A few weeks ago, 4mation hosted a panel discussion, featuring Nima Vadiee, Head of Solutions Architecture, Asia Pacific from the Amazon Alexa Skills team. The event explored a lot of different ideas on how brands will be able to leverage voice to build better personal connections with their customers.
Over recent months, we’ve published a lot of content around voice technology, voice assistants and voice search. This panel event helped me put together the knowledge I have of voice as it is now, and really grasp the fact that it’s not just a thing of the future. Here are the top learnings I’ve taken from of the panel event along with the research we’ve put into each article.
Voice technology used to be something I had little time for. A few years ago, Google could barely understand my accent. Google Now was feeding me content I had no use for, and frankly, I didn’t see how voice was an improvement from traditional search.
Now, it’s hard to dismiss what voice is capable of. We’re seeing the extent to which voice assistants have grown to this day. Just last week, Google revealed a sneak peak of a new Assistant feature they’ve been working on, called Duplex. This feature would allow your Google Assistant to call people on your behalf; primarily to make bookings and reservations.
Voice assistants are in our homes, cars, at the office and achieve meaningful tasks.
In fact, all of the panel speakers admitted to using the voice technology daily. It was interesting to hear how personal their experiences were. Scott has developed an Action for his Google Home to remind his 3-year-old of bedtime, “I’ve programmed it so that whenever my three year old asks when it’s bedtime, the answer is now, the answer is always now.” Regan is using it to help remind him of wedding planning and Nima uses it for his public transport to work.
It’s not just the big players involved in their customer’s lives. Countless apps and brands have built skills that enable users to make their way around, make transactions, etc. through voice commands. What a time to be alive!
As the speakers of the panel put it, there’s a lot in it for brands. Voice can help businesses enrich digital experiences, while being there for their customers when they need it. These are the principles of utility and availability.
Digital experiences are enriched by voice: through a simple, human conversation, users are able to access the information they need to go about their daily lives with minimal friction. Users are also able to do certain actions without any manual dimension. You think about something, speak out, it’s done.
Availability is what brands and businesses need to understand when thinking about their digital strategy. As users understand how voice works and how helpful it can be to them, they’ll start to expect every brand to be available through voice to manage subscriptions, shopping, accounts, etc.
Regan explored the three major components which make up voice search: “Local is a huge thing in voice, but there’s also answering questions and understanding entities”. Local applies to local search and answering questions seem self-evident, however, entities are a newer concept to voice search.
According to Regan, search engines are trying to better understand entities, linking the different parts that make up entities, such as movies and businesses. For example, a user might ask “who directed Lord of the Rings?” and go on to ask “how old is he?” By building up structured data through various means, such as schema.org, it, in turn, helps make the voice experience more valuable to the user.
Voice is more than a gadget that individuals can use to hack their way through everyday life. It can be a real business tool as well, helping to streamline certain processes whilst reducing manual hang-ups.
For instance, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant can help users make calls, control conference rooms, manage inventory, handle data etc. Ultimately helping professionals focus on what matters.
One of the panelists, Regan, also gave a great example of how Businesses can streamline processes in the warehouse by using voice to reduce manual labour. “I imagine a forklift driver could be driving to the pallet that they need to pick up, and they just ask Alexa, “where is my next order located?” then they can go down and grab it.”
“Designers are the most important part of the equation” was probably the most unique piece of insight that came from the panel. Nima explained that Amazon learnt pretty early on that they needed to have a design-first approach to each one of their Alexa experiences.
When the developers initially started creating these journeys, the conversation trees were rigid and more technical than they were natural. Although the skills worked, they weren’t user-centric, and this created a barrier to entry.
According to Nima, Amazon spend 50-60% of their time spent on design, with 20% on development and the rest on testing.
Many of the audience’s questions concerned educating their users. It’s a valid concern, how does a company market their available Google Action or Alexa Skill? Informing your customers is always a great place to start. Break down the new offering in simple terms. Nima suggests sending out an email with a short list of available conversation starters.
Google have been educating their users for the past year with their Google Home and Mini ads. The videos present easy ways to use the devices and the Google Assistant application on android phones.
The panel explored more than what I’ve written here, I recommend you watch the discussion if you’re interested in learning more. 4mation wants to help your brand succeed with voice, get in contact today to learn how.