The smart speaker is rapidly becoming a standard home appliance, with Amazon Alexa being the most successful platform today, and Google and Apple also competing in this space. Voice requests are now taking such a significant share of the overall search space that this presents a powerful opportunity for your business.
The makers of smart speakers have made their platforms open and extensible, in order to place themselves at the centre of a large ecosystem of voice-assisted solutions for consumers and business. Amazon Alexa can be embedded on other devices, opening up new opportunities for hardware manufacturers, and ensuring that Alexa finds its way outside of the home and into people’s cars, mobile devices and wearable technology.
In addition, smart speakers can be extended with third party apps to make them increasingly more useful and intelligent. These apps are called “skills” on Amazon Alexa and “actions” on Google Home. You can get skills for playing music, listening to the news, ordering pizza, coffee and taxis, and skills to help your kids with their homework and keep track of the score in a darts game.
A technology ecosystem takes off when there is a strong commercial proposition for all parties involved. Therefore, it follows that we want consumers to be able to spend money using their voice assistants. And although it’s mostly big brands like Uber and Domino’s Pizza who are making all the noise about their skills, your business can also get a piece of the action.
To help you understand the Amazon Alexa supply chain (from a user’s voice to a product shipped, or a service provided), please take a look at the following graphic.
If you’re a product company, then your primary route onto Alexa is via Amazon Prime. For example, I said “Alexa, buy me a Fender Stratocaster”, and this is what appeared in my basket:
If I had switched voice purchasing on, then I could have actually gone ahead and bought this guitar just using my voice. Therefore, it’s very important that you register your products on Amazon Prime if you want to sell them over Amazon Alexa.
Another option for your business is to have your own skill developed, which users could find via the Alexa companion app. For example, you could build a skill called “Used Guitars”, which allows users to search for used guitars by brand, price, colour and location. You could have your users complete the purchase by voice, or ask them to visit your website to complete the purchase.
If you’re a service company, then it’s not completely clear how Alexa works. I asked Alexa for a plumber, and Alexa simply listed a number of plumbing companies in my area. This was not very helpful, because the companies were listed very quickly and Alexa offered no follow-up action for me to take. I then asked Alexa for the number of a plumber, and a number was read out but too fast for me to take any useful action.
Rumour has it that Alexa gets its results from Yelp and / or Bing when you request a service company. However, different companies were listed when I made the same search in a browser using Yelp and Bing. I believe that Amazon will improve this area soon, and I suspect that they will also add service providers from Amazon Home Services, their home-grown service provider directory (currently only in the US). Therefore, if you are a service company, then I recommend that you keep an eye on developments. In the meantime, it’s worth making sure you are listed on Yelp, and you should optimise your website for voice searches via Bing.
When a user requests a service with HomeAdvisor, it asks them for their zip code and phone number, and then HomeAdvisor routes the user’s request to one or more qualified professionals in the area – the pro then calls the user by phone to discuss requirements. Note that this skill is only available in the US.
With the Intently.co skill, users can request literally any service anywhere in the world. The user tells Alexa what they want and where, and then Intently routes the user’s request to companies who can help – service providers then reply back to the user via email (instant messaging and video calling is also available). Since Intently handles any type of service, I tried something unusual to see how it works. I said “Alexa, ask Intently dot co for racquet restringing in Hemel Hempstead”. Alexa confirmed this request, and a few minutes later I received an email from a friendly gentleman called Don who could take my squash racquet away and restring it. 12 minutes after I made my request on Alexa, Don was at my front door. I have to say, this was a remarkable experience. Intently reports that 5% of its service requests now come via Amazon Alexa.
If you run a venue like a restaurant or somewhere to hold events, then it’s similar to the position for service companies.
Alexa seems to use Bing or Yelp to list venues that you may be interested in, but Alexa makes it difficult for the user to follow up and take meaningful action. All the same, it’s worth making sure you are listed on Yelp, and you should optimise your website for voice searches via Bing.
If you run a restaurant and are part of the Just Eat network, then Alexa users will be able to re-order meals from your restaurant by voice using the Just Eat skill. In addition, Alexa users can request a venue or restaurant in any location worldwide using the Intently skill, so it’s worth getting listed on their directory.
Finally, if you are a venue that receives repeat business from customers, then it may be a good idea for you to have your own skill developed. For example, if you run a restaurant that offers a delivery service, then your Alexa skill could allow your customers to connect with you and order a meal for delivery. Through the power of Alexa, you can know your customer’s address and phone number, and you can seamlessly link them to your ordering system in order to give them a fantastic voice experience.
With smart speakers like Alexa in the ascendency, now is the time for your business to learn about the voice-activated supply chain and how you can become a part of it. I hope that the information I have provided is helpful in getting you started, but be warned that this is a rapidly changing playing field and many new routes to market may emerge in the coming months and years, not just in B2C but also B2B environments. Also, I have focused heavily on Amazon Alexa in this article, but you should also keep an eye on the market share of competitors like Google Home and Apple HomePod, as they will also offer opportunities for your business.
This guest post is courtesy of Neil Harris, He is the Owner of Intently.co.