Alexa, start gayatri mantra, is not a wishful command for Amazon’s Echo line of speakers. It’s an actual skill that made it to Amazon’s Echo speaker line. Amazon launched the hardware product in India with 11,000 skills at the end of October 2017. By the end of the year, Amazon announced that it has crossed over 12,000 skills. In a way, that highlights the growing interest in voice-based interactions. Conversational commerce, consumer purchase of products via voice assistants such as Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Siri, has the potential to revolutionise how consumers and brands interact in ways not witnessed since the dawn of e-commerce.
We are still at a very nascent stage of conversational commerce. However, the extraordinarily rapid early adoption will drive investment and innovation, consequently enabling an entirely new way for the brands to build relationships of value with consumers. These relationships will seamlessly extend across consumers’ relationship lifecycle with brands —from marketing to sales and service — creating an entirely new, more instinctive way for consumers to engage with brands. Domino’s, one of the earliest adopters, launched voice ordering via mobile apps in June 2014. In less than a year they saw half a million orders through this medium. Throughout 2017, a large number of retailers, specifically in the US, such as Target, Walmart, Costco, forayed into voice ordering to capitalise on this opportunity. In India, where chatbots haven’t quite taken off in the manner they were expected to, users are going to leapfrog directly to voice assistants that are far more natural to engage with.
Aashish Chandorkar, Head, Capgemini Consulting India practice
In our research published early this year titled “Conversational Commerce: Why consumers are embracing voice assistants in their lives”, we spoke to consumers across the US, the UK, France, and Germany, on their preferences for a voice assistant and how it was likely to evolve in the coming years. We found that more than half already use voice assistants in one form or another and over a third have already bought clothes, ordered groceries, or ordered a meal via a voice assistant. The use cases for a voice assistant in commerce are many. We found that nearly 1 in 2 consumers have a high interest in ordering meals, booking a taxi, or purchasing electronics using a voice assistant. And users of voice assistants are quite bullish on its prospects. For instance, they believe they will spend as much as 18 per cent of their total expenditure using voice assistants in the next three years — up from 3 per cent currently. And beyond purchases, consumers see support as an area where voice assistants can help play a key role. Why do consumers prefer voice assistants? The two biggest factors turn out to be speed and convenience. For large retailers in particular, a worrying factor lies in our finding that over a third of consumers (38 per cent) prefer voice assistants as it helps them avoid interacting with a sales representative. What can derail the spread of voice assistants? One of the biggest concerns for use of voice assistants among non-users is the big trust factor.
Subrahmanyam Kanakadandi, Head, digital transformation research, Capgemini in India
Conversational Commerce represents a significant opportunity for brands and retailers to interact with their consumers in new and innovative ways. Rapid technological advances, coupled with increasing consumer appetite for voice devices, is driving investment and innovation. Companies must harness this interaction opportunity to build relationships of value with consumers across the lifecycle and offer an entirely new, more instinctive way for consumers to engage with them.Some Indian tech start-ups have already taken a head-start. Zomato, an Indian restaurant search app, is already a “skill” on Alexa, allowing users to reserve tables, get restaurant recommendations, or even place an order for home delivery. Similarly, users can now book an Ola cab through Alexa in India.
This transition though is not without its challenges. Given the diversity of languages and dialects in India, organisations will have to be extra cautious in how they deploy voice assistants. However, if they are able to get the technology and the use case right, the rewards are immense.