Emarketer

U.S. consumers still haven’t warmed up to the idea of using smart speakers to make purchases—but they’re all in when it comes to their audio pursuits.

Research firm eMarketer, in an upward revision to its second-quarter forecast, now says the percentage of smart-speaker users listening to audio has increased to 81.1%. The percentage of those using smart speakers to make inquiries has also been revised higher.

As Inside Radio reported last spring, the proliferation of smart speakers has meant good news for radio. But eMarketer’s latest 2020 estimate is splashing some cold water on the overall success story, at least for the moment. It puts the number of U.S. smart-speaker users at 83.1 million.

That represents a quarter of the nation, but it’s still down from 84.5 million in the Q2 2019 forecast.

eMarketer says users are “going back to the basics, using their devices for simple and straightforward tasks.” Things like playing music and checking the weather.

But shopping, it appears, isn’t such a straightforward task. While some consumers are embracing the technology, the number isn’t as high as eMarketer had projected in its second-quarter 2019 forecast. The number of general smart-speaker users (those who use them for any purpose) is also moving lower.

“By the end of 2020, we expect that 21.6 million people will have made a purchase using a smart speaker,” eMarketer says. “This is lower than our Q2 2019 forecast, in which we expected the number to reach 23.6 million. Still, the activity is growing and will pass a milestone this year when 10.8% of all digital buyers in the U.S. will make a purchase using a smart speaker.”

For now, several factors are holding back smart-speaker shopping, with trust being the most prominent. Consumers are worried about privacy and the security of their payment data.

Devices that lack screens can’t let the consumer see a product before completing a purchase. As a result, eMarketer says, some voice buyers are gravitating toward smartphones and tablets.

“There’s a good deal of friction in the voice-based buying process because people can’t see what they’ll actually be purchasing unless they have a screen on their smart speaker,” eMarketer principal analyst Victoria Petrock said. “So, most of the purchases made today are reorders and things that don’t need to be inspected.”