The decade starting 2001 saw a rising adoption of Personal Computers in India and what followed was an explosion of engineering talent as well as an ability to conduct business without having to set up huge real estate infrastructure. PCs and Web created new business models that disrupted traditional brick and mortar businesses. It became imperative for every business – big or small – to have its own website, an email id and allow customers to browse their catalogues and price points online without having to leave the comfort of their homes.
By the start of 2011, Indian brands saw a myriad of opportunities emerge from the new craze for smartphones with touch interfaces and a more vibrant interface for consumers. The mobile websites and mobile apps became the new enigma for consumers and brands alike! Across industries immense amounts of time and money were invested by businesses in evolving a “mobile strategy” or an “omnichannel commerce strategy” for their brands. And for the first time “m-commerce” began to overtake the “e-commerce” that had sprung up the previous decade. With the evolution of mobile hardware and software (especially the Mobile Operating System capabilities) newer possibilities emerged for the brands to provide richer and more engaging shopping experiences for their consumers. The explosion of powerful smartphones and mobile apps for every potential requirement of the end user created a huge impact on the business models of brands. For the first time, democratization of technology enabled millions of consumers to engage with brands at their fingertips, anytime and anywhere with ease.
Fast forward to 2021 and we see voice technology has been tried by many pioneer brands and the evolution of “voice as an interface” gaining meaningful traction among mobile device users. While touch+type based interfaces of smartphones were designed for a hierarchical set of actions to interact with the apps, the voice interface enabled multilevel interactions to be executed with simple commands. More importantly, voice in vernacular languages empowers the “next billion users” of Bharat who are not savvy with the English and touch + type based interfaces of the current mobile applications.
In a country like India with 650 million smartphone users, but only 150 – 200 million Ecommerce users, clearly a majority of the market is still not using the most popular mobile apps by leading ecommerce brands across various categories in the Indian market. This vast gap is exactly the opportunity that can be leveraged by brands when they enable their ecommerce apps with a voice in vernacular interfaces particular to their mobile app’s context. In this journey, it becomes vital for brands to consider adding a voice assistant inside their own apps to ensure a complete control of the end user experience in their apps. Otherwise, external solutions that do not get the context of their app and business can actually damage user trust in the brand. Vernacular voice interfaces help the next billion users of apps surmount their regular challenges faced in interacting with ecommerce apps – even when they have a desperate need!
This is exactly why “voice assistants inside ecommerce apps” will be the biggest growth lever for Ecommerce brands in India. Collectively, the Ecommerce industry in India is yet to tap into the remaining 75% – 80% of the market across the non-metro cities, Tier-2 and Tier-3 regions – collectively known as the “Bharat” users. When these 500 million users can interact with apps by speaking naturally in their own languages, it will be a great substitute for the typical shop-based purchase experience for the non-English speaking consumers of the “Bharat”.
Kumar Rangarajan, CEO & Co-founder, Slang Labs