Amazon Echo Plus is a smart speaker programmed with Amazon's artificial intelligence assistant app called Alexa to control home appliances such as TV and lights through human voiceAmazon Echo Plus at MID Base Tower Residence, Yokohama, Japan - 22 Nov 2017

Retailers and brands need to start strategizing for voice shopping, if they’re not already.

New research from Slice Intelligence, an online shopping analysis firm, found that unit sales of Amazon’s Alexa-powered voice assistant devices and Google’s similar Google Home devices grew 78 percent last year, compared with 2016, more than doubling the number of the devices inside homes.

Ken Cassar, vice president and principal analyst at Slice, said the unit sales growth is “blisteringly strong” and noted that demographics of people purchasing them is expanding beyond the typical early tech adopter.

While buyers of voice-controlled speakers during 2015, the first full year the technology was available, were 72 percent men, nearly half of which were between the ages of 35 and 54 with a higher than average income, now men only account for 60 percent of buyers, and the age group has expanded, too. In 2017, 35- to 54-year-olds only made up 33 percent of Alexa and Google voice device buyers and buyers with an income of more than $100,000 also fell to 31 percent from 37 percent.

The biggest demographic gains were seen in the 25 to 34 age group and the 18 to 24 age group and buyers making less than $50,000 per year also increased considerably, according to Slice data.

While Slice would not disclose the exact number of Alexa and Google devices sold last year, citing company policy, multiple estimates expected the number for Amazon devices sold to exceed 20 million, while estimates for Google came in around 11 million. Both companies talked up device sales in discussing 2017 financial results, but neither broke the category out. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos said the sale of Alexa devices “far exceeded” internal projections and that the company was going to “double-down” on the category, while Google’s Sundar Pichai said he’s “very excited about the momentum” Google Home is seeing.

Slice is also impressed with the sales momentum Google Home is starting to see. The firm said the device only made up 11 percent of units sold in 2016, after launching in October of that year, but last year made up 39 percent of unit sales during the record holiday sopping season, and 19 percent overall. Although Amazon is clearly still dominate, Google Home is gaining ground and the company has said it’s currently more focused on perfecting user experience than monetization.

Google is also looking to be a partner to retailers and brands than to take them over, which Cassar of Slice said “is clearly good news for retailers.”

“Google is not a retailer and is building its Google Assistant platform to partner with, rather than crush, other merchants,” Cassar said.

The company has already partnered with Walmart and has been pushing various offerings aimed at helping retailers and brands with everything from inventory solutions to advertising, but when it comes to Google Home devices, they still only make up 9 percent of the total market.

For consumer-driven companies to worry about optimizing for Alexa devices and Google Home, Cassar said Google will probably have to get to 25 percent of the market, which is within its reach at the current growth rate.

“The trend is going the right way for Google, for now, but Amazon continues to innovate a heck of a lot faster than Google in this space,” Cassar said.

For More, See:

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