Are Brands Ready For The Economy Of Ask?

Kundan Joshee, Sr. Vice President, Account Service, Cheil IndiaAs an energetic leader with around 19 years of experience, Kundan has delivered exceptional results in both entrepreneurial environments and large organizations

Imagine a Voice recognition system that will allow you to pay your bills via your voice. Your simple command `Pay bill on every 1st' will then never have to worry about the creditor again. Just think, how convenient would it be for your in-house device-cum-personal assistant to simply get your car turned on or buy a product after watching its advertisement with just ONE command? Going a few steps further, imagine if you are reminded by your car to pick up groceries while driving back home from a nearby store?

This is not just imagination any-more. I expect the voice economy will change the way consumers interact with brands or ask for things. `Hi Bixby' or `Alexa' - A simple trigger word to ask a question and get a response. Hidden behind that simple word is a rapidly evolving world of technology which will have the ability to complete a whole lot of useful tasks and can help us function in hands-free or eye free scenarios. Be it in the kitchen, lying in bed, entertaining or even while we are driving. An easy guide to navigate us from search to shop, making the journey a lot more seamless and easier.

However, one needs to evaluate whether Voice technology will change everything? Change the way we search, the way we shop? Impact our choices for every-day things? Impact our current consumption of content? Impact the brands we prefer? Impact the choice for us to choose from? Will we ask for a specific brand or will we end up trusting the assistant to choose? Will we fall to regulated ordering by our assistants or change our preference?

Smart assistants and voice-activated devices have been available for some time but mass adoption has not really happened and after the initial excitement consumers were not really incorporating it into their lives. The simplicity of `Hi Bixby' or `Alexa' has put everything in order, Voice conversations with devices are becoming casual and intimate, just like the way with friends or family. Picking up a phone and searching for
a query is a deliberate act, which is why people still prefer asking things instead of looking them up. Voice brings inter-action to an instinctual and conscious act.

I believe there is how-ever massive long-term potential. Voice is naturally fast and sometimes magical to input information.

Brands need to be ready to make sure they make the consumer evaluate what he asks for and also have an answer to what he might ask for

What does it all mean for our brands and for marketers?
These changes will bring their own challenges and marketers will need to continuously build their brand relationships in the days to come, especially:

- How to strengthen the connection the consumers feel with brands when it comes to the products they purchase ­ is the current relationship only of convenience or whether a brand is `top of mind'. Will the consumer ask for it by its name or be swayed by what the ecosystem recommends.

- To ensure that people love the brand enough and will want to give a blanket approval for voice to register it for monthly subscription be brought into the house again and again.

- Finally, how are they making the brand a lot more `Useful' to the consumer, is there a greater momentum to better the customer experience ­ one that is more relevant and hyper-personalized. What's the friction/pain point the brands are removing?

Some brands have already embarked on this route, Spirits brand, Patron Tequila, Patron partnered with Amazon's Alexa to bring its `Cocktail Lab' recipe library to consumers via voice activation. They created a `Bot-tender' for voice devices, which suggests recipes and creations based on local trends, insights and personal preferences ­ and it can even get the ingredients delivered to your door.

Dominos is another brand that's trying to reduce the friction of conventional ordering for the consumer. The Consumers who've already set up user profiles through Domino's and enabled the Domino's `skill' through Amazon's Alexa app can have a pizza delivered by saying `Alexa, open Domino's and place my Easy Order'. They can also track their order progress with specific voice commands.

Also, users will start expecting actionable services as the output, and with devices talking to each other seamlessly, one voice command will intuitively set up a chain reaction of consequences without the user having to do anything.

Apart from the early adopters, it will seriously change the way of life for the `Next Billion' ­ the less tech-friendly, probably less educated, consumers of regional content, elderly or consumers who might have sight or mobility impairment. It will empower them and make them a lot more independent and their interactions with brands will change drastically, thereby opening up a wider set of choices and easy access to them.

In the near future, we will see the `voice assistant' becoming our new operating system, a gateway, and glue to all devices we own. And brands need to be ready to make sure they make the consumer evaluate what he asks for and also have an answer to what he might ask for.