With the staggering rise in popularity that virtual assistants are experiencing, brands are asking themselves where they fit in. Several big-name brands have developed Alexa skills (the Amazon name for apps) in an attempt to boost sales or drive customer engagement. Some branded skills have hit the mark, while others have flopped. There appears to be a fairly clear line between good and not-so-good when it comes to consumer preference.
Generally speaking, brands that are able to connect a specific product (or product line) directly to a skill in a practical way are seeing success. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Smart home product companions
Products that rely on technology to function, such as Philips Hue and Wink smart light bulbs, can see success via Alexa skills for obvious reasons. While customers have reported satisfaction with the Wink Alexa skill, integration with both Alexa’s built-in smart home system and the Wink native smartphone app allows for a customer to choose what works best for them. Smart home products and Alexa skills go hand in hand.
Innovative, non-promotional skills
If a brand is able to resist the allure of self-promotion and provide unique, useful, and indirectly relevant information in the form of an Alexa skill, they may see success. Pet food brand Purina developed “Ask Purina,” a skill that helps the user learn about different dog breeds. According to the official description, users can “simply Ask Purina to find the dog breed information you need to choose the perfect companion for your lifestyle.” The skill does not advertise dog food, and has a solid 4½ star rating.
What doesn’t work
Brands that rush into developing an Alexa skill without much purpose other than to exist are going to have a harder time seeing success on the platform. Again, let’s look at some examples.
Lack of friction is arguably Alexa’s best feature — users can get questions answered and tasks accomplished in seconds, all without raising a finger. Unlike the ease and flexibility offered by Wink, Campbell’s developed an Alexa skill titled “Campbell’s Kitchen,” which sports a 2½ star average rating due to frustration, complexity, and lengthy processes. On top of requiring users to register their skill, customers report inability to request specific recipes, response repetitiveness, and deal-breaking software bugs.
The average customer doesn’t want to be continuously advertised to, especially in a shameless, indiscriminate way. Unlike Purina, Tide introduced a skill called “Tide – Stain Remover” that exclusively recommends Tide products, and includes a “commercial” after each recommendation. As a result, the Alexa skill hasn’t seen a single positive review in over a year.
What should my brand do?
The virtual assistant market is growing at an alarming rate, and Alexa is leading the charge. While the skills market is largely underutilized, brands with a solid strategy that are able to develop useful, simple, and fluid Alexa skills may be able to gain some relevancy. However, the most popular Alexa skills are either unbranded or are related to entertainment, such as Jeopardy, sound machines, and games. Without a very well thought-out design, a brand-developed skill runs the risk of being ineffective.
Instead of focusing on skills, brands should be thinking about their voice strategy in other ways. For more information, read Alexa: The Voice of Generations To Come.