Many products seem fascinating to geeks and techies but fail to catch on with wider audiences, from dual-booting smartphones to smart blowdryers. However, the Amazon Echo seems to be a real hit, with a new report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimating the retail giant has sold 3 million of the smart speakers.
The Amazon Echo, which uses the cloud-based AI Alexa to answer queries, control smart home devices and play games with users, has seen plenty of support from Amazon, with new abilities added almost every week. But consumers seem to have seen the value as well.
“Amazon very carefully but aggressively promoted Amazon Echo during the year,” said CIRP co-founder Josh Lowitz. “It dedicated Amazon.com homepage real estate to Echo, promoted it on Amazon Prime Day in July, and also advertised it heavily during the holiday shopping season. This effort paid off as it stood out among Amazon customers.”
According to CIRP’s research, customer awareness of the product reached almost 50 percent by the end of last year, up from about 20 percent in March 2015. About a third of Echo smart speakers were sold during the holiday season.
The versatility of the Echo may be behind its success. CIRP found that users take advantage of the audio speaker and informative skills about equally, and nearly 20 percent use it to control other devices.
With Amazon adding a smart home API kit, the Echo’s abilities are only growing. However, users may be turned off by news of failures from other smart home companies. Alphabet’s Nest is shutting down a smart home hub built by a company it acquired in 2014.
That means those users’ $300 device is completely non-functional. Consumers may be wary of buying another smart home hub that could one day be relegated to a paperweight.
However, the Amazon brand is behind the Echo and it seems that the company has found success with the product. It continues to update the original Echo with new features and has added two sibling products to the Echo lineup, in addition to opening up the Alexa framework to outside developers. Google is even working on its own competing device, a sign that the market for these kinds of tools is still growing healthily.