Consumers across all age demographics have radically realigned their lives over the last eight months. To say that we aren’t quite the same people we were a year ago might seem overly dramatic. Still, the 2020 edition of the PYMNTS |Visa How We Will Pay consumer survey of a national sample of roughly 10,000 U.S. consumers confirmes that consumers, in fact, have changed.
This time last year, staying connected gave a more mobile consumer the freedom to shop and pay should the need arise during the day — anytime and anywhere and often in parallel to something else they were doing at the time. For example, 76 percent of consumers reported making purchases during at least one of their daily routine activities, whether eating breakfast, commuting to work or sitting at their desks in the office.
But fast forward to today and while consumers are still eating breakfast, commuting and sitting at their desks in the office is for many a distant memory. For consumers young and old, the home has shifted from the place one lays their head at night into becoming the office, entertainment center, school, gym and commerce command center.
Data shows that they’re shopping from that command center fairly consistently and constantly. The number of consumers shopping for general retail items from home doubled and buying groceries at home tripled.
Grocery shopping used to be an activity that most consumers undertook on weekends, but as schedules have shifted around teleworking, consumers no longer must shop outside of a Monday-through-Friday, 9-to-5 work schedule. For instance, the percentage of consumers who do grocery shopping on weekends declined from nearly 75 percent in 2019 to just 53 percent today.
And to help manage their commerce command systems, consumers are increasingly turning to voice assistants to act as their in-house concierges. That’s especially true for bridge millennials, those 32- to 42-year-olds, entering the prime time of their spending years.
One can only conclude that voice artificial intelligence’s (AI) new job as digital majordomo for connected consumers might not be a flash in the COVID-19 pan so much as a sign of a permanent shift to shopping habits.
The New Connected Consumers
While voice-activated virtual assistants like Alexa and the Google Assistant have been picking up steam for several years, the progress of voice-activated commerce has been somewhat slower.
Consumers have been slower to shift to full comfort when it comes to shopping by voice command, but the 2020 How We Will Pay study indicates that’s changing. The study estimates that 23 million consumers used voice assistants to make purchases — a 45 percent increase since 2018 and an 8 percent gain since 2019.
That uptick seems to be coming as consumers’ penchant for in-store shopping falls. PYMNTS research found that in-store shopping is down 25 percent from last year, with just 44 percent of surveyed consumers reporting that they made purchases in physical stores.
But more notable than the uptick in connected commerce among the general consumer population is how much more strongly bridge millennials consumers have adopted voice assistants as a primary commerce mechanism. PYMNTS survey found that bridge millennials are almost twice as likely as the average consumer to use voice-activated technology to make purchases.
Why The Surge In Popularity?
Some of the reason is purely demographic. Bridge millennials are the first generation of consumers to have grown up with connected devices and are thus habituated to using them to shop and pay.
Bridge millennials have also aged enough to have established themselves as an important economic subset. Their average age is 36; their average income is $95,000 a year; and they, on average, own 5.6 connected devices.
They’re also buying houses and having kids — and powering these emerging households with connected devices that allow them to browse, shop and pay for things from the safety and comfort of their new homes.
Meanwhile, they’re also busy doing other things — increasingly splitting their time between paid jobs and “side hustles” as teachers for their virtually schooling children.
According to PYMNTS data, voice shopping is increasingly the practice of such dedicated multitaskers. We found that 14 percent of all voice-assisted purchases are made while consumers are also doing other things around the house like doing the dishes (cited by 14 percent), cleaning the house (12 percent), watching TV (12 percent), and cooking meals (11 percent).
The New Shape Of Commerce
While the pandemic will one day come to an end, such changes might end up being a lot more permanent than anyone could have predicted when COVID-19 first struck.
When asked why they’re interested in new commerce experiences, 83.1 percent of bridge millennials cited a desire to keep safe from the pandemic as “very” or “extremely” important. But what was perhaps more remarkable were all of the reasons cited that had nothing to do with the crisis at all.
For example, 84.7 percent of respondents cited reduced frustration as “very” or “extremely important, while 83.1 percent said connected commerce was faster. And 82.3 percent said it was easier, while 80.9 percent noted it improved their overall life quality.
Taken together, those answers spell out a story of bridge millennial consumers looking to connected-commerce experiences not because they have to, but because they want to.
They’ve tried connected commerce out to a greater extent than they had before the pandemic and found that they like such digital upgrades. And this key demographic of U.S. consumer spending seems unlikely to downgrade to the old ways of doing things once the pandemic is done.