- Amazon tracks trends in how users interact with its Alexa-powered smart speakers, and it noticed a change in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Instead of asking Alexa, "What time is it?" people started asking, "What day is it?"
- Amazon also noticed other changes in user behavior, like an uptick in people using communication tools and increases in people streaming workout and meditation classes on Fire TV.
- Overall, it appears smart-speaker use has gone up during the pandemic, with people turning to their devices for news, music, and entertainment while they're stuck at home.
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The coronavirus pandemic has upended many of our daily habits and routines - including how people interact with their smart home, according to Amazon.
Amazon tracks, in aggregate, how people use its Echo lineup of smart speakers, including what questions are commonly asked to Alexa, the virtual assistant powering Amazon's smart home products. In the early months of the pandemic in the US and UK, when people were confined to their houses and many businesses and offices were closed, Amazon noticed a decline in one common Alexa question: "What time is it?"
Instead, users started asking Alexa a slightly grimmer question: "What day is it?"
The change is one of many alterations in user behavior Amazon has noticed during the last eight months. Amazon said it has seen an uptick in customers using communication tools like the Alexa integration with Zoom and Drop In, a feature that allows Alexa-enabled devices to be used like an intercom system.
Customers using Amazon products like Fire TV to stream virtual fitness and wellness classes also increased: Amazon said it saw a 300% spike in engagement on Peloton and an 80% increase in guided meditation classes on Headspace between February and July.
Daniel Rausch, Amazon's vice president of smart home, told Business Insider in a recent interview that, overall, people are using their devices more than they were before the pandemic and use is steadier throughout the day given that so many people are working from home.
"We do definitely see in the data that some dominant patterns are different," Rausch said. "Use is just a little bit more consistent throughout the day versus having peaks and valleys around when people leave their home during the day and come back."
Amazon's findings line up with a report from NPR and Edison Research from April, which found that people, especially young users, started interacting with the smart speakers more when they were stuck inside: 50% of users between 18 and 34 said they turned to their devices for news and information, while 52% reported using their smart speakers more for music and entertainment.
Increased time at home also appears to be leading customers to not just use their devices more, but purchase more of them too: Among smart speaker owners with kids under 18, 71% said they were thinking about buying another device to entertain their kids, compared to 47% who were asked the same question in spring 2019. And a report from Strategy Analytics from August found that, despite that pandemic, global smart speaker sales have been on the rise in 2020, increasing 6% between the first and second quarters of the year.