Voice Tech with Alexa: Key insights & take away for brands from 13thIndia Digital Summit

An Alexa skill is a great tool for brands to have meaningful dialogue with customers, and since it is a smart assistant, brands can even help customers get things done in the physical world.

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In the age of empowered customer, giving them a choice to conversationally interact with brands is paramount. And Alexa’s capability to respond in real time is a jet propeller to delight the impatient generation.
By Sreeraman Thiagarajan

I had the opportunity to be on a panel at IAMAI’s thirteenth India Digital Summit held in Delhi last week. Our topic was how Voice Tech is emerging as the future of customer experience and what it holds for brands.

I was flanked by an ensemble of eminent industry professionals including Dilip RS from Amazon, Pradyot Ghate from Zomato, Pavel Naiya from Counterpoint research, Himanshu Periwal from Ixigo and moderator Pooja Meswani from Deloitte; each one of us are in pursuit of creating an immersive customer experience and an Alexa powered voice is now taking centre stage in that journey.


Here’s a summary of insight for every brand wanting to embrace voice in India.

Real time conversations: While social media allowed brands to have a dialogue with consumers, it had a latency of few minutes to few hours, but with Alexa, a customer is interacting in a real time conversation. An Alexa skill is a great tool for brands to have meaningful dialogue with customers, and since it is a smart assistant, brands can even help customers get things done in the physical world.

Brands can own moments: Amazon’s vision for every brand is simple, own something unique. Own a moment that’s definitive to your brand. For Zomato, it can be as simple as “Alexa, what’s the status of my food delivery?” or “Is there a train departing on Saturday noon to Jaipur?” for Ixigo. In the case of Alexa, every minute or so, someone tells her that they love her -a moment any brand would envy to own!
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Take one use case and go deeper: Building a brand experience on voice platforms like Alexa can be overwhelming, but it is prudent to take one use case and go really deep and solve it well for consumers. Ixigo for example has a voice bot that helps people with fundamental questions like train timings, something that looks like no brainer in retrospect, yet has a massive adoption from users. This is all thanks to the simplicity created by voice.

If your brand has a celebrity endorser, you can use their voice on Alexa. Amazon is constantly taking efforts to make Alexa as Indian as possible. She understands our dialects, accents and more importantly intent, but brands do not have to be limited by her voice alone for creating an immersive brand experience.

Do not port an app or website into an Alexa Skill: Catching up to a new technology can be overwhelming. When it comes to building a voice experience for your brand, don’t be in a haste to port an existing website or app into an Alexa Skill. The first rule of VUI (voice user interface) is to unlearn everything we know about building GUI (graphical user interface) aka touch and type.

This page has some great resources to get started and you can also read this earlier ET article.
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Friction causes people to switch back to feature phone: A revealing moment in the panel was when Pavel mentioned that studies in the past indicate that first time smartphone users, who have difficulty in adopting, switch back to feature phones. But increasingly voice powered UI on even basic phones is bridging this friction. The key take away from this for brands is that, voice is not a fancy tech in marketing arsenal, but a table stake in customer communication mix.

Trusting a bot with credit card: The elephant in the room was, however, issues around privacy and concerns that voice technology brings with it. Can a customer trust a voice bot with their credit card? The answer that emerged was witty yet true-bots misbehaves a lot less than humans! Brands must be cognizant of how many data points they want to collect from their customer when on-boarding. More the requirements, higher the friction, which in turn leads to low adoption and attrition.
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Building for the billion: We are a large country, with a diverse tongue, behaviors and buying power. There’s no silver bullet that can help build a uniform voice experience for everyone and localisation is a lot of work. It is best if brands start with one language and do it well, then scale to add more.

Voice is for people beyond English: Vernacular is the rage, while video can help, it is voice which has the power to really build the brand experiences for non-English internet users. In our own backyard, we collaborated with Alexa team to gain insights on need gap and built an Alexa Skill named ‘Hindi Jokes’ which has a repertoire of 100 plus byte sized, living room friendly jokes recorded in popular RJs voices. The result? It saw more than three lakh users in under three months and is lonely at the top with over 2000 customer ratings.

Map user habits to delight them: When it comes to ordering food, we are creatures of habit, something most panelist agreed. Which means brands can, with our permission, learn about us to make helpful recommendation. Imagine Zomato recommending you to order a salad which you usually have at work, when you are en-route to work? Or order desserts when you enter home and set the lights to an ambient mood.

In the age of empowered customer, giving them a choice to conversationally interact with brands is paramount. And Alexa’s capability to respond in real time is a jet propeller to delight the impatient generation that we are.

The writer runs Agrahyah Technologies, India’s first voice agency. He tweets at @sreeraman
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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