Alexa skills and Google Assistant Actions are growing like weeds. Now that more than 50 million consumers in the U.S. have access to smart speakers, 100 million worldwide are expected to use the devices by year end and about 1.5 billion devices have access to a voice assistant through smartphones and PCs, everyone wants access to the large and growing audience. That includes some of the world’s largest brands and media companies.
Smart speakers are showing up everywhere. Voice usage on smartphones is rising. Voice assistants have become an important digital channel with substantial reach seemingly overnight. This has brands thinking about how to best establish a presence in voice, how the new channel will impact their omnichannel strategies and what approach their voice app strategy should take. Voice apps are the skills or actions that brands can build to engage directly with consumers through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Of the more than 1,000 voice apps launched for brands and media companies by XAPPmedia, over 900 are Amazon Alexa skills. This experience is an order of magnitude larger than even the most prolific Alexa skill developers. The breadth and depth of experience has taught us a few things about what makes a good Alexa skill and what doesn’t.
XAPPmedia has launched more Google Assistant Actions than anyone. These include work for Progressive Insurance, E. & J. Gallo and the award winning Bravo Tango Brain Training Action for National Geographic. Google Assistant is different from Alexa and poses different opportunities. XAPPmedia’s Ryan Higbie recently conducted a webinar on Google Assistant Action best practices for brands and the video is included below.
“When it comes to voice search, you go first position or you go home because beyond the first or second place there is no future," commented Sebastien Szczepaniak, a former Amazon executive who now heads e-commerce for Nestlé SA. He has particular insights into the challenges given his background with the world’s largest online marketplace that also is the global market share leader in the voice assistant segment.
There is a new report by OC&C that reveals voice commerce reached nearly $2 billion in the U.S. in 2017. More surprising to some is that it is projected to reach $40 billion in the next five years. That is an 86% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). And, it's not just a U.S. phenomenon. In the U.K. voice shopping is expected to climb from just $200 million to $5 billion in that same period.
Voice assistants are destined to become a big part of consumers’ lives and represent both a big opportunity and a threat for brands. Why? Purchases that occur today through physical stores, websites and apps will materially shift to voice commerce over the next three years. Brands can take advantage of these changing consumer preferences or cede a rapidly growing sales channel entirely to their competitors.
Voice is changing the way consumers interact with technology and how they search for information. Google acknowledges that over 20% of search is now by voice and comScore’s prediction that it will trend toward 50% by 2020 is looking increasingly likely. Smart speakers are accelerating this trend. Why should brands care?
It is often hard to see how new platforms and channels will shape consumer behavior while they are still in the rapid growth phase. Voice looks small compared to the web today the same way the web looked small in 1997-1998 compared to the newspaper business. New communication channels require scale to have an impact, but as they scale brands can’t afford to be absent. Why? Because their competitors are present and soaking up all of the consumer attention.