Voice assistant technology has been around for a while and applied in many different ways. However, its application into eCommerce technology is more novel. There are many ways to apply this technology across sectors. Most of us were first introduced to voice technology through Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa technology. Like with some other new eCommerce capabilities, Asia is taking the lead in applying this technology into the buying process. The retail sector in general and big supermarket chains more specifically are taking steps to incorporate this into their operations.

India’s lead

In India, some interesting developments have been observed on this front. Notably, by Indian eCommerce giant and Walmart subsidiary, Flipkart. The company has introduced and AI voice assistant for its grocery shoppers in India through its Supermart app. The mobile app is available in English and Hindi on Android and IOS devices. The company collected voice samples across India, considering different accents, pronunciations and languages. Flipkart built this solution for speech recognition, natural language understanding, machine translation and text to speech for Indian languages. This allows the technology to understand vernacular languages, eCommerce categories and products. It also helps with tasks like products search, product details, customer placing orders among other things. The app is capable of understanding most of the country and this capability is encouraging for other countries. This capability makes online shopping simpler for more people.


However, in March Amazon introduced its Alexa voice assistant shopping feature in India. This is part of a larger strategy to find new ways to engage with overseas audiences with different business environments. Although Amazon’s voice assistant in India is primarily in English, it is optimised to mirror a multitude of Indian accents. Customers can use Alexa to search for products, add to cart or checkout. After checkout, the voice technology can also be used to track the package.

Growth potential

As more people get online in India and other developing countries voice technology is the easiest way to engage with apps and internet services. Especially, when one considers those that might be less literate when it comes to writing in an official language. In 2019, Google reported that the use of voice assistants exceeded by 270%. The potential of this technology is far bigger than the subcontinent as similarly big opportunities exist in Africa.