Consumers increasingly love voice shopping

Gina Acosta
Executive Editor
Gina Acosta profile picture
As shopping behaviors evolve, so are consumers' expectations for proactive updates from retailers.

Consumers are increasingly using their voices to research products, add items to their shopping lists and track packages without lifting a finger.

According to a new report by Narvar, voice device ownership and voice shopping activity have nearly doubled in the past six months, with 17% of shoppers now owning a voice device and 42% of those device owners using voice to shop.

The report, "Connecting with Shoppers in the Age of Choice," analyzes responses from 1,543 U.S. online shoppers, evaluating the ways customers prefer to communicate with their favorite brands throughout the shopping journey.

The boundary between online and offline is blurring as consumers integrate shopping experiences into their everyday lives. Sixteen% of American adults—39 million—now own a smart speaker like a Google Home or Amazon Echo. Meanwhile, the retail industry is expected to invest $422 million in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) over the next four years. The Narvar study found that 41% of consumers currently shop or plan to shop using the voice assistant on their phone, 31% via voice-controlled device, and 21% via AR or VR technology on a smartphone. Chatbot use, meanwhile, is nascent but growing: 29% of consumers use or plan to use chatbots to shop online.

As people get accustomed to shopping using these technologies, they are using these channels for more than researching products. The study found that 30% of shoppers use voice to track their packages — nearly as many as the 36% who use it to add items to their shopping list.

As shopping behaviors evolve, so are consumers' expectations for proactive updates from retailers. About 83% of shoppers say they expect regular communication about their purchases, while just 8% say they get too many notifications.

"To deliver customer care at its highest level, brands will need to anticipate customers' wants and needs, using technologies like voice and chatbots to communicate with shoppers at every point of their journey," said Amit Sharma, Founder & CEO of Narvar. "The retailers that succeed in building loyalty with shoppers will be those that connect with people personally and communicate proactively."

Key findings from the report include:

Consumers are loyal to retailers that invest in customer care 
Shoppers will return to retailers who go above and beyond expectations to make them feel cared for.

  • 54% of shoppers would give repeat business to a retailer that accurately predicts the date their package will arrive.
  • 77% would give repeat business to a retailer that resends lost or damaged items with expedited shipping.

Retailers stand to gain—or lose—customers based on the returns process 
Consumers have little tolerance for hassles related to returns; they expect ease, transparency and flexibility.

  • 76% of shoppers would give repeat business to a retailer that makes returns and exchanges easy.
  • 67% opt to return online purchases through the mail, but 25% won't buy something if they don't have the option of returning to a physical store.

Voice shopping is poised to go mainstream
As voice technologies become present in people's living rooms, cars and phones, consumers are shopping more via voice.

  • Device ownership has increased 42% in the last six months.
  • Shopping via device has increased 41% in the last six months.

Voice is present through the entire shopping experience
Voice shopping includes much more than product discovery and transactions; people are using voice throughout their shopping journeys. Because voice device owners are more likely than other shoppers to select automatic replenishment services, retailers have an opportunity to present them with more experimental predictive experiences.

  • 51% of shoppers use voice to research products, 36% use it to add items to their shopping list, and 30% use voice to track a package.
  • 52% of voice device owners opt into subscription services and automatic reordering, compared to 30% of all shoppers surveyed.

Shoppers embrace bots, and forgive them for not being perfect
Shoppers are becoming more comfortable using bots to resolve simple customer care issues, but expect human support for help with complex questions, high-value and considered purchases, or nuanced issues.

  • 65% of shoppers say they like using chatbots because the bots are available at any time.
  • 14% say they don't like chatbots at all, compared to 25% just six months ago.

The complete report detailing the findings of the study is available at