GSK Experimenting with Voice

Charlie Menchaca
Managing Editor
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GSK Consumer Healthcare has started a journey to understand voice and AI technology in the hopes of unlocking the future of these tools across OTC.

Amanda Bowles

“This was not a straightforward task, but a complex business question that could not be tackled with traditional research approaches,” Litthya Burgin, GSK shopper insights manager and project lead, says of the endeavor.

Several teams across GSK have partnered to develop an experimental approach to test these tools in the company’s Shopper Science Lab. The teams were able to construct real-world settings to assess shopper engagement in various settings such as home, store, online and pharmacy.

GSK has explored and invested in specific AI technology devices in which shoppers can interact within the retail environment to get help on a variety of questions from shelf navigation to broader healthcare needs. To test shopper reaction to this type of technology, GSK replicated the store environment with changing conditions, and leveraged sentiment tracking using facial and galvanic skin response biometrics, among other experiments.


Litthya Burgin

This is quite a challenge, particularly for healthcare, considering that voice assistants have been “called out” in the public domain for some time. Sometimes the assistants are prone to error/misunderstanding, and concerns remain about what is being heard and the handling of personal information. Yet the promise of how these devices could change lives is hard to resist.

GSK is pushing forward with the hope that a voice-assisted AI tool in-store and digitally could help ease shopper frustrations and anxiety. This is taking place against what marketers consider to be a backdrop of rising healthcare costs, a growing culture of self-diagnosing illness that sometimes is wrong, a complex OTC environment adding to “choice paralysis,” and a lack of informed and available staff in stores.

GSK observed a shift from thoughtful, rationalized consideration of the concept to the emergence of “future possibility” as shoppers interacted with the tools. To ensure that the insights could be fully experienced to spark discussion among internal stakeholders, GSK also created an interactive debrief utilizing a highly visual, story-led narrative to replicate the shopper journey together with the insights.

Deb Monahan

“We are only scratching the surface, but this project helped us take the first step [toward] bridging the availability of new, ‘cool’ technology and its short-term/long-term potential in OTC,” says Amanda Bowles, Shopper Science Lab director.

Deb Monahan, GSK’s director of shopper insights, agrees. “This project is a great example of internal and external collaboration, as well as a smart application of innovative research techniques that will guide our strategy moving forward,” Monahan says.

Given the expected rise of voice search in e-commerce, GSK team members plan to continue exploring in this area.

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