Retail & POS Solutions


03.05.2017 09:25

Almost two years ago, Amazon launched the Echo loudspeaker in the United States. Since February 2017, Amazon Echo and the smart assistant Alexa have also been available in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. With Alexa, users can initiate numerous activities across different categories, such as Smart Home, Food, or Lifestyle ¬– and also add products to their Amazon shopping cart. For example: "Alexa, turn on the bedroom lamp", "Alexa, order me a pizza" or "Alexa, call a taxi for me".

Digital assistants like Alexa or the competing Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft), and Google Home, are growing in popularity. Statista estimates that some 1.4 billion users will be accessing digital assistants worldwide by the year 2019. Alexa and co. are taking over everyday life and promoting the advancement of voice-based communication. In the United States, consumers are already able to use Alexa to place an order at Starbucks, order a pizza from Domino's, or get tips for dinner from Campbell's. Virtual assistants are thus also changing the way in which brands interact with users. While there is still a lack of reliable data regarding user numbers and reach, Alexa has already come into the sights of marketers. What options does Amazon Alexa currently offer to companies? How can brands integrate the platform into their marketing strategy?

New skills for Alexa

Amazon Alexa is capable of learning. The assistant can be continually expanded with new abilities, so-called skills. Users can choose from over 10,000 applications in the Alexa Skills Store. More are added every day, as Amazon has also opened the platform for third parties. A glance at the German-language Skills Store, which includes nearly 1,200 applications, shows that European companies are experimenting with the platform and developing their own skills for Alexa. The Deutsche Bahn railway operator, for instance, allows users to check Alexa for train connections. Alexa can further consult the Chefkoch cooking platform for recipes – or the news site for the latest headlines. Users can activate these skills, which are available free of charge, via the Alexa app or website. Tips and hints for the development of a skill were recently provided by Venture Beat.

Opportunities for brands

Is it worthwhile developing your own skill? It is advisable to carefully analyse in advance which information users are going to ask for and to ascertain whether the company can in fact provide this information. Also worth considering: What role does the Alexa Skill play in the customer journey? Additionally, the skill must be maintained and updated regularly.

For companies offering products or services that are able to handle a transaction via Alexa – such as ordering a pizza or calling a taxi – the platform has proven to be an exciting tool. This is seen in international examples like Pizza Hut or Uber. Others, like financial companies, can use Alexa to provide relevant information to users.

Online Marketing Rockstars also recently took a closer look at Alexa. Conclusion: The user numbers and range of skills are still manageable – and there is still a lot of potential for growth. The possibilities for monetisation of the (so far) free skills are also discussed here. These scenarios are still relegated purely to the future, however. The authors identify the potential of Alexa, particularly in the area of customer loyalty, and its ability to reduce hurdles that hinder a product’s use.

What does the future hold? We will continue to consider, try, and test.



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