Shopping Via Voice Activation Rose 41 Percent In Six Months — Here’s Where It’s Going

"We won’t just use voice as a search function; we’ll be able to initiate returns, leave feedback and ask about other products we might like," says Narvar CEO Amit Sharma.

The idea of brand loyalty is evolving with the rise of new technologies like voice, as well as augmented reality and virtual reality.

In a sign of just how fast consumers’ attitudes are changing, a report from shopper analytics provider Narvar found 17 percent of shoppers now own voice devices, and 42 percent of those who own voice devices use them to shop — suggesting that usage is moving beyond the primary use cases like weather info and music listening for voice-activated assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.

Among the topline findings in Narvar’s report:

Proactive updates are key: 83 percent of shoppers expect regular communication about their orders and just 8 percent say they get too many notifications

  • Consumers are loyal to retailers that make them feel cared for: 54 percent will give repeat business to a retailer that accurately predicts the date their package will arrive and 77 percent to one that re-sends lost or damaged items with expedited shipping.
  • Voice shopping is picking up steam, and shows no sign of slowing down: 17 percent of shoppers own a voice devices and 42 percent of device owners use their device to shop, compare to just 12 percent and 29 percent respectively six months ago
  • Chatbots are rising in popularity, but shoppers still expect human help: Shoppers still expect human support for help with complex questions, high-value and considered purchases, or nuanced issues — but just 14 percent say they don’t like chatbots at all, compared to 25 percent just six months ago

We checked in with Narvar CEO Amit Sharma to discuss the findings.

GeoMarketing: We generally hear that most people use their voice activated assistants to play music, check the weather, and set a timer. What’s your sense of how popular shopping is via voice? What are your expectations over the next few years of its growth?

Amit Sharma: Voice shopping is here. Our most recent survey found the number of people using voice to shop increased by 41 percent compared to six months prior. What’s more, consumers are shopping via voice even if they don’t have a voice-activated device at home: 24 percent of consumers say they use a voice-activated virtual assistant like Siri or Google Assistant to research products, track packages or make purchases. Eight percent of all consumers we surveyed shop using a voice-activated device like Amazon Echo or Google Home.

These numbers will grow as voice technologies improve and more people use voice assistants as part of their everyday lives — beyond listening to music and checking the weather.

As this happens, I expect consumers will shop via voice in more sophisticated ways. We won’t just use voice as a search function; we’ll be able to initiate returns, leave feedback and ask about other products we might like. So, we’ll see a growing number of consumers who shop via voice as well as deeper engagement and new experiences with brands.

The expectation in terms of the amount of notifications users want from voice activated devices is surprising, considering people often complain of too many notifications on their smartphones. Does this suggest that consumers and brands are still uncertain about how to best use intelligent assistants?

Not necessarily. I see this as more of an indication that retailers need to think about communications from the consumer’s perspective rather than their own. Instead of pushing marketing messages at high frequency, through all channels, retailers should be thoughtful about providing the information their customers really want, and think about the context of each channel.

Is this an urgent message about an order that is delayed? Send an SMS. Is this a gentle reminder that a returns window is expiring? Perhaps that’s a voice notification.

Shoppers want ongoing updates about their orders and intelligent assistants are helping to deliver this information throughout the shopping journey. Consumers are embracing these assistants when they’re useful — 66 percent of people say they like chatbots because they’re available at any time.

It’s important that retailers recognize that communication is a two-way street; they should solicit feedback on how customers prefer to interact with their brand and understand how shoppers want to communicate with bots and humans.

What does your report say about the value and best uses of chatbots?

Bot use is nascent but growing. According to our research, 29 percent of consumers currently use or plan to use chatbots to shop online. They can provide a more interactive self-service option that’s available 24/7. As adoption rises, retailers should be using chatbots where they can add the most value — for instance, to provide information quickly and fulfill simple customer care requests. Retailers should expect consumers to rely on human support for help with complex questions, high-value and considered purchases, or nuanced issues.

How should brands view voice activation? Is it a “new form of radio” for brands or is it a completely different channel that doesn’t reflect any past media?

Brands should view voice as a new interactive channel—and a fairly intimate one, in people’s homes or cars—certainly not just another way to push advertising. Voice is already changing how consumers interact with their favorite brands and is bringing new levels of convenience to all parts of the shopping experience.

If anything, I would think about voice as a personal assistant, which provides information, gives you contextual reminders, and takes care of basic tasks to make modern life easier. To deliver customer care at its highest level through any channel including voice, brands will need to think about how to simplify the lives of consumers and become a trusted resource in the home.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.