Amazon Alexa became a part of many American families.
Within a year of Amazon Echo's release it's now present in almost 10% of American households. With this number steadily growing, we'll soon see times when a huge part of customer's interaction with brands will be driven by voice.
After all, is there a more natural way to communicate than using speech?
We've always dreamed of using our voices when interacting with machines. Warming the stone-cold user interfaces has been the holy grail of experience designers user for a long time.
Speaking to computers has been a recurring theme in sci-fi movies for years. We've seen astronauts talking to HAL 9000 to control their ship or Tony Stark and his personal assistant J.A.R.V.I.S.
The good news is that the technology is here. In the recent years voice recognition achieved 95% accuracy, which is comparable to human ability to distinguish words.
World's biggest brands recognize its importance and actively experiment with applications of voice user interfaces.
Even though there's still a lot to discover, we can highlight a few areas where voice technologies bring a lot of opportunities for businesses.
Adoption of Smart Speakers and Virtual Assistants
Let's start with a few facts and statistics.
Smart speakers are already present in over 10% of US households, with the number steadily growing since 2016.
The most popular Alexa device, Echo Dot, is priced at $50.
Its low price makes it easily accessible to customers. Additionally, a huge marketplace of 3rd party apps makes it a perfect fit for early adopters willing to experiment with this new technology.
Up to date, over 20M Amazon Echo devices were sold, giving Amazon 70% market share in smart speakers category.
Currently, there are two competing products - Google Home (with Google Assistant) and Apple's HomePod (featuring Siri).
Why Do People Use Smart Speakers?
In order to better understand possibilities brought by technologies like Amazon Alexa, it's important to notice how its users interact with it.
Smart speakers brought voice interactions to a whole new level.
Even though virtual assistants have been present in our phones for years (starting with Siri introduced in 2011), it's the speaker that showed the true potential in this technology.
The biggest advantage of smart speakers is that they're always there.
Their users don't need to hold a mobile phone to perform simple actions like checking weather, playing a podcast or checking the news.
They can use them hands-free - while cooking or getting ready in the morning.
Being able to use voice to control them makes them a perfect utility device - an Alexa app (or "Alexa Skill", to follow Amazon's terminology) will make a great companion for existing apps and services.
It will that lets users interact with them even when they're busy doing another thing.
What Are the Possible Uses for My Brand?
While researching Alexa's capabilities, we've found three major areas where Alexa performs amazingly well.
Here are a few inspirations:
Imagine that you're sitting on your couch on a Friday evening. Reading a book with music playing in the background.
Every time you want to change a song or adjust the volume, you need to put the book aside, walk to your stereo and press the right button.
Alexa makes it easier, by allowing you to control playback with voice.
But the idea of remote control extends way beyond controlling music playback.
In the era of smart homes, manufacturers of home appliances more and more often offer Alexa integrations for their devices.
Controlling lights, sprinklers or window blinds is way more convenient when you can talk to them.
In our work, we've also discovered that the concept of remote control can be applied to some apps.
As an example, Harvest is a time tracking software that allows its users to track time that they spend working.
We've noticed that a lot of telecommuters struggle with updating their time entries, especially when working from home.
An Alexa Skill that we built for Harvest enables them to control the timer from anywhere in the home, making it easier to keep their time sheets up to date.
To read the whole story see Making telecommuters work more convenient with Alexa skill for Harvest.
Accessing News and Information
Getting ready in the morning is a great time to catch up with the news and check the weather forecast.
For years we've used radio or TV for that, but they're not as interactive as getting information should be.
For example, they don't let you pick the topic that you're interested in or skip the news that you've already heard.
Alexa's voice interface is a great way of accessing information in such situations.
That's why a lot of major media outlets already provide Alexa skills for their audience.
With voice user interface, users can receive the information that they're really interested at.
What is more, publishers can offer personalized content, just like in their websites and apps.
It's the new way of accessing media.
Making Small Orders
While ordering a dollhouse with Alexa may not be the best idea, it can still provide its users convenience of making simple orders.
A perfect example can be ordering a cab when you're in a hurry. You know you're already late, but you're still ironing your shirt.
Being able to get a taxi by saying "Alexa, ask taxi to pick me up in 5 minutes" can be a lifesaver.
It can save precious time, that you'd normally spend on nervously clicking through the taxi app on your mobile.
While Alexa's voice interface won't be a good fit for orders with a lot of choices, it will perform amazingly well for simple one.
In situations where you're comfortable with asking someone else to make an order for you, Alexa will do just as well as a human.
Alexa's voice interface is a powerful technology that brings a lot of possibilities to interact with your customers in a whole new way.
Voice apps will soon become a must-have for all brands that want to stay competitive on the market - rapid development of the underlying technology and actions of big players on the market confirm that.
Would you like to learn more about how Alexa can fit your brand?
Reach out to us and we'll send you inspirations for your industry.