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Commerce in conversation: Untapped potential in voice skill technology

voice skill technology, smartphones, home entertainment systems, kitchen appliances, form of online communication, e-commerce purchase, Google Home
voice skill technology, smartphones, home entertainment systems, kitchen appliances, form of online communication, e-commerce purchase, Google Home

By Niraj Ruparel

From smartphones to TVs, home entertainment systems and kitchen appliances, it is hard to name a device that isn't powered by voice-enabled technology today. As voice recognition improves over time, smart devices are becoming increasingly capable of understanding, performing and aiding users with tasks ranging from shopping to booking tickets and mobile recharges. In India though, despite the potential of this technology, there are only approximately 50-60 million e-commerce users. One of the primary reasons for this is the dominance of the English language, which a lot of first-time users are wary of. The technology is ensuring the ease of usability for consumers by doing away with language and literacy barriers through devices that support multiple vernaculars.

Let's talk

Conversational commerce, as it is more popularly known, is any form of online communication that takes place during an e-commerce purchase. Today, with the world at our fingertips, millennials research online extensively before making a purchase. Yet, even with all the reviews, social media posts and product specifications out there, sometimes they just need a little more help and information. That's where conversational commerce comes in.
Conversational commerce offers businesses an entirely new channel that prioritises convenience and personalisation, in a world where consumers demand immediate responses and tailored recommendations. In an ideal scenario, all the cumbersome research should be completed and all the pre-sales queries answered in minutes over a natural free-flowing conversation. This is being done to address one of e-commerce's biggest challenges of potential customers dropping off before executing a purchase, either because they are unable to decide what to buy, or simply don't find what they are looking for.

If done right, conversational commerce can save a lot of time in most e-commerce scenarios such as hotel bookings, online ticketing, retail shopping, and even complex functions like purchasing insurance. As a brand manager, if there are any lessons to be learned from the shift from brick and mortar stores to desktop and now mobile devices, it is that brands should invest early and heavily into the current shift toward conversational experiences. Furthermore, this represents the next big opportunity for brands and retailers to capture and engage with their audience in a more personal way.

Comfort mode

Brands, today, have also understood the importance of conversational commerce to create a positive user experience. Through conversational commerce, brands can delight customers with a human-like experience, and remove the friction in conversations by getting rid of close-ended questions. Because buyers tend to prefer this more direct and human (or human-like) contact, companies that adopt conversational commerce soon notice the improvement. This technology provides up to four-times more sales conversion than traditional buying channels.

Ride sharing services such as Ola and Uber, too, are integrating conversational commerce on their platforms through voice assistants like Alexa and Google Home. QSRs like Domino's are leveraging voice as part of their current e-commerce application and getting users to transact through it.

Voice biometrics is a trustworthy option, especially since there is an element of conservatism around non-biometric modes of online payments. Additionally, conversational commerce offers the advantages of speed, ease and convenience, which a customer is used to at an offline store. Along with voice biometrics, conversational commerce can help create bespoke individual experiences, with recommendations or assistance based on past conversations as well as voice mode, adding to a quicker and comfortable way of online shopping.

The author is national head-mobile, Mindshare India