Smart speaker ownership levels are growing fast and diverting consumer attention from their various screens, according to new research.

“It’s not just television screens; it’s anything with a screen,” Tom Webster, svp/strategy and marketing at Edison Research, which carried out the research on behalf of NPR, told last week’s CES.

“The people who say that they are spending time with these devices tell us that it's replacing time with a lot of different things,” he said. (For more details, read WARC’s report: How smart speakers are changing consumer behaviour.)

Most obviously, it is FM/AM radio, the top choice, that is affected, but this is followed by smartphone, computer, tablet, print and television.

“What we see,” said Webster, “is specific smart speaker usage to take the place of television usage, for instance in the mornings when people are getting ready. So these devices are certainly having an impact on screen time.”

In lots of cases, he argued, that shift is a “deliberate one”.

And one audience that is especially interested in cutting back in this way is parents, the study discovered. “People who say specifically that they purchased their smart speaker hoping to reduce screen that correlates very highly with having children at home, certainly,” Webster said.

This trend may be worrying to media brands in different verticals given the rapid adoptions of smart speakers. At the close of 2018, ownership levels stood at 21% of the US population, or around 53 million people, placing the voice-driven gizmos “very firmly into the ‘early majority,’” Webster said. (Ownership levels stood at 16% in 2017 and 7% in 2016.)

He added that while mainstream consumers are buying the devices to play audio content they actually function as a “Trojan horse” as they are then encouraged to purchase other products that enable them allow to turn their domestic environment into a smart home.

The findings came from a combination of a phone survey of 1,002 people in the US conducted in the last week of 2018, along with an online poll of 909 smart speaker owners undertaken earlier in the same year and at-home ethnographic research with a select group of smart speaker users.

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Sourced from WARC