We’ve had a new voice in the Greenlane office recently. It’s been great getting to know her better, and we think you should know her, too.

Meet: Amazon Alexa

Amazon echo devices

Yes, the same Alexa who plays your Spotify playlists and tells you the weather. But we wanted to experiment with what else she could do. More specifically, how could Alexa Skills be used to benefit our clients?

In case you haven’t heard the news, the Amazon Echo Dot was the top sold product on Amazon in 2017. Allegedly, it sold out before Christmas. Look at the top charting apps in your respective app store and I bet you’ll see Amazon Alexa is #1, followed by Google Home. Of course, we can’t mention Alexa without also mentioning Google Home; these two are the leaders in smart home devices. Apple’s contribution to the smart home device market should enter the market in early 2018.

Top Free Apps 2017

So why do we, as marketers, care about Alexa, Google Home, and the smart home device market?

Not Only Mobile First, but Voice First too

Voice search is a growing part of everyday life. According to Google, 20% of mobile searches in 2016 were voice searches in the Google App. A percentage that will continue to increase as device adoption of the Amazon Echo and Google Home grows. With these smart home devices set up in more and more homes, users will turn to them for answers to questions rather than opening their Chrome app and typing their query into Google. As marketers, we need to equip ourselves and our clients to succeed in this new voice-first environment.

Very few things are certain about the looming impact of voice search on traditional search, but it’s safe to say that there will be:

– Less predictable searcher behavior
– Less predictable searcher queries
– Less screen interaction
– Need for richer answers
– Increase in importance of local relevance

The Importance of Alexa Skills

While voice search grows, improves, and refines, the best way to get in front of potential customers on these devices is through the Alexa Skills base. An Alexa Skill is the smart home device equivalent of an app for your phone on the Amazon Echo series of devices. You can enable the Skills manually or by speaking a command to Alexa. Google Home has its own skills base as well, but Amazon holds ~76% of market share, so we’ve prioritized our time to match.

We’ve successfully built several prototype Skills for clients and for ourselves. Our Keithbot is an office favorite. When your Managing Partner’s name is Keith Urban, name jokes are too easy… So instead, we like to playfully tease him about his “no nonsense” demeanor. Thus, Keithbot was born.

What can I make a Skill about? Skills can meet any type of intent you can dream up. Several examples of Skill intents are:

– Planning a trip
– Ordering a car from Uber
– Changing the temperature on a thermostat
– Playing a song
– Looking up the weather
– Telling a fact

We now have the option to include a visual component to skills as Amazon rolls out new Echo products, like the Show, which now include a screen.

Alexa Skill visual component

One of the interesting by-products of the Alexa Skills is that we are training the voice search algorithm. Teaching it how humans search. How context changes the meanings of our intent. And more. The more information we feed her, the better the user experience and the faster we’ll start to see how voice search impacts traditional search behavior.

Is Building a Skill Worth My Time?

You might be saying, “Alexa Skills sound cool and all, but why should I build one? Seems like a lot of effort for something that’s not going to make me money like PPC.”

Simple answer: Yes, it is worth your time.

We’re big believers in staying ahead of the curve, so don’t wait for your competitors to beat you to the Alexa Skills market and steal potential customers. Often times we get caught up waiting for someone else to make the first move towards new technology, but getting there first can help you reap a lot of benefits.

The Skills market is in its infancy. Meaning there are abundant first-mover advantages for brands, like yours, to get into the Skills market. The value of creating a Skill is in capturing the attention of the Alexa users before your competition.

Depending on your vertical and brand, the Alexa Skill can be a great way to start a conversation with users that then transitions into a larger relationship. For example, if you have a pay-per-service model, the Skill can be a lite version of your offering, but promote full subscriptions for full content access.

Now here’s my obligatory warning: Do not create a Skill for the sake of creating a Skill. Your Skill should add value for the user and promote goodwill with your brand. I said it before in my Brand Persona post and I’ll say it again: consumers know when a brand is being disingenuous. There are enough junk Skills in the marketplace already. Have purpose.

Predictions for the Skills Market

We’re marketers, so we capitalism ruins everything. As more brands create Skills and enter the space, the Skills placements are bound for monetization. Based on what we know about the industry, here’s what we think is coming:

  1. Easy way for users to make purchases through Skills.
  2. Paying for Skill placement on the Skill SERP on Amazon.com.
  3. Paying for your Skill to be a default resource on Alexa. Meaning Alexa can use your Skill to supply the answers/solution to queries without requiring the user to invoke your Skill by name.

Don’t wait too long to start considering an Alexa Skill of your own at the risk of missing out on the abundant opportunities they bring to the table. Stay ahead of the curve.

Read more: 7 Ways to Use Alexa Ranking to Grow Your Business Today