TMCnet Feature
September 16, 2019

How your business can take advantage of voice assistants

Today, the increasing presence of voice assistants in our daily lives comes as no surprise. From the voice-activated apps that now fill our smartphones to the smart speakers in our homes, we’ve grown accustomed to talking to the devices around us, giving them directions, asking them questions, and searching for suggestions.

The trend doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. According to Gartner, 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen by 2020. In other words, “voice-first” experiences will become more and more ubiquitous to the point where they’ll slowly become standard practice. That feeling is what’s driving a lot of companies to hire software developers to help them get on board with the voice assistance tech.

Naturally, there are several ways a business can do that. From just creating specific apps to be triggered by an existing device (such as a “skill” for Alexa) to developing your own voice assistant for any device, getting into this new tech is not only exciting - it’s something that can give your business a competitive edge. Here’s what you should keep in mind.

Taking advantage of smart speakers

Today, nearly 1 in 5 US adults have access to a smart speaker. This means that businesses have a channel for direct communication with their target audiences already in place. So, why not take advantage of it? There are a couple of ways to do so:

  • Reducing friction: Alexa Skills and Google Actions can be developed to facilitate certain actions for your customers. Things, like booking an appointment, learning about the time availability of a certain professional, or taking a survey, can be all triggered through specific voice commands you can develop through the toolkits provided by both Amazon and Google (News - Alert) to be used in their respective speakers. That way, you increase the comfort of your customers in an advanced manner.

  • Extending the brand through voice: you can develop another kind of skills or actions for those devices, ones that not necessarily trigger something related to your business but that are somewhat related. Take what Tidal did with their Stain Remover skill for Alexa as an example. Through it, people can ask how to remove a certain stain and get a step-by-step tutorial on how to do so. It’s a way in which the brand stays in the mind of the consumers, building trust and engagement while leveraging the power of voice search.

The idea, then, is for you to start identifying the opportunities within your business to reduce that friction and to extend your brand. After that, you have to hire development teams to come up with the specific skill or action for the smart speakers. And then, you have to come up with a plan to make visible those voice commands to ensure your customers start using them.

Including voice assistance in an app

Voice-activated apps are the other big player in the voice assistance world. Apps like Siri or Google Search can understand when we talk to them an act accordingly, conducting an online search, providing a specific answer, and so on. Both of them show different sides of what a voice-activated app can do.

Siri, on one hand, is a virtual assistant that’s meant to listen to the user and act accordingly in connection with a wide array of Internet services. Google Search isn’t necessarily a voice-exclusive app since you can type in it to conduct a search but it includes voice-activated features. Of course, you can always develop a virtual assistant of your own (more on that later) but for now, let’s focus on the second alternative.

In case you already have an app, you can enhance it by adding voice-activated features for your users. You can do so by using one of three methods:

  • Integrating existing voice technologies (like Google Now or Cortana) through special APIs and other development tools provided by trusted companies.
  • Build the intelligent assistant features into the app through open source services (such as Melissa and Jasper) and APIs.
  • Create the voice assistant features from scratch with the help of a software development team and then build it into the application.

Each of these methods has its pros and cons, especially in terms of capabilities, control of information, and customization. However, and regardless of the method you choose, the important thing is that they all provide the necessary technological foundation for your app to start listening and understanding your users and acting accordingly.

Creating your own virtual assistant

This is obviously the most sophisticated and complex alternative of them all. That’s because you’ll be creating the assistant from scratch, which means you’ll have to work throughout all of the phases of development, from conceptualization to testing. This is by no means an easy feat, as you have to think about the underlying logic that will trigger each specific action and code it with the right languages, dependencies, APIs, and libraries.

Of course, this approach is the one that offers the least amount of limitations. Basically, you can create anything you want with any action you can imagine, as long as your developers are capable of integrating the assistant with any third-party software you might need. Thus, you can create voice commands for your assistant to rely on to access news about your business, offer special deals, remind about specific events, alert about product discounts and many other things you can think of.

This solution will take more time but the results will be tailor-made for your business. It’s up to you to decide if developing a unique virtual assistant for your company is worth that time (and the associated cost and effort) but given the direction in which interfaces are headed, working on your own virtual assistant might make sense.

Even if you still aren’t convinced, you can always go for a less complicated solution by using one of the available platforms that can help you create your virtual assistant. Snips is a good example of this, where you create the environment and use predefined intents or create your own to enrich them. It’s less costly and takes less time than a fully-fledged development but, naturally, the results won’t be as comprehensive and customized as if you were doing it all yourself.

Wrapping up

Like it or not, voice assistance is here to stay - and it’ll probably grow as years go by. The idea of just talking to a device to get certain things done is an appealing concept that presents a number of opportunities, especially for businesses. Getting into this world today can make a huge difference and give you an edge that you might not experience otherwise.

Think about it. You can have a direct communication channel with your customers, offering them a comfortable technology that can help them on a daily basis. In return, you’ll have new ways to engage with your customers, crystallize your brand in their minds, and get insights about how they use your voice-activated services. Doesn’t it sound tempting?

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