This article is published by Financial Express on 18t/04/2023.
Major Indian e-commerce players, including Amazon India, Flipkart, Swiggy, Zomato, and Nykaa, are embedding voice-based search features in their apps to tap semi-urban and rural markets and non-tech-savvy customers. The use of voice technology has grown significantly in the last year, providing easier navigation for new online shoppers and customers with mobility issues. Flipkart has seen 5x growth in voice search users and a 3x growth in vernacular-search users. The voice market in India is estimated to be about $300-400 million, and globally the market size is $10 billion.
AS E-COMMERCE PLAYERS tap semi-urban and rural markets and non-tech-savvy consumers, they are embedding voice-based search facility in their apps. Major players like Amazon India, Flipkart, Swiggy, Zomato, and Nykaa have embedded this feature in their apps. Even the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) has held preliminary talks with a couple of startups for providing voice-assisted search technology for its reference apps.
Shireesh Joshi, Chief Business Officer, ONDC said, “Voice assistants are going to be a huge opportunity in the Indian e-commerce sector, especially among people who are not in a position to text. Voice or audio is convenient because one just needs to speak”.
Flipkart bought the speech-recognizing startup Liv.ai in 2018, and Reliance bought the majority stake in another conversational AI-based startup, Haptik in 2019. Google invested in the domestic voice-based startup Slang Labs in 2021.
Bharath Ram, Senior Vice-President, User Acquisition and Retention, at Flipkart, said: “There has been a 5x growth in voice search users and a 3x growth in vernacular-search users over the past year. These innovations are helping make shopping easier for a new wave of users. Half of all vernacular search shoppers are new online shoppers”. According to him, the use of voice technology has also been found to be beneficial for customers who prefer hands-free interactions or have mobility issues, as it allows them to easily navigate and use e-commerce platforms.
Flipkart customers can use voice search in four languages - English, Hindi Tamil & Telugu.
Kumar Rangarajan, the Co-founder of Slang Labs, said: “For consumer-centric industries, e-commerce contribution to total sales has been growing significantly in the last 3-4 years. The reasons are the growing number of smartphones, internet penetration, UPI payments, and now 5G rollouts. Similarly, we believe voice technology will add momentum to these growing numbers”.
“On a monthly basis, around 200,000 users are using CONVA voice assistants on our clients’ apps. Over a million customers have used it in the last 2.5 years. The voice market in India is estimated to be about $300-400 million, and globally the market size is $10 billion,” Kumar added.
Kishore Thota, Director Customer Experience and Marketing, Amazon India, said: “ Amazon introduced voice shopping in English in 2020 and expanded it further with the addition of Hindi in 2021. Since its launch, the number of customers using the voice shopping experience has doubled every year. We are seeing strong adoption for the Hindi voice shopping experience from new and existing customers.
Subodh Kumar, co-founder of Liv.ai said:” When we started working on voice-based technology in 2014, we saw a huge potential for voice in India, as many people were kept out of the digital world because they were unable to type in English. We realized the language was natural to them, as it doesn’t need education. It was not a fascination but a necessity in India”.
Riding on the success of the voice-based search, Raghu Krishnananda, CPTO at Myntra, said:” We introduced our voice search feature on the Myntra app a few years ago and we have seen a 5x increase in adoption of the feature. We have witnessed significant adoption being driven both from the metro and non-metro consumers, with a sizable portion coming from new customers on the platform”.