Ease of voice control drives customers’ interest in smart speakers

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Updated: Dec 18, 2020 12:53 AM

Availability of Alexa in Hindi as well as the ease of giving voice commands to get things done is making smart speakers relevant for more and more Indians

Our devices range from Echo Dot to Echo Studio, at different prices, catering to different customer requirements.Our devices range from Echo Dot to Echo Studio, at different prices, catering to different customer requirements.

Smart speakers are comparatively new in India. However, within three years of their advent, 54% of customers in non-metro cities are already aware of them, finds a study by Karvy Insights for Amazon India. “Smart speakers bring convenience and simplify the lives of customers. From switching on a light, listening to music, shopping or even paying utility bills, voice is the most natural way to get things done,” says Parag Gupta, head of Amazon Devices, India, as he discusses with Sudhir Chowdhary the key findings from the study and key triggers for greater adoption of smart speakers in the country. Excerpts:

What are the key reasons for buying a smart speaker in these cities?
The top three reasons that people in non-metros opted to buy smart speakers were— controlling smart home (50%), ease of voice control (34%), and entertainment & learning for children (25%). Nearly 50% of non-metro city respondents felt that setting up a smart home is the number one reason to purchase or considering buying a smart speaker. Smart speakers and voice control make setting up a smart home easy and affordable without the hassles of re-wiring.

Almost 50% respondents agreed that voice-controlled smart speakers are a great way to let children experience the latest technology as well as use it as a tool for learning. Around 47% of smart speaker owners believe that it helped improve their children’s language and pronunciation skills and 45% of the respondents added that smart speakers are better for their kids because its primary medium of interaction is voice.

Why do you think smart speakers and, especially Alexa, have seen an uptake in non-metro markets?
Voice is one of the easiest ways of interacting with technology. When smartphones were new, many of us had to learn how to use them. On the other hand, giving command to a smart speaker is as simple as talking to someone. Alexa makes it very easy for kids, elderly, and all members of the family to enjoy the device. With Alexa you can listen to music, devotional content, control smart home, help kids learn, make bill payments or just have a fun conversation.

There are so many things you can ask Alexa that customers find the smart speakers extremely useful.
Through this study with Karvy Insights we’ve seen the awareness for smart speakers is as high as 54% in non-metro cities. In addition to mass media promotions, I would give a lot of credit to word-of-mouth, i.e., existing users recommending it to their parents and friends.

Alexa skills used in these markets may be different from that in metros. What are the top features/ skills used in these markets according to the study?
Smart speakers are mostly used for listening music (100%), asking information (96%), casual/fun conversations with voice assistant (93%), news (91%), weather forecast (90%), devotional content (89%), alarms (86%), reminders/to do lists (83%), controlling smart home (80%), playing games (71%), kids & education (70%), bill payments (67%) and listening to rhymes/kids stories (65%).

Do you think Alexa in Hindi has made it easier for people to start using smart speakers?
When Alexa launched in India in 2017, she was able to understand and pronounce names of popular places, names, songs and more in many regional languages such as Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and Punjabi. We announced the support for Alexa interactions in Hindi in September last year. With this update, Alexa could understand customers speaking to her completely in Hindi or Hinglish, in multiple contexts, and varied regional accents and dialects. And respond in Hindi to make the interaction more natural and conversational.

Today, users from India make hundreds of thousands of requests in a day to Alexa in Hindi and Hinglish. These include asking Alexa to play music, questions, read the news, set timers and alarms, check the calendar, provide sports scores, control smart lights, watch videos on Echo devices with screen and much more.

With more smart speakers entering the market, how does the Echo range of devices stand apart?
When we first launched in India, our priorities were ensuring the support for local dialects and localising the Alexa voice service. We offer a larger number of Alexa features (Bollywood dialogues, cricket updates, six music providers, answering info related questions) and third-party skills (30,000+). Lastly, we offer diversity in device-type and price points of products. Our devices range from Echo Dot to Echo Studio, at different prices, catering to different customer requirements.

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