Three questions with Miles Woodroffe, Global CTO of Cookpad

Staff Writer May 17, 2023
Alexa Skills

Cookpad is on a mission to make home cooking fun, exciting, and accessible for everyone. Founded in Japan in 1997, the company operates a vast recipe-sharing network where home chefs can swap tips and upload recipes. Users across 70 countries can explore over seven million ideas for healthy, simple meals, from deviled eggs and green pepper beef to gulab jamun and milky bread rolls. Currently, Cookpad is available in 30 languages and has 100 million unique monthly users. The site boasts of high engagement across many countries. To give just one example, 80 percent of women in Japan use it on a regular basis.

As the global CTO of Cookpad, Miles Woodroffe has played a major role in the company’s global and technological expansions. When Woodroffe met the founder of Cookpad 13 years ago, he was inspired to move to Japan and join the company’s team. Since then, he helped create the technology that enables Cookpad to scale across the world.

In 2019, Cookpad was approached by Amazon to create an Alexa experience for Spanish-speaking users. Recognizing the potential of voice technology, the Cookpad team created an Alexa skill to help users find home-cooked recipes by searching for a specific dish or ingredients. The Cookpad skill comes with several interactive features that make cooking simpler than ever, such as an option to send a recipe link directly to a smartphone.

Cookpad began to develop new experiences with Alexa that upleveled the customer experience even further. They began to work with the US Amazon team to incorporate Alexa Widgets. Alexa Widgets allow skills to be easily viewable and accessible on most Echo Show devices. They are a glanceable view that let customers perform quick actions without leaving the home screen or widget panel and launching into the full skill.  Customers can interact with widgets by touch. Depending on the action, the widget may self-update on the current screen or ingress into a full-screen skill experience.  

In this conversation, Woodroffe shares his thoughts on why Cookpad decided to implement Alexa Widgets, and spoke about how ambient computing will transform home cooking for customers around the world.

Why did Cookpad decide to implement Alexa Widgets?

For Cookpad, providing a voice-first experience is a no-brainer. Cooking is like driving; your hands are busy, so your voice can be a very valuable tool to get things done. This is why we decided to offer an Alexa experience to our customers. I was also impressed by just how easy it is to build with Alexa. I’ve written a lot of code for our Alexa skill personally, and worked with a very small internal team to deploy the implementation.

When we learned about Alexa Widgets, I thought that it was a really exciting idea and pushed for them to be implemented. Working with the Amazon team, we created a widget where we display a recipe of the day. Users are shown an engaging recipe photo, and if they want, they can activate the skill, get taken to the recipe, and review the ingredients, instructions, and other important information. Every day, the widget updates with a new recipe to provide an inspirational or seasonal cooking experience.

We were the first and only third-party widget to launch on the Echo Show 15, which was released in December 2021. We got a lot of great feedback from Amazon and then worked to create another Alexa Widget for the ambient Fire TV, which came out in December 2022. Like the Echo Show 15, Cookpad was the first and only third-party widget to launch on that device when it was released in the United States.

Have you seen an increase in customer engagement as a result?

We have definitely seen more engagement since creating our Alexa skill and implementing the widget. I was quite amazed to see that, just for our Alexa skill, we’ve had 30 million sessions since 2021. A whopping 30 million people have interacted with Cookpad on Alexa. But what’s most interesting is that 16 million sessions happened just in the last twelve months, some of which can be attributed to the multimodal experience that is made possible on Echo devices.

Today, we have more than 85,000 widgets installed on users’ devices. We’ve seen over six thousand engagements with our widget for the recipe of the day. That’s six thousand more ways that people are interacting with Cookpad now, which is really cool.

What is your vision for the future of ambient computing?

My vision revolves around creating a seamless experience that integrates the Cookpad app, Cookpad web site, and Alexa. Account linking, where users can link their Alexa and Cookpad accounts, has been a significant driver of user engagement, and we hope to build upon this in the future.

With this integration in place, users will have access to their Cookpad data, and can seamlessly transition between devices, making their cooking experiences even more enjoyable and convenient. You can bookmark a recipe on your commute home and have it instantly displayed on another device in your kitchen, ready for you to cook.

Voice is so natural, and I believe voice technology has enormous potential that will continue to shape ambient computing. In the not-too-distant future, I envision technology that knows the user, their family, and their preferences, and can recommend recipes based on this information.

Imagine being told what’s for dinner based on the ingredients in your fridge or what’s in season at your local farm. This type of personalized experience will help make everyday cooking more enjoyable and exciting, fulfilling our mission to make cooking accessible and fun for everyone.

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