Virtual Assistants and Shopping With Voice Commands

Virtual assistants header image

In the pursuit of making our life more practical and efficient, the rise of virtual assistants has taken the world by storm. With less time on our hands and more things to get done, we need all the help we can get. We surveyed over 1,000 people to learn more about their interactions with virtual assistants, specifically pertaining to commerce and shopping.

We ask respondents about how often they interact with their AI companions and for which kind of shopping activities they use them. We also take a look at various monthly expenditures and see if a connection can be made regarding the method of purchase (are some items being bought via virtual assistant more than others?). Then we assess the benefits and drawbacks of smart home devices and take one last look at people’s likelihood of owning and/or shopping via smart device based on their income.

Consulting the Computer

Seeing as 35.1% of respondents said they communicate with their virtual assistants every day, and a quarter engage with them a few times a week, it’s fair to say they’ve become an integral part of many people’s lives. Men were generally more likely to interact with them, whereas a greater percentage of women hadn’t used any sort of virtual assistant at all. Of those who use one, 39.1% said they would either be very or somewhat likely to consult their AI assistant when shopping, and just over a fifth had no interest in doing so. Again, men were more keen on these virtual interactions than women were.

Graphic showcasing virtual assistant usage insights

The most-used voice assistant was Amazon’s Alexa, beating Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant by a 15.2% margin. The most common shopping-related activities that AI assistants performed were browsing for new products, searching for specific ones, and creating shopping lists. While Alexa can help you pick out a new pair of shoes, the virtual assistant can also play music and update you on news, sports scores, and weather, among other functions.

Dissecting the Monthly Bill

If we take a look at monthly purchases—made either with the help of a voice assistant or by other methods—we can better understand respondent tendencies in terms of how they may shop for certain things. For example, groceries were the highest listed monthly expenditure, and 34% of respondents also used their AI assistants to shop for them, the most of any category. Home goods and furniture were the second most expensive monthly purchases, but only 15.4% of respondents were making home goods and furniture purchases via voice command.

Graphic showcasing what people are shopping for with their virtual assistants

The satisfaction level among those using a virtual assistant to do their shopping was very consistent throughout the different item categories discussed. Around 65% were generally satisfied with their experience, about a quarter were neutral, and just over 10% were unhappy with it.

Luckily, there are a handful of tips and tricks to make the virtual assistant shopping experience that much better. For example, those who use Amazon’s Alexa should know that you can be as vague or specific as you want with the system – you can ask for a particular item to be put in your cart, or “she” will pick an Amazon Prime item for you if you provide a vague idea of what you want. You can also ask Alexa to remind you what’s in your online cart, search the web for discounts, and prevent unwanted orders with a voice code.

Happiness … and Headaches

When comparing the perceptions of virtual assistant fans and those that don’t use them at all, opinions were relatively similar throughout the list. The biggest agreed-upon upsides were that virtual assistants are hands-free and that they are time efficient – nonusers actually thought these were bigger benefits than regular users did. That being said, virtual assistant owners were more likely to agree that their systems always remaining on was a positive thing.

Perceptions of shopping with a virtual assistant

On the other hand, respondents assessed some drawbacks of our AI companions. The two biggest ones were a concern about data safety and data being tracked. Nonusers were much more skeptical of virtual assistant information safety than regular users were. However, more regular users didn’t particularly like the fact that their AIs were learning their routines or didn’t provide visual browsing functions, and more than 1 in 5 were displeased with the general effectiveness of their voice recognition system. There were 67 million smart speakers in U.S. households by the end of 2017 and 157 million by the end of 2019, equating to a 135% growth in two years. With society continually evolving toward a more hands-free, efficient, and technology-based future, these drawbacks clearly aren’t serious enough to dissuade many people from getting their own virtual assistant.

Who’s Buying One?

Among respondents who owned virtual assistants, the Amazon Echo device was the most popular by far, enjoying 15.5% more ownership than the next leading brand. When comparing each listed smart home device by likelihood of using it to shop, the results were a little more complicated. Apple HomePod owners, who accounted for 13% of virtual assistant-using respondents, were the most likely to use it for shopping, whereas Wink Hub owners (3.7%) led the “somewhat likely” pack. Ironically, Amazon Echo owners had the highest percentage of users to be unlikely to use AI shopping functions, slightly edging out those with Google Homes/Nests.

Most commonly owned smart home devices

Perhaps speaking to the affordability of many smart home devices on the market, no income bracket was significantly more or less likely to report owning a smart home device. While only 37.4% of people who made between $0 and $24,999 on an annual basis said they were very likely to shop using their smart home device, 75.2% of respondents making $175,000 or more said the same.

It’s an AI’s World, We Just Live in It

Among those who owned virtual assistants, the general sentiment toward them was relatively positive. We can see that many people use their smart home devices to take care of their shopping needs, and most are satisfied with their experience. While there are certain drawbacks that can cause people to think twice about purchasing one, the smart home device market has been skyrocketing in recent years and is showing no sign of slowing down.

While many race to make their life as efficient as possible, saving money any way we can will always be one of our top priorities. At CouponFollow, we make that happen all the time by rigorously tracking coupon codes from online merchants, helping you to save money across tons of different item categories – including smart home devices. Head over now to start saving!

Methodology and Limitations

We collected responses from 1,081 Americans using the SurveyMonkey platform. 49% of our participants were men, and 51% were women. Participants ranged in age from 18 to over 60, although exact ages were not reported in the data. Roughly 19% were Generation Z, 27% were millennials, 31% were Generation X, and 23% were baby boomers or older. Those who failed an attention-check question were disqualified.

The data we are presenting rely on self-report. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to, the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.

Fair Use Statement

We hope you enjoyed reading about the integration of virtual assistants in our daily lives. If you know someone who’d be interested in our findings, feel free to send this article their way. We just ask that you do so for noncommercial use only and that you provide a link back to the original page so contributors can earn credit for their work.

about the author

CouponFollow Team
CouponFollow Team
The CouponFollow content team produces content about top savings hacks, frugal tips, and in-depth research about the coupon industry.