Brands that adapt early to Voice will have an advantage: Niraj Ruparel, Mindshare India

Niraj Ruparel, National Head – Mobile, Mindshare India, delves into the nuances of voice tech, the future of voice and how brands can ensure voice interaction for users is a seamless experience

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Updated: Oct 29, 2019 12:40 PM


Niraj Ruparel Mindshare

Digital agencies today are brimming with ideas that can help brands integrate with voice-enabled technology. For Niraj Ruparel, National Head- Mobile, Mindshare India,  conversational commerce using voice skill technology in India means serious business. In conversation with exchange4media, he delves into the nuances of voice technology, how brands can ensure that voice interaction for users is a seamless experience and what is working in the favour of Voice as the next big digital trend. 

“Voice is pretty big in Tier 2 markets, which is in terms of the penetration or how we reach out to audiences in the rural market. If you talk about the ecosystem per se, we're talking about close to 100 crore active sim cards in India and almost 450 million sim cards are resting on feature phones where the only mode of communication is Voice, so that plays a dominant role there. But now we see those 550 million SIMs which are sitting on 400 million smartphones, 30 per cent of those people have now started querying on Voice Assistants.”

For any platform in e-commerce, the USP that is being spoken about is being Alexa enabled, says Ruparel, therefore voice is gaining prominence for any product due to the fact that it offers both comfort and speed. Elaborating on factors that work in favour of voice, he says, “Some of the insights we gathered was that it gives you absolute speed and convenience. So, if I give you free Internet, in a minute, you can punch in about 40 words, but you can speak 150 words. It gives you absolute pace when it comes to giving commands and getting output back. Another one is literacy, it completely surpasses the literacy barrier. Even if I have the Internet, and I don't know how to go and fetch the information, I won't be able to type anything.” To underline his point he gives the example of the inexpensive Jio phone and how the biggest thumbnail on that smartphone is a Voice symbol on the joystick. People who are not comfortable typing can simply use voice commands in their own language, given that the phone can support multiple regional languages. Therefore, says Ruparel, voice can cut through vernacular, and even the literacy barrier.

Since the time that the agency started its voice journey, it has already helped built skills around voice for several brands. For example, they built a skill for an oral care brand, one can query on the assistant, get a doctors consultation, and sampling etc can be arranged using the voice interface. On IVR too they have done several campaigns says Ruparel, “All in all, conversational commerce becomes de facto, Amazon today allows it in a big way. All the bill payment and all possible functions inside Amazon they invoke this API where you can just give a simple voice command, you can say add tea to my cart, it automatically picks up the bestselling brand or maybe the brand which you bought earlier and just adds it to your cart and then you can check out as well. Globally, it's about an $80 billion industry, it's only going to grow because the story is largely unwritten in terms of how it's going to shape up.”

Another philosophy that he has and sees adding up to conversational commerce in a big way is when the next 200 million users who are on feature phones right now will eventually move to 4G services on smartphones, backed by cheap data which, in times to come, will only get cheaper.

What brands can do better, as far as adoption of voice technology is concerned, explains Ruparel, should be to ensure that the consumers' experience around it is seamless. “When people give a voice command, what are they getting as an output? So, more and more content needs to be created as well. More and more brands need to get active and start building voice skills, which can go as an output when somebody is giving an input command. People are already talking to their phone whether it is Voice Search or Assistant but what results are they getting? They are getting limited results. Therein, if you invoke a skill and allow them to transact, it becomes a seamless experience.”

Putting forward use cases vis-a-vis voice, he explains how some brands are already effectively engaging with the technology. JBL speakers for one is already coming with Voice Assistant integration, apps such as Ola and Uber too are integrating with Voice in a big way as part of their platforms. Brands such as Dominos are leveraging Voice as part of their current e-commerce application and getting users to transact using that. These are some of the use cases, he explains, which are getting penetration with consumers and as more and more brands build skills, voice searches will get an output which will be in the form of audio.

“As I keep saying that voice is just an input, which is going to come across these devices, whether it's Amazon Alexa today, Google Assistant or Microsoft Cortana, which is going to be the third platform. So, all of these are going to be the platforms where the input is going to come, what we need is the output to come in, which is in the form of content. The skill which I really love is the Bauua Singh of Zero on Alexa. You give a command to Alexa and Shahrukh speaks up in the language of the audio character, we call it a sonic identity. We're working on that piece as well in terms of creating an avatar for a brand, a sonic signature or an audio signature of a brand is supercritical, it's like a character talking back to you. So, one is the kind of skills you build right now. If you are going to query Alexa or Google Assistant and a Google and Alexa are going to talk to you but you can actually create a brand's own avatar and instead, the avatar talks to you. That's going to give a lot of conviction as well when you're talking about conversational commerce and closing the loop and converting the audiences from just a query mechanism to actually going ahead and buying the product.”

In conclusion, Ruparel explains how they as an agency are in a position of strength to help brands on their voice journey. With a centralised knowledge hub on voice, they have access to all the great work done through their global network of agencies, which brands in India too can benefit from and adapt effectively.

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