Though more than 80% of shoppers prefer email communications, 38%  now want to hear from retailers on multiple channels. Also, post-purchase communications are among the most likely to be appreciated via text or push notification. These are just three findings from the report “Bots, Texts and Voice: What Cuts Through the Clutter,” published yesterday by post-purchase experience expert Narvar.

The answers? In short, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Consumers are exhibiting more complex and varied preferences for how, where and why they communicate with retailers. Not surprisingly, this is amplified by generational preferences.

“Bots, voice assistants, smart homes and other AI-informed communications are top of mind for nearly every retailer today. The technology innovation complicates what we already know—that customer communications are never one-size-fit-all,” says Amit Sharma, CEO of Narvar. “With this research, our mission is to equip retailers with the insights they need to navigate nuanced communications and ultimately create the best experiences possible.”

Considering the iPhone is only 10 years old, it’s staggering how ubiquitous it has become in our life and how it has primed the way for an acceptance of new technologies. Cases in point: 77% of American adults own a smartphone; every month, people exchange 2 billion messages with Facebook Messenger’s 100,000 active bots; and 30 million households will have a voice-first, in-home device such as Amazon Echo and Google Home by the end of 2017.


When it Matters Most, Shoppers Welcome Texts

While shoppers typically prefer to receive messages from retailers via email (especially for record keeping), they’re warming up to text messages and push notifications. This is especially true if a message is important and contains order confirmation or tracking information. They also want companies to communicate package delays or postponed delivery dates, quickly, and want more communication for high-value items.

The Takeaway: Retailers should understand nuances in customer preferences and personalize their outreach accordingly.

  • 38% of shoppers said they want to receive information from retailers via multiple channels.
  • 36% of shoppers prefer to receive order updates via text message, while 34% like to receive texts about customer service issues.
  • 73% of shoppers consider messages containing order tracking information to be “very important,” while 46% say customer service messages are “very important.”
  • 84% say more communication is critical if the purchase is an expensive one.
  • 98% of shoppers say they feel better about a company if they are notified immediately when something goes wrong.

Mobile-First Millennials Are Open to Texts, Push Notifications

While email still reigns overall, communication preferences vary by age group. Millennials aged 21 to 29 prefer text messages and mobile push notifications from retailers more than any other generation. This is because they’re more likely to see these kinds of messages quickly.

The Takeaway: Retailers should seek permission to contact these shoppers using different channels to maximize engagement and build trust.

  • 43% of millennials aged 21-29 prefer to receive order updates as text messages, compared with 39% of shoppers aged 30-44, 32% of shoppers aged 45-59, and 28% of those shoppers 60 or older.
  • 33% of millennials aged 21-29 prefer to receive order updates as push notifications, compared with 22% of those aged 30-44, 12% of those aged 45-59, and just 4% of those 60 or older.

Artificial Intelligence-Powered Technology is on the Rise

Retailers are starting to integrate artificial intelligence and voice technology into communications with shoppers. While these channels are still new, the majority of shoppers have at least tried messenger apps, voice devices or live chat.

The Takeaway: Retailers should take note that this is only the beginning. For instance, the data underscores that shoppers anticipate using voice-powered devices more.

  • 79% of shoppers have used text, messenger apps, or voice devices, and 74% indicated they have used live chat when shopping. Of those who have used these new technologies, 38% could not identify if they were using artificial intelligence, and only 10 percent knew it was not human.
  • 65% of shoppers who knew a non-human bot was responding generally liked it.
  • 12% of shoppers own a voice device.
  • 29% of voice device owners use it to shop, while 41% of voice device owners plan to shop with it in the future.

The Future of Customer Support is a Human/Chatbot Hybrid

The majority of shoppers will try to resolve problems on their own first. Those under 30 are most likely to prefer to fix problems themselves, using the retailer’s website or chat technology. But skilled customer support teams will not go extinct. Retailers’ live agents will fix complex problems and calm down frustrated customers, while bots can help with simple requests, such as answering questions about order status.

The Takeaway: In the future, retailers will need to adopt a hybrid model which applies technology to offer better self-service options, but escalates higher-level issues to humans.

  • 55% of millennials aged 21-29 prefer to talk to a person to resolve a problem, compared with 72 percent of shoppers aged 60 or older.
  • 88% of under-30 millennials and 73% of shoppers aged 60 or older will try to find an answer to the problem themselves when they encounter an issue with a retailer.


“People expect a personalized, effortless online shopping experience from discovery to post-purchase. This is only amplified with the introduction of new communications channels,” says Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail industry analyst who collaborated with Narvar on this study. “Retail brands should seize the opportunity to learn from and optimize consumer communications through both existing and emerging channels. The first step is to understand how their customers want to communicate based on elements like urgency, type of message and specific channel.”

Narvar surveyed 1,290 U.S. shoppers who made an online purchase in the past six months to understand how preferences are evolving.


Source: Lauren Parker of Accessories Magazine