Shreyas Kulkarni

The noise behind India’s voice commerce era

A WATConsult report says voice commerce shoppers will grow to 168mn by 2022 end from 83mn in 2021, do we have that many voice shoppers?

“Alexa, what’s the cricket score?”, “Ok Google, set the alarm for 6 am tomorrow.”, “Hey, no, Ok Google, what’s on the news?”, “Ok Google, play the song at the end of Lucifer’s season finale on Spotify.”, “Alexa, add 200g Tetley green tea to my pantry.”, “Alexa, order me boAt earphones.”

From mundane tasks such as setting alarms, playing a song on a music app to shopping online without moving a finger. As you read through these questions and instructions, you will realise our conversations with voice assistants have matured not only in terms of speech but in our needs too.

Say the word and your wish is fulfilled.

The noise behind India’s voice commerce era
WATConsult report

By the end of 2022, the number of voice commerce shoppers is expected to reach 168 million, growing at a rate of 103 per cent from the 83 million users in 2021 says a new report on voice commerce from RECOGN, the research and consultancy arm of WATConsult, a digital agency from Dentsu India.

Voice commerce, in a nutshell, is speaking to a smart assistant to interact and shop on the internet.

Sreeraman Thiagarajan, co-founder & CEO, Agrahyah Technologies, a voice agency, says that the most-used categories on voice assistants are: Content and Entertainment (songs, music, podcasts, jokes, spirituality) followed by news, utility (turn on my lights, switch on AC), and then e-commerce which he feels is in its nascent stage. “Voice today is what digital was in 2012-13 when we had to convince marketers to adopt a digital strategy,” he remarks.

The noise behind India’s voice commerce era

Shopping through voice assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant is daunting for many users of different generations. It is, however, not impossible. As per the report, “More than half of the voice commerce shoppers transact at least once a week. The majority of the young males belonging to the age groups of less than 18 years and 18 years to 24 years are frequent shoppers using voice.”

What do they shop for? “Products which are daily consumables and matter of choice is not important a la your brand of tea leaves, toothpaste (Alexa, add Taj Mahal tea and Colgate to the pantry), FMCG products enjoy a lot of traction on voice,” says Jay Morzaria, creative associate at Spring Marketing Capital.

The need to build skills

Voice commerce users instruct their assistants with intent. “Alexa, order me two McAloo Tikkis from McDonald’s” or “Ok Google, play the title track of Kalank on Spotify”. Your instruction will only bear fruit if these brands have developed skills on voice assistants. Meaning? Just like users interact with a brand on a phone through an app, they can interact with a brand on a voice assistant through a skill. If Spotify doesn’t have a skill on Google or Alexa, the assistants can’t play the song.

“Hanuman Chalisa is the highest used skill in the country,” says Thiagarajan and tells us building one is as hard as building a smartphone app.

However, merely building a 'skill' isn’t enough. Ahmed Aftab Naqvi, global CEO & co-founder, Gozoop, an integrated marketing agency states, "Google assistant queries are 200 times more conversational and it’s only about 40 times when they are action-oriented.” He feels brands on these devices need to be more human to create a bond beyond transactions. “We all remember how Mr Bachchan’s voice package on Alexa sparked a renewed interest in the device. The more human a brand is, the more interactions and engagement it will attract from its audience.”

“Brands operate on loyalty or customer base. The first point of contact will be mobile phones through apps. It won't directly start with Alexa,” says Morzaria telling us how brands can become more popular among voice commerce users.

Do brands know this? Responds Naqvi, “There is significant voice-to-cart scope, simply because a lot of consumers have adopted voice searches to the extent of skipping typing altogether in their daily digital interactions. Think long paragraphs v/s more convenient voice notes.”

SEO at play, again

Brands, while at it, would also need to be aware of whether a voice assistant utters its name or not. I say “Alexa, buy me a pair of red shoes.” Replies Alexa, “Sure, your options for red shoes include Nike, Adidas, Puma, and Reebok.” How did the voice assistant know which brand name to utter and in which order? The magic behind this tech witchcraft is Voice SEO which I am told is little to nothing in India right now but “is certainly becoming an important consideration while building an organic search strategy for brands today. Cannot be ignored,” responds Naqvi.

Lastly, to whom are all these instructions issued? Smart assistants on standalone devices (Google Home, Amazon Voice Echo) or via smartphones. While Morzaria would like to have the entire gamut, Naqvi feels “more than 60 per cent of the voice assistant usage is still through smartphones, simply because they are far more accessible.”

So, what do you do with your digital assistant?

Cover image credit: BENCE BOROS on Unsplash

Have news to share? Write to us