home ecosystem by a lot of companies. It’s easier to sell people a speaker that they were going to buy anyways, and pack all of this extra stuff into that speaker to use for other things. Like finding out the weather, controlling the light bulbs in your home and much more. Just look at Sonos for example. The Sonos One and PLAY:1 are essentially the same speaker, but the One has Alexa inside, while the PLAY:1 does not (it also got a $50 price drop). But it still works with the Sonos system just as you’d expect. So it makes it a no-brainer to buy the new One over the PLAY:1.
Another thing that has really been a catalyst for pushing smart speakers into more hands has been the bundles that companies are offering. Amazon has been offering up various Echo smart speakers with different smart home products that it sells on its website. For instance, you can get a free light bulb with the Echo Plus, which is a pretty good deal and a good way to get into the smart home game. Amazon has also been offering up the Echo Dot for free with the NVIDIA SHIELD TV lately, which is another good bundle to pick up, and it brings Alexa into more rooms of your home, without costing you anything extra. This is something that Google has started doing with the Home Mini, but not quite to the extent that Amazon has. Of course, Amazon does have a more robust store than Google does right now, so it has more luck with moving Echo’s than Google does with moving Home smart speakers. It’s a good way for both companies to really get these smart speakers and assistants into more homes. Both Google and Amazon believe that these assistants are going to be the future way of communicating with each other and getting things done. Amazon has invested a ton into Alexa in the past year, after the pretty insane holiday season it had last year. As Amazon sees it as the next big revenue stream for Amazon, after AWS.
Impact: While smart speakers may have slowed a bit in the third quarter, it would not be surprising to see that change in the fourth quarter. This is the holiday season quarter, and Amazon – along with Google and perhaps Apple – are going to drastically discount their smart speakers, which is going to help them sell a ton more smart speakers here. As mentioned already, Amazon had a huge holiday season for the Echo last year, selling a record number of Echo Dot’s, and now that it has just refreshed its entire lineup of Echo smart speakers, that should happen again this year, and perhaps be an even bigger year for Amazon. Google didn’t really announce any new smart speakers this year, but the Google Home, Home Max and Home Mini will likely get some hefty discounts, and bundled in with some Nest stuff as well. There is also the Google Home Hub, which is Google’s answer to Amazon’s Echo Show. And it’ll be interesting to see how those two perform over the holiday season as well. Apple doesn’t normally discount many of their products for the holiday season, but it will likely discount the HomePod, since it is about a year old now. And Apple is definitely going to want to get the HomePod and Siri into more hands, even if the speaker is locked down to just Apple’s ecosystem anyways.