BEIJING: As voice-activated speakers start to gain traction with consumers, FMCG giant Nestlé has introduced a Nestlé-branded smart speaker in China as a way of providing reliable and credible information to consumers.

“There is a lot of ‘pseudoscience’ floating around in China, and we believe this product can offer more accurate information than those found through online question-and-answer websites,” said Nini Chiang, CMO of Nestlé China.

“We realised in the new digital ecosystem, food and beverage manufacturers cannot provide just products, but with more valuable information that can help consumers better their lives.”

Speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific, she explained that the Nestlé Xiao AI speaker had been developed in collaboration with the Beijing Linglong Company – “We provide content for free while they made the machines” – as a way of providing families with cooking tips and nutritional facts.

But a branded speaker that is activated by saying “Nestlé Nestlé” in Mandarin is doing more than simply offering up recipes. And Chiang acknowledged that there was also a marketing objective of strengthening the corporate image.

There is also a promotional angle, Campaign noted, as the device could be given free to consumers buying Nestlé milk powder in bulk.

Chiang also expected that she would be able to “gather more interactive consumer insights compared with focus groups and surveys”.

Addressing the privacy issue, she stressed that data was “collected in a compliant and useful way, like ‘what kind of age groups asking what different types of questions’”.

And she played down concerns about the level of intrusion represented by a smart speaker, noting that “in China, we use Alipay, WeChat and wi-fi everyday, everywhere. In reality, what you bought last week or where you went today can be tracked.”

The use of voice technologies is becoming increasingly prevalent in China, partly because typing in Chinese is more difficult, and much slower, than it is in English, for example.

Research from J. Walter Thompson has shown that 42% of Chinese smartphone users believe voice makes them more efficient, while regular voice users state the top drivers as convenience (52%) and doing away with the need to type (48%). (For more read WARC’s report: 5 ways brands can use voice technology in Asia.)

Sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by WARC staff