Living with the Duopoly – Managing the Need for Both an Alexa Skill and a Google Action

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The emergence of voice assistants has led to both excitement and frustration among brands and media organizations. A recent survey of 500 marketers revealed that 69% agree that voice ordering is an opportunity for brands. Another survey confirmed that even marketers at small and medium-sized business see voice assistants as potential allies in raising consumer awareness and potentially driving engagement.

The frustration comes from the recognition that voice assistants represent another channel that must be supported. You can’t simply repurpose a mobile app when launching an Alexa skill or Google Action. These are incremental efforts. And, you can’t just build for Alexa or Google Assistant. You have to build for both in order to realize the full reach of the voice channel.

What Consumers Want and What They are Doing

Marketers like websites in part because you can build one experience to satisfy all customers and prospects. Sure you can build more than one, but a single website can reach all online consumers regardless of what device, browser or search engine they’re using. Mobile is different. To the consternation of many marketers, consumers have split their loyalties between iOS and Android. That means serving the entire smartphone consumer market requires building mobile apps twice, one for each OS.

A similar scenario has developed in the smart speaker sector. Both CIRP and Voicebot.ai report that there are now 66 million U.S. adults with smart speakers and over 95% have chosen either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant enabled devices. In the U.S., Amazon holds more than a two-to-one share advantage over Google in smart speakers, but at about 25% share for Google Home products and another five percent or more from third-party devices, both platforms are critical for reaching all consumers.

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Market Share Beyond the Speaker

When we move beyond the smart speaker, Google Assistant’s importance becomes even more clear. Google Assistant is second only to Apple Siri in voice assistants used on mobile devices and it is the default assistant on about half of smartphones sold in the U.S. From a user trial standpoint, it is more than twice as large as Alexa on smartphones and is growing quickly.

Then there are all of the Android-based devices that now include Google Assistant such as smart TVs, automobiles, smart watches, and some home appliances. And, Alexa has a growing presence beyond smart speakers and is working to be everywhere consumers may need a voice assistant.  When measured across all surfaces Google Assistant’s U.S. market share actually exceeds Amazon Alexa and thus we have a true duopoly.

Market Share Beyond the U.S.

When you move outside the U.S., there are many countries where Amazon smart speakers have leading market share and others where Google does. For example, Alexa leads in the U.K. and Germany while Google Assistant leads in Australia and Canada. The smartphone, automobile, personal devices, and home appliances with voice assistants also tend to break either toward Alexa or Google Assistant. If you want to be international, Google Assistant has many advantages over Alexa, but frankly, both are widely supported.

Building Consistent Voice Apps Across Assistants

The data consistently show we live in a voice assistant duopoly today. Consumer brands, media companies, and government agencies need to reach everyone and if you are viewing voice assistants as an important channel, that means building for both Alexa and Google Assistant. However, the platforms have different capabilities and development environments so that can lead to complexity both in launching and managing voice apps in production.

You can live with the duopoly with fewer complications if you build for multi-assistant publishing. There are ways to do this on your own but it’s complicated and requires familiarity with open source tools. Few brands, media, and public sector organizations have the time or resources to stand up teams to build out entirely new development environments and skill sets.

We have launched more than 1,150 voice apps on Alexa and Google Assistant and virtually all the apps for our enterprise customers are available through multiple assistants. We built this capability into our platform from day one driven by our vision to combine the frictionless nature of voice with the cross-device consistency of the web to make voice the best channel ever for marketing and customer service.  This is one reason why our One Voice AI™ platform has been so popular — it empowers our customers to embrace the duopoly and thrive. It complements our end-to-end solution approach that takes our clients from strategy and planning through design, development, testing, and post-launch monitoring and management. 

Beyond the Duopoly, Waiting on Apple Siri

The duopoly may soon expand and when it does XAPP will be there to help. Apple is the most used voice assistant on smartphones worldwide. That also extends to wearables through AirPods and Apple Watch. HomePod smart speakers have been a modest success but Apple’s other consumer touchpoints are so ubiquitous that it will likely play a big role for many brands in their voice assistant strategy.

For marketers, this all comes down to the fact that you will need to provide consistent brand experiences across two or more assistants to ensure broad reach in the voice channel. The implication is that this can increase the complexity of both development and sustainment. The rise of voice assistants has introduced a lot of opportunity for consumer engagement, awareness building, and even commerce. One Voice AI can help you take advantage of the growth of voice assistants while also streamlining both the voice app development and management process post-launch.

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