Voice Insider #28: Why Alexa and Google Assistant Will Spawn Thousands of Assistants
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  • Something You Probably Don’t Know
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  • Chart of the Week

Think Tank - Why Alexa and Google Will Spawn Thousands of Assistants

Alexa and Google Assistant have created a new channel for reaching consumers. Yes, it is a channel because it is distinctive and mostly separate from other digital channels. There is starting to be some integration with mobile and email channels, but most of the engagements are entirely within a voice assistant enabled application. There are now over 60 million adult users in the U.S of smart speakers and twice as many on mobile. There are also tens of millions of users accessing voice assistants in Europe. Companies are making commitments to support Alexa and Google Assistant more because that is where the consumers are engaging than any specific enthusiasm about adopting a new marketing channel. 

The the direct result of user adoption of Alexa and Google Assistant (or Baidu and Tmall Genie in China) is that brands are building voice apps that consumers can access through the popular assistants. That offers them presence and some brand control over the interaction. This is important because absence from this channel means consumers may get a distorted view of a brand or be funneled to a competitor. 

White Label Customized Assistants for Existing Channels

However, the success of general purpose consumer voice assistants is also creating a significant indirect impact. Consumer behaviors and expectations are changing. Voice interactive capabilities may be a novelty today but they will increasingly be expected by consumers. That means app publishers need to start thinking about how they will voice enable their mobile apps, websites, and other consumer engagement points, even their physical products and spaces. In many cases, this will mean developing their own voice assistant based on a white label platform. It won’t always be practical to use one of the popular consumer voice assistants nor will many companies want to go down that path. 

The Need for Control, or Not to Cede It

Beyond the consumer expectation and the need for voice, there is another sentiment becoming more prominent among enterprises around voice. They want control over the user experience and session data. Sometimes this is simply for their own purposes and in other instances it originates in a concern about the voice assistant providers as current or future competitors. If forays into Alexa and Google Assistant convince companies that voice is an important consumer engagement method for the future, they must quickly confront the question of how much control they are willing to cede to a third-party and which third-parties. 

Large companies that have and would like to maintain direct consumer relationships while using voice and other conversational interaction will then logically begin building their own voice / virtual assistants. By building, I don’t mean generating their own speech recognition and natural language understanding models from scratch. Some may take that path for maximum control and flexibility. However, most will acquire a single white-label solution or stitch several third-party services together to launch their own assistant. This will lead to white label platforms that make it increasingly easy to configure and launch custom voice assistants. Not all of these customized assistants will survive, but the spawning of thousands of individual voice assistants is the logical outcome of a rapid consumer adoption of voice assistants. 

Voice Insider Issue #25 introduced the GOWN framework which includes the concept of white label voice assistant platforms and identifies some example providers. While many of these technology providers look fretfully at Amazon, Apple, and Google, they should be cheering for the success of Alexa, Siri, and Assistant. The more successful those solutions are, the more quickly business will flow to the white label providers as companies look to incorporate voice in a way that maximizes their own control. This all hinges on consumer behaviors and expectations. And, Amazon, Apple, and Google have the biggest influence or creating new expectations and habits today. If they don’t succeed, the market won't’ disappear but it will be much, much smaller. 

SYPDK - Amazon Prime Members 73% More Likely to Own a Smart Speaker Than an Average U.S. Adult

If you want to know who owns smart speakers, there is data that show some skewing by income and education. However, a big indicator is Amazon Prime Membership. A recent Voicebot consumer survey found that just over 26% of all U.S. adults owned a smart speaker compared to over 45% of Prime Members. Amazon is doing a good job of promoting Alexa within its core customer base.  

When it comes to Gmail users, they are also more likely to own a smart speaker than the average adult. Over 38% own a smart speaker which we attribute to Gmail users being slightly more tech savvy than most people. Interestingly Gmail users are no more likely to own Google Home over Amazon Echo products and are essentially representative of all smart speaker owners. By contrast, Amazon Prime members are significantly more likely to own an Echo product. 


Stuff That’s Happen/ed/ing

  • We talked a few weeks ago in Voice Insider #24 about Conversation.One’s founders leaving the company and its uncertain future. We knew that Rachel was already working at Audioburst and now know that former CEO Chen Levkovich has taken a position as a Sr. Product Manager - Data Science and Machine Learning at PayPal
  • Mobile World Congress has come and gone. There were several voice-related announcements from Google and not too much else. 
  • Voice of the Car Summit is on April 9th in San Francisco. I will be the opening keynote. I am hearing from a number of people that will be there. Should be fun. Sign-up here. Enter VOICEBOT for a 20% discount. 
  • I will also be speaking at Voice 19. More to come on this later. Don’t forget to submit your speaking session ideas here
  • SXSW is almost here and I know Google’s Cathy Pearl will be there as will the team from ConverseNow. Doug Robinson from FreshDigital will also be roaming around and spreading some voice evangelism. 
  • We had an interesting Voicebot Podcast this week with Matt Ware and Lachlan Pottenger of First, an agency in Australia that implemented a really sophisticated Google Action for a leading retailer. It is voice shopping in action. You can listen here.  
  • Google I/O last year brought us Google Duplex. How will they top it this year? Can they top it? Stay tuned for the 2019 edition coming May 7th. 
  • If you know about other upcoming announcements, events or milestones drop me a note [email protected] or on Telegram or Twitter @bretkinsella. Thanks.

Chart of the Week

More than two-thirds of marketers believe that voice ordering is an opportunity for brands and 43% say they strongly agree with the statement compared to just 15% that strongly disagree. There are still some open questions around how voice shopping / commerce will develop, but most people on the marketing side believe it is inevitable. With that said, few see it as a threat to their current business model. Hmmmm. Seems like I head that back in the 1990’s about the online shopping, but maybe I’m wrong and everyone knew the internet would be huge...before it was. Read more here