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July 13, 2018Paul Cutsinger
Working on the Alexa team, I spend the bulk of my time diving deep on the many developer tools and features we deliver throughout the year. But those are just a means to an end. Every time I pause to consider the bigger picture—the fact that we, the whole community, are shaping the user interface of the future with voice and enabling customers of all ages to simply talk to technology—I am inspired and energized.
I met Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, at CES and I was thrilled to learn that he shares my excitement for the potential of voice. Gary has the pulse of what people want and how technology can serve those needs. He also embodies an infectious energy that makes you want to go, learn, and do right away.
It was a treat to sit down with Gary and hear his take on the future of voice. Here are a few of his points that have stayed with me.
Today, we have our choice in the ways we can interact with technology. But voice will rise to be the dominant user interface because it is simply faster, says Gary. With voice, we can complete everyday tasks and communicate more quickly and with less effort. In this way, it is not unlike emojis, says Gary. Like emojis, its value is instantly intuitive, and that’s why people are quick to embrace it.
Speed is a big reason voice is poised to become the next major user interface. Each decade, we’ve embraced a new way to interact with technology. We’ve evolved from character mode to a graphical user interface, to the web, to mobile.
Voice now offers a faster and easier way to communicate and accomplish tasks than mobile apps. We can either tell Alexa what we need (turn off the lights, adjust the thermostat, and set an alarm—or all of the above using a single utterance like “Alexa, good night”), or you can pull your phone, unlock it, open the right app, and perform the task or tasks. When you consider habitual use cases—those that keep customers coming back over time—the efficiency gained through voice adds up over time.
Let’s take the simple example of Alexa’s timer as an example. Before using Alexa, I would have never said that setting a timer on my microwave was something that could be drastically improved. However, now that I can tell Alexa to set the timer for the duration of my choosing, I no longer have to get up, walk to the microwave, and press a few buttons to set the timer. The time saving may seem small, but when you think about it, this shift in user expectations is significant. Did we ever imagine we’d reach a point when pushing a few buttons on the microwave would be the harder, slower route?
Because voice offers a faster and easier way to do things, it will drive hundred-billion-dollar companies “the size of Pandora, Facebook, and Instagram,” says Gary.
We are still in early days of voice, but a number of our developers have already built a thriving business with Alexa. Tom Hewitson, who first built the Would You Rather skill to learn about voice design, built a voice design studio that hires six people in just six months. Earplay, which began with a mobile-first approach, pivoted to voice and saw a “much bigger audience than ever thought possible,” according to CEO Jon Myers. And voice-first businesses like VoiceXP, Novel Effect, and Storyline have raised VC funding to add even more capabilities and expand their reach.
With the introduction of monetization features, developers are now building compelling premium experiences worth paying for. Volley added an in-skill purchase to its popular Yes Sire skill, a role-playing adventure game with more than 1,000 five-star ratings. The Wicked Witch Expansion Pack, a one-time purchase, unlocks additional scenarios for customers to explore. Max Child, co-founder of Volley, says with this premium content, Yes Sire is seeing “a much, much higher conversion rate than comparable mobile metrics.”
Gary says it all comes down to one word: friction. Customers will rely on Alexa for more tasks throughout their day, and Facebook-sized companies will rise out of voice because voice removes friction.
I use The Dog Feeder skill every day for exactly this reason. In my busy household, I don’t always know whether my wife or kids have already fed the dog. With this skill, I can simply ask Alexa: “Has the dog been fed?” to know if the dog has been fed or still needs to be fed. And once I feed the dog, my family will know I’ve done so because Alexa will tell them.
As the builders of tomorrow, I urge you to consider daily routines, from the memorable to the mundane, and those moments when you want to take action right now. Which tasks can you make faster, easier, and more delightful with voice? How will you approach build engaging premium experiences worth paying for? What are the sticky ideas that will enable you to build a business with Alexa?
As the saying goes, the future belongs to those who create it. I can’t wait to see what you build next.
To watch my entire conversation with Gary, check out the recording. Or watch our on-demand webinar on Situational Design: How Building for Voice Differs from Building for the Screen to learn how to create engaging experiences that let customers speak in their own words and respond to them with individualized interactions.