Kantar 375 2019

As more stations educate listeners on how to access their content on smart speakers, they may want to include Google devices along with the more popular Amazon speakers. Google smart speaker owners are more likely to listen to radio on their device than owners of Amazon brand smart speakers.

That’s according to new research from Kantar Media’s Worldpanel, conducted in April 2019. Far and away, the top use case among all owners is streaming music, cited by 65%, followed by checking the weather (61%), asking questions (39%) and checking the news (34%). Listening to radio is a strong top five use case, ranking fifth with 23% of survey respondents.

The research turned up some marked differences between Google smart speaker owners and those that have Amazon Alex-enabled devices. Google owners came in below average for saying that streaming music is their top usage. Instead, checking the weather is the top activity among Google device owners. Amazon users, on the other hand, are more likely to say that streaming music is their top use case. But Google owners are more likely than the average to listen to the radio and audiobooks on their smart speaker, compared to Amazon device owners.

As shown in earlier studies by Edison Research, smart speakers tend to change consumer behavior over time. Three in ten respondents in the Kantar study (30%) said they listen to more music than before they got a device, while 10% switched to a different music service and 8% said they now make sure that new electronic devices they buy are compatible with their smart speaker. In addition, 6% said it caused them to use their smartphone less.

In a bit of a head scratcher, the main driver of satisfaction cited by Kantar survey takers is sound quality, named by 49% “I find that quite surprising but I imagine people have fairly low expectations because these are not Bang & Olufsen speakers with amazing sound,” Kantar VP of ComTech Duncan Stark told Inside Radio. “A lot of people are using the cheaper Amazon Echo device which can’t have any serious sound quality.” However, Google owners are more satisfied than Amazon users when it comes to sound quality. “Google owners are more engaged with radio and listening to audiobooks and maybe that’s why they’re more satisfied with the sound quality because they just want to listen to things,” Stark suggests. Put another way, consumers aren’t using these devices as an audiophile device but more as a convenient way to listen to audio.

For radio broadcasters, smart speakers open up opportunities to increase the number of listening occasions, especially with them showing up in multiple rooms in the house. Smart speakers are most likely to be found in American living rooms – 50% of those surveyed say that’s where they have a device in their household, followed by the kitchen (22%) and the bedroom (20%).

Why are Americans snapping up smart speakers in droves? The top reason identified in the Kantar study is the “intelligence of the speaker to answer questions correctly,” cited by 44%. So while device owners use them to stream music and to listen to radio, they’re buying them as an easier way to search for information. “That’s one of the things that Google has over Amazon in this instance,” Stark pointed out. “People are more used to dealing with Google on that basis and they know that the AI that Google has developed is superior to Amazon’s.”

One of the study’s most eye-opening findings is that net promoter scores are declining among smart speakers owners as people are apparently less satisfied with their smart speaker. Stark believes that is directly related to an increase in new device owners. “These are the people more likely to be dissatisfied and less engaged with the device and also more likely to have received them as a gift,” he said. Kantar’s first wave of data was collected in September 2018 and the latest wave occurred in April 2019. In between, many received smart speakers as gifts during the Christmas 2018 season, when both Amazon and Google were heavily promoting their products. “The people in Wave 1 are more likely to be early adopters, people who are really keen and interested in the technology,” Stark observed. “Now you’re seeing a slightly later wave of adoption among people who are given them as a gift and they are less interested or engaged. They may be setting them up, using them once or twice and then leaving them sitting there for a while. You’re seeing that rub off on the fact that people are seemingly less satisfied with their device. It’s that influx of new owners who are more likely to have received these things as a gift.”