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How many people can you ask for the weather forecast, to turn on the lights or open the blinds, play a song, call your parents, and remind you to pick up bread from the grocery store while receiving an immediate response? Unless you’re lucky enough to have a real-life assistant following you around, the answer is probably zero.
When it comes to virtual assistants on the other hand, you may need only speak their names to accomplish these tasks.
Apple’s Siri may be the most popular voice assistant in the world, but there’s seemingly no end to what she and her rivals (including Cortona, Google Voice, and Alexa) are capable of. With voice recognition and even more advanced AI capabilities, your virtual assistants can help keep you up to date on the news, interface with the other smart technology in your home, tell (occasionally) funny jokes, and even help you with your online shopping.
Asking for the weather is easy, but how many people are asking their phones or smart speakers to do their shopping for them? To find out, we surveyed over 1,000 frequent online shoppers, those who made purchases online at least once per week or more often, to explore the finer facets of voice commerce. Respondents had to indicate that they shopped online at least once per week to qualify to take the rest of our survey. Then, we identified our voice shoppers as those who made a purchase using voice command at least once per month or more often. Read on as we break down how many frequent online shoppers are using voice assistants to place online orders, what they’re buying (and who they’re buying from), and how often they’re satisfied with the final product.
Online shopping has been on track to outpace physical brick-and-mortar stores for some time, and the global health pandemic triggered by COVID-19 has only catapulted e-commerce to new heights. Beyond the usual online purchases of clothes or books, online grocery sales for one company increased by 450% between December 2019 and April 2020. So not only is the frequency of online purchases increasing, but our study shows that frequent online shoppers are also
Nearly half of online shoppers who shopped online frequently (47%) had used a virtual assistant to make online purchases at least once in their life, including 51% of millennials, 45% of Generation X shoppers, and 34% of baby boomers. For some, voice shopping is a repeat occurrence, with roughly 1 in 3 avid online shoppers using their voice assistants to make purchases at least once a month.
You don’t have to get off the couch to go shopping online, and you may still find plenty of options for whatever you’re in the market to buy. Fifty-seven percent of digital customers shopped through a dedicated online shopping platform (like Amazon), followed by those who went directly through a brand or company’s website (54%), used a virtual assistant through their smart speaker (41%), or shopped via social media links (36%).
When shopping, Amazon’s Alexa was the most popular virtual assistant (72%), followed by Google Assistant (49%), Apple’s Siri (23%), and Microsoft’s Cortana (18%).
Online shopping isn’t like going into a store to pick up what you need, and shopping through your voice assistant software isn’t exactly like online shopping.
The most popular reason people utilized voice assistants to help facilitate their shopping was convenience (56%), followed by saving time (55%), saving money (26%), and for the general reminder to purchase essential products (22%). Moreover, 22% of shoppers indicated shopping through virtual assistants allowed them to multitask, and 18% said it helped them to stay on budget.
On the other hand, voice-assisted shopping may not be a completely perfect alternative to online shopping. Forty percent of shoppers indicated the biggest drawbacks of virtual assistant shopping were not being able to effectively browse items and finding inaccurate search results and purchases. Many shoppers were also worried about their privacy (31%) or the security of their financial data (27%) when shopping over their voice-activated airwaves. The popularity of voice assistants only continues to grow but not without similarly growing concerns for privacy and data. Despite the lengths companies like Amazon have gone to help convince customers their information is safe with Alexa, they may still have miles to go to earn the trust they need to convince avid online shoppers to buy through virtual assistants.
Despite the potential challenges of shopping with a virtual voice assistant, more than half of frequent online shoppers (58%) were satisfied with their experiences. Sixty-one percent of respondents also indicated using virtual assistants to reorder preexisting or saved shopping orders, potentially reducing the possibility of error.
Shopping for tomorrow night’s dinner might not be the kind of experience you expect to go online for, but groceries were the most commonly purchased items with voice assistants (48%), with more than 2 in 3 people satisfied with the experience. Unlike shopping for clothes or accessories where you might want to see an item before buying it, groceries have the distinct advantage of being slightly more straightforward, perhaps making it easier for shoppers to utilize voice assistants without sacrificing convenience or preference.
Other frequently purchased items using voice assistants included toiletries and beauty products (38%), home essentials (36%), clothing (30%), and pet supplies (24%). Customers had the best experience with virtual assistant shopping when ordering home decor and appliances and toiletries, while they were the least satisfied when shopping for clothing.
More than half of voice shoppers also admitted to recently making an impulse purchase, which typically fell into the category of electronics and technology. Earbuds, Bluetooth speakers, laptop accessories, and gaming equipment were among the more common impulse buys.
Men (54%) significantly outpaced women (39%) as adopters of virtual assistant shopping, particularly in the category of electronics and technology. Compared to just 18% of women, 28% of men indicated enjoying shopping for electronics or other tech purchases through voice-activated assistants.
Savings might be a popular reason why people utilize virtual shopping, but avid online shoppers who made purchases once a week or more using voice assistants spent $136 more, on average, per month than those just clicking and browsing to buy. Compared to online shoppers who spent an average $278, online shoppers who also used voice assistants spent $414 on average, including $170 through voice shopping specifically. Online shoppers were also five percentage points more likely to be satisfied with their overall shopping experience.
The biggest differences in satisfaction between online shoppers and those utilizing voice assistants were found in gifts (13 percentage points), electronics and technology (10 percentage points), and pet supplies (9 percentage points). While most shoppers were typically happier shopping online compared to with voice assistants, shoppers buying home goods or furniture reported a better experience with virtual assistants (76%), compared to traditional online shopping (73%).
Asking Alexa to order toilet paper so you don’t have to worry about running out may be convenient, but shopping through voice assistants still has work to do before consumers can really value the benefits over traditional online shopping. As we found, while shoppers valued the ease of use and the idea that they might be saving money with their virtual shopping assistants, they were actually spending more, on average, and were more satisfied with their shopping experiences online, compared to through voice assistants.
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We surveyed 1,038 frequent online shoppers to understand how often they used their voice assistants to help make purchases. In order to determine a frequent online shopper, we qualified those who made a purchase online once a week or more. Then, we asked users to indicate how often they make purchases using voice command, using a smart speaker or virtual assistant. We identified that around 33% of our frequent online shoppers used a virtual assistant to shop with voice command at least once a month or more often. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 72, with an average age of 37 and standard deviation of 12 years. We asked users to rate their online shopping satisfaction on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being “not at all satisfied” and 5 being “extremely satisfied.” We also asked voice shoppers to rate their satisfaction, so we could compare purchasing experiences across both platforms.
Fifty-one percent of frequent online shoppers surveyed were female, and 49% were male. Around 57% of our survey respondent pool were millennials, 26% were from Generation X, and 11% were baby boomers. Around 6% identified as Generation Z and the greatest generation, but, due to sample size, we did not use those generations for analysis.
Survey data comes with limitations due to self-reporting, which include but are not limited to exaggeration, telescoping, and selective memory. We did not weigh our data or check the statistical significance of our hypotheses, as this was a purely exploratory study of voice shopping preferences.
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