One early morning, while lying in the comfort of my bed, I commanded my Amazon Echo Dot, placed on the opposite end of my bedroom, to set a reminder to call my niece on her upcoming birthday. I had just been awoken by five alarms, set thirty minutes apart, scheduled the night before.
Often these are how my mornings start – talking to a soul-less, black hockey puck with phrases like “Alexa, stop.” and “Alexa, what’s my flash briefing?” Quickly the internet of things entered into my daily routine and became as common as losing my house keys.
As a consumer, the Echo and her relatives the Echo Dot, Echo Spot, Echo Look, and Echo Watch are all fairly affordable artificial devices that make homes more intelligent. Whether you’re a fan or foe, one thing is certain: voice-enabled technology is here to stay – preferably on your nightstand or kitchen counter. But will voice-enabled technology and devices become the new frontier for new and emerging businesses?
A report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) estimates that in 2017 there were 8.2 million customers who owned an Amazon Echo device, which was up 60 percent from 5.1 million users in November of 2016. In the same report, CIRP co-founder Josh Lowitz claimed a majority of customers use the device as an “information provider”.
Alexa is the new Internet Browser
You may recall last year we made our predictions for what would be the new thing in marketing.
Sure, not everyone is using Alexa in their homes, but enough are. While it’s not at Google level of activity, a more appropriate analogy would be a Bing! or Ask Jeeves stage of sophistication. Which is enough to get our attention.
Most Alexa users are seeking information – which is potentially a growing opportunity for businesses and brands to get found in a not-yet saturated landscape, unlike traditional search engines where one can get lost among higher ranking pages. Alexa offers an experience to the consumer that is arguably less a novelty and more a convenience. One can order a pizza, make a call, dim the lights, and listen to the daily news without clicking through links or pulling out a phone. Additionally, the internet of things opens the doors for a more interactive experience that ventures beyond information gathering. Alexa users interface with your product or service in a way that may not be possible or feasible through other mediums.
Whoever is closer to the user wins.
You might be better off in the long-run introducing your business to voice-enabled technology now before it really gains traction and thus you avoid the mad scramble to learn, launch, and pivot your brand with new-to-you technology. Alexa currently gives free rein to any entrepreneur or hobbyist to engage with the platform. For businesses, the access point is through your own branded Skill, a voice-enabled application accessible through Alexa from any supported device, anywhere. Anything that gets your business closer to the customer is generally considered a win.
You got ‘Skills’
We’re not above reviving mid-90s hip-hop slang when the opportunity presents itself, especially when it actually makes sense. You can think of Amazon Skills as apps for your Amazon device. Skills give your device a more full utilization by which you can customize and curate your experience, thus, changing the way you interact with this virtual assistant.
Each skill is activated by a wake-up command and range from a very simple “Alexa, what is the weather today?” to a more interactive “Alexa, let’s play a game.” Currently, anyone can create a Skill for Alexa to be available in their marketplace at no cost, which means the only barriers to entry are intermediate knowledge of coding and your imagination. We developed our own Skill from scratch with no prior background in Node.Js, Java, or any of the other supported coding languages. And we were successful, albeit several hours and energy drinks later.
Consider that every business has a main destination that your customers need to find. Whether blog or e-commerce site, this place exists in an ecosystem of outer agents that drive traffic into the nexus. Amazon Alexa is just another tool that you can utilize, among social media, SEO, landing pages, and SERP to generate the Call-to-Actions you seek.
Here’s some social proofing of a handful of major brands currently using this platform:
- The Wall Street Journal
- Apple Music
- Oprah Magazine
Everything we use today to market or promote our business had a beginning – a rough start. From podcasting to Instagram every new platform undergoes the proverbial litmus tests of utility, relevancy, and sustainability. Whether or not Amazon’s Alexa platform will take off remains to be seen. Businesses have to manage their expectations. Is this a marketing tool or a direct service? What’s the future of Amazon Alexa? Does this compliment or stifle my business? Giving yourself these parameters (and others) to frame your decision is a great starting place.
“Alexa, open Micro Business Monday tips.”