A user’s journey on a voice platform is akin to that on a search platform like Google; only in the former’s case, it is from search to skill to content
Amazon is working with brands across sectors to enable them to build skills on its Alexa platform. From daily news updates to smart-home integrations, banking services, food ordering and cab hailing, Alexa has been equipped with more than 10,000 skills, as the service expands in India.
Alexa is no longer only adept at playing music. It is capable of facilitating transactions, too. For instance: IndusInd Bank has launched voice-based banking services through its AI-based Alexa Skill, ‘IndusAssist’, that enables customers to conduct financial and non-financial banking transactions on Amazon Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices using voice commands. This requires a one-time registration.
“Amazon’s primary objective is to build a voice platform for curated knowledge — in the form of skills. These skills can be for generic consumer questions or could be custom-created by brands,” informs Saurabh Uboweja, CEO, Brands of Desire, a management consulting firm. In the future, monetisation for Alexa will largely depend on voice advertising in the form of branded answers, in-skill purchases of premium content and products on its marketplace, he adds.
A user’s journey on a voice platform is akin to that on a search platform like Google; only in the former’s case, it is from search to skill to content. And there are plenty of opportunities to monetise in this journey, especially at the skill as well as content levels.
Uboweja explains this with an example of Alexa’s tie-up with P&G’s laundry detergent brand Tide, internationally. “While Amazon is not currently charging P&G for content, which may appear to be branded from the outside, it could do so in the future.” For instance, if a consumer asks, “Alexa, how do I get rid of a stain?”, Alexa could respond by giving the option of using Tide Stain Remover while citing the product benefits.
QSR chain KFC recently tied up with Alexa, via which users can simply place an order. While this is not an advertising tactic, it is an engagement opportunity for the brand. “As more and more people engage with the KFC Skill on virtual assistants like Alexa, it will give an impetus to online ordering,” says Moksh Chopra, CMO, KFC India.
Sreeraman Thiagarajan, co-founder, Agrahyah Technologies, says that brands in India are not looking at monetisation yet, but are looking to create “another touchpoint and brand connect”, such as trying to reduce the load on call centres and getting queries resolved.
Where is the money?
From content, voice assistants are veering towards commerce gradually, say experts. “Voice assistants will see an evolution similar to social media players — from community to content and then commerce. That’s why there is an uptick in Alexa’s brand partnerships,” says Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief analyst, founder and CEO, Greyhound Research. The next big evolution, he adds, will be ad revenues.
Various business models are possible, based on the data Alexa collects — from sponsorship opportunities, where Alexa can indicate available deals, to advertisements through partner apps such as Amazon Music.
“The revenue opportunities could be in the form of direct transaction-based margins, selling Amazon’s own services and associating with partners,” Gogia says, adding that the B2B segment could also be a lucrative opportunity for Amazon.
The competition between Amazon and Google for voice-based intelligence is intensifying, with Google leading in the voice assistant space. But, crucial to their growth will be how these players address the rising privacy concerns among users.