Digital assistants are quickly becoming a part of our lives. Amazon Alexa, Apple’s HomePod, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, Samsung’s Bixby, and China’s Chumenwenwen and Xiaoice are just a few to mention. According to a recent national study, 16% of Americans own a smart audio device. Amazon alone sold around 25 million Echo smart speakers in 2017.
Alexa-enabled devices can play music from Amazon Music, control smart home devices, order products, answer user questions, and play games with Alexa Gadgets. These abilities, known as Alexa skills, are continuously multiplying and evolving. More than 30,000 are already available to the owners of Echo family devices on Amazon’s website and the companion Alexa app. Whether the user wishes to have all of the house doors locked and all lights off or wants to hear an acorn woodpecker call without leaving the bedroom, they are likely to find an appropriate skill at the Alexa skills marketplace.
The unprecedented opportunities are appealing not only to the owners of smart devices. Having taken residence in millions of homes, Amazon and Google are paving the way for other brands that offer entertainment, information, goods, and services. If you are curious about leveraging the power of Alexa for business growth, this post is for you.
The Benefits of Alexa and Other Assistants for Businesses
The first advantage is the vast market. Amazon Echo family commands almost 72% market share of current U.S. smart speakers. Loyal users will likely fill their houses with compatible devices. With a legion of connected fridges, door locks, thermostats, lamps, and other appliances that may use Alexa Voice Service API, the potential of Alexa brand market penetration is infinite.
Amazon Echo revolutionized the way in which people interact with web content, commerce, and advertising. Some experts predict that by 2020, 30% of consumer browsing will be conducted through voice interfaces. They also expect the consumption of assistant-provided audio entertainment to grow significantly. With ad-blocking being a significant issue currently, it’s good news for marketers and brands.
People are open to receiving helpful and relevant information through voice assistants. A study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau in 2016 showed that 65% of listeners were more likely to purchase something they learned about from a podcast. 60% would prefer a brand that advertised on their favorite podcasts. As reported by Fast Company:
The way businesses connect with customers is changing too. Look at the voice shopping with Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Echo Show, Echo Spot, Echo Plus, Dash Wand, Amazon Fire TV, or compatible Fire Tablet device. Prime members can ask Alexa to order one of the millions of Prime-eligible products sold by Amazon. If they haven’t purchased a product before, Alexa may recommend some from Amazon’s Choice list. The list includes well-priced items highly rated by other shoppers. Moreover, Alexa can offer Prime members exclusive deals and tell the user the price and how much they would be saving.
The technology promises exciting targeting opportunities if backed by the simultaneous artificial intelligence (AI) progress. In the future, Alexa and other AI-powered platforms may be continually analyzing the products’ pricing, characteristics, past performance, and reviews. The consumers’ past behavior and preferences would be considered as well. Gradually, the AI will be learning to predict the perfect combination of features, price, and quality for an individual customer at a given moment.
Promoting more efficient sorting and accurate matching in the marketplace, AI platforms will be simultaneously winning people’s trust and loyalty. For example, they may learn each user’s criteria and regularly reassess all items in a needed category to recommend new products that might suit better. Instead of strengthening relationships with consumers, businesses may rather need to optimize their positions on AI platforms, which is much easier. Their offers and marketing strategies would be designed for voice assistants to showcase the products. It will be essential that the product descriptions be short and helpful and the brand’s and products’ names should be easy for voice assistants to say and understand. The products’ ranking in voice search by keyword will be crucial too.
Brands may also have to pay for a ‘listing’ on a platform or to bid on preferential positions. Experts believe that product placement and recommendations on Amazon Alexa and other AI platforms are a matter of time. Meanwhile, they already recommend that brands should have an associated Alexa Skill or Google Action.
Both Amazon Alexa and Google Home can enhance a business’ content marketing strategy. 30% of smart speaker owners say that their speaker is replacing time spent with traditional AM/FM radio and TV. What looks like the Silver Age of radio implies plenty of room for artistic creativity with the good old-school radio copywriting. The cost of producing and testing such marketing assets is dramatically lower as well.
How to Create Alexa Skills that Work
‘Alexa skill’ is basically an application built for an Alexa-enabled device. A skill should enable the user to perform hands-free, on voice command, a task that they normally perform via a mobile app or website. Skills can follow several different protocols. They may be pulling information from a specified source, connecting to and controlling another internet-enabled device, playing video content via a connected TV, etc. Custom skills allow to complete more complex tasks or retrieve specific information curated by the skill’s creator. A ‘custom interaction model’ defines which requests the skill can engage with and what responses it can provide.
If you contemplate an Amazon Echo marketing strategy, take time to research the current market. You must understand the desires and needs of your target audience. The key is to provide a product that is valuable to the audience while furthering the company’s interests. The skill should be meaningful, sustainable, and not a one-off. It’s useful to look at other companies’ Alexa marketing methods. Try to note the pros and cons of the competitor skills.
Be creative in your efforts to add conversational interfaces to existing products or to bring voice to user experiences. For instance, medicine brand Zyrtec created an Alexa skill to help users evaluate pollen count and prominent allergens in the area before leaving the house. When the risk of allergy is high, Alexa tells the user to pick up their medicine. It does not explicitly recommend purchasing from Zyrtec, but as users have to say “Alexa, start Zyrtec” often, the brand name is kept fresh in their minds. Needless to say that if you want the users to invoke your Alexa brand skill regularly, it must work really smoothly.
Focus on generating useful and enticing audio- and visual content for the target audience that will improve your brand reputation. ‘Ask Purina’ skill is a good example. People can ask Alexa questions like “Tell me about dogs that don’t shed” or “Tell me about dogs that are hypoallergenic.” It responds with a detailed answer, fun facts, and display of relevant images on a mobile device. While Alexa helps aspiring dog owners find the right pet or educates kids about various dogs, Purina cunningly reaches potential consumers. By sharing quality information and expertise with the public, the brand earns their trust. This increases the odds of them favoring the brand in the future.
Define the voice of your brand and stick to it in your scripts. Craft a call-to-action (CTA) that works on a voice platform without annoying the listener. Be careful with commercials: if they are irrelevant, or played too often, the listeners will lose interest.
Without alluring product shots, the script is increasingly important. Offer extensive information, but don’t overwhelm the users. Invest in professional copy to craft memorable language and vivid mental images that generate an emotional response. If visual integration with Amazon Echo Show or Fire TV is valuable for your audience, it’s worthwhile too. And make sure to test the content on all devices that may be involved.
Once you have deployed your branded Alexa skill, check the users’ comments and update the content to ensure high quality over time.
In a voice-first world, Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and other AI-enabled assistants will be a powerful marketing medium. It can combine sales and distribution channel, fulfillment, and service center. Following the gold rush of building brand mobile apps, the current trend is building branded skills for voice assistants.
The increasingly capable voice assistants will be reshaping the brands’ and retailers’ connections with customers. The consumers’ allegiance will be shifting from trusted brands to a trusted platform that helps them navigate the ocean of choices. Re-ordered essentials will be flowing to households like water or electricity. Growing creative audio content will advertise without annoying and alienating listeners. The AI will gather information about the consumers’ preferences to improve the shopping experience and offer the portal to a boundless marketplace of entertainment, news, goods, and services. Amazon Alexa is sure to be one of those platforms.
For publishers, music services, and smart-home tech companies, custom Alexa skills seem to be a must for increasing engagement with millions of users. Other company managers and marketers should consider creating a branded skill as well: it offers a natural way to introduce a brand to potential consumers and abundant opportunities for product improvement, marketing, and advertising, and helps cultivate customer loyalty.
Would you like to leverage the benefits of Alexa and create an Alexa skill for your business? Contact us — we can do it!