We have 628 million smartphones, 450 million Paytm users but only 130 million active users. We have over 2.8 billion UPI transactions, but how many of them are for e-commerce? There are only 88 million e-commerce customers. Only 4 out of 10 installs will get a customer who buys anything.
This is because most people in India are not comfortable using e-commerce apps due to their UI complexity. So, if e-commerce is a key channel for sales for any brand, there is a gigantic customer base that is not being addressed today.
Voice is to this decade, what mobile apps were to the previous decade - the biggest growth explosion lever for e-commerce companies to acquire 400 million new customers in India alone.
It’s no surprise that many prominent e-commerce players like Amazon, Flipkart, and Jio have started experimenting with it by adding their home-grown in-app voice assistants. Similarly, companies like Big Basket, Udaan, and P&G are working with some cutting-edge startups to add in-app voice assistants to their own apps. So, let’s see what the top use cases are being powered by voice assistants in popular e-commerce apps.
Multilingual Voice Search
Search is the most widely used feature in any e-commerce application, but it also acts as a major drop-off point in a consumer’s purchase path while they discover new items. Here are the most common reasons customers drop off during search –
- Typing - Typing is painful, especially on a smartphone keyboard; requires English spelling mastery, and typing vernacular words in English is fuzzy in spellings (aalu, aloo).
- English - People generally think of items in their native language and try to type them out, but the SKUs are usually indexed with the English version of the word.
Typing is a hurdle, especially with non-English languages.
- Spelling Challenges - Spelling out complicated terms is tough.
- Product Discovery - Auto suggestions are great, but they limit the customer to popular items and prevent the discovery of newer or less frequently purchased items.
- Synonyms - People might not always know the exact item they want and might use a word with a similar meaning (‘low-fat’ > ‘skim’)
- Filters - It’s natural to apply filters in search, but currently, most apps expect filters to be an explicit UI operation. Customers have to engage in two separate activities to get the result they want (*'blue jeans under Rs 2,000'*)
Voice-powered search eliminates most of these issues and also makes repetitive voice search for even power users much faster - by up to 33 percent - compared to usual touch and type interfaces.
Voice to Cart in a Single Step!
Voice enables people to complete their tasks on apps much faster by letting them speak a single command which otherwise would have been a multi-step process.
For example: ‘Add 2 kgs of Aashirvaad aata’ (In this case, it’s now possible to identify the actual SKU and the quantity and add it to the cart directly).
The ability to do this entire action in one command is 3X faster than manually adding each item. Now, imagine building a monthly grocery list of 40 items in a grocery shopping app!
Voice promotions are just-in-time voice nudges that contextually inform the shopper about the availability of offers (‘There is an offer for buy 2 get 1 free. Would you like to buy 2 items instead?’), and then follow up with an explicit yes or no question. This, again, very closely mimics the real-world shopping experience, where the person manning the checkout counter has the best influence to push an offer (‘Ma’am, you could buy 3 of these at 20 percent off?’).
Consumers coming online for the first time have a bigger difficulty. This complexity creates a lot of cognitive overload on these first-time consumers causing drop-offs and a reduction in conversion. A person trying to find the delivery status or invoice for purchase will have to perform 4-5 actions minimum - whereas a simple voice command like ‘delivery status’ is 3X-4X faster than touch and type!
Voice Navigation allows consumers to be in control and just speak out what their intent is – ‘fruits and vegetables’, ‘track my order’, ‘show my cart’ or ‘what offers do I have on my credit cards?’ The app then can quickly take them to their destination without them having to figure how to get to that screen themselves.
Hands-free Shopping, Building Shopping Lists, Voice Feedback, and More
There are lots of new capabilities that voice shopping enables that are otherwise not possible. The ability to use the app without having to interact with it constantly (hands-free shopping) or the ability to quickly blurt out their shopping list (list to cart) or the ability to collect better quality feedback by allowing customers to share their experiences by just talking to the app. All these make the app a lot easier and faster to use for your customers - irrespective of their comfort with apps.
In-App Voice Commerce Journey is Just Beginning
There are 1,000X more smartphones in the world than there are smart speakers in homes. That automatically makes the APP the king of all channels to engage and entice your customers to shop with retail brands on a consistent basis. So, making apps faster and more accessible to millions of consumers will only help brands grow their customer base and retention rates rapidly.
In a spirited discussion on AI and the retail industry, Puneet Chandok, President of Microsoft India and South Asia delved deeply into India's role in transforming the world through Artificial Intelligence and technology enablement. He discussed Microsoft's commitment to India, not only in training Indian talent but also in leveraging it.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had praised the Tech Entrepreneurs Association of Mumbai (TEAM) for hosting Mumbai Tech Week and their ongoing involvement in building tech startups in the country. During a panel discussion with Haptik CEO Aakrit Vaish at Mumbai Tech Week, Puneet Chandok, President of Microsoft India and South Asia, emphasized the transformative impact AI could have on various aspects of daily life.
Chandok stated, “When we look at India through the lens of demand, supply, and impact, there is no other market like India today. There are 7,000 listed companies in India and one hundred thousand startups. Many startups are in Maharashtra, and one hundred new startups are emerging in India every day. India is the largest SMB market globally, making it one of the most exciting markets today.”
He further added, “When we look at the supply lens and examine Microsoft's data, one out of four projects on AI in GitHub today is run out of India. Every sixth AI researcher in the world is from India. In the next ten years, 25 percent of the global workforce will come from India, meaning every fourth worker in the world will be from India.”
Discussing the growing influence and power of Artificial Intelligence, Chandok mentioned, “Last night, my 12-year-old daughter was creating text-to-video, and she told me that AI will change her life. She is an artist; she draws and paints. This also indicates how the younger generation perceives AI.”
Expanding on this, Chandok continued, “People will stop searching and instead have conversations. I have stopped searching myself; in fact, I was conversing with my Copilot to understand what is happening at the event and what I should speak about. We have shifted from searching to genuine conversations. This is not just chat drama anymore. These are sophisticated engines providing reasoning within.”
Regarding his personal perspective, Chandok remarked, “People say AI is overhyped, but I think it's not hyped enough. The next generation, which will use this in the next few years, will have much higher expectations of what technology can do for them. So, how you build it for that generation, how you build it for that future, will be really interesting to see."
Chandok also emphasized that those who do not embrace AI, risk falling behind in the rapidly evolving technological landscape. He encouraged Indian developers to seize the "lifetime opportunity" to become unstoppable by learning to use and deploy AI effectively.
He concluded, “If you are not learning AI, you are falling behind. I myself spend 30 minutes a day to learn more about AI. Technology is changing every day, and it has been 15 months since ChatGPT was launched. The speed of technology diffusion is unlike anything I have seen in my life, and it is advancing very rapidly. My call to action for everyone is to find a way to learn, otherwise, we will all fall behind.”
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