A layperson’s exploration of all things voice

Category Archives: Shopping Use

April 16, 2020

Free “Curbside Service” Chatbot for Small Businesses

As noted in the Voicebot.ai article, the “Rain” agency has set up a free chatbot that faciliates the ability of small businesses to offer curbside service. Here’s an excerpt:

Curbie is relatively straightforward for businesses to set up. They register a phone number for the chatbot that customers can text when they arrive, then set up customized responses based on their location and what they want to tell the customers. RAIN has templates for ways to inform customers what they should text, whether its the parking stall they are in or what their car looks like so that the store can locate them when they arrive. RAIN is offering Curbie for free to any business that wants to sign up as a way of helping them without adding to their financial burden.

February 12, 2020

Food Network’s Push Into Voice

In this podcast, Voicebot.ai’s Bret Kinsella talks with Tim McElreath from Discovery and Food Network (at the 25-minute mark about the “deapplication” of Alexa Skills and voice assistants). Tim describes how the Food Network has multiple channels of content – which are all interconnected – and how that poses a challenge for his company using voice. He notes he’s in discussions with Amazon about how to unpack all of this. Right now, the arrangement they have with Amazon is a hybrid of the traditional voice model – for example, they offer live cooking classes and a customer can use an Alexa Show to see the schedule of classes visually.

Tim explains his prediction of “deapplication” so that brands may keep their first-party position and also orchestrate what they do. Tim notes that “deapplication” applies mainly to those that have a mix of content types like his company does (ie. different mediums and platforms). But skills themselves are still valuable as are self-contained solutions. This may sound a little confusing…it is…

December 2, 2019

We the People Prefer Human to Synthetic Voices

I’m so excited to see this first study about what consumers want out of voice design – a joint study conducted by voicebot.ai, Voice.com and Pulse Labs. I’ll be blogging about a few of the results – the first one being this excerpt:

It will surprise no one that our user panel expressed a preference for human voices over synthetic voices. Observers have long suspected that users preferred to hear humans. In our testing, human voices received an overall rating of 3.86 on a scale of 1.00-5.00 com-pared to 2.25 for synthetic voices generated by artificial intelligence. That difference re-flects a 71.6% higher rating for human voices over the synthetic alternative.

November 25, 2019

WalMart Uses Siri for Grocery Shopping

Here’s the intro from this WalMart press release:

Earlier this year we announced a new way to make Online Grocery shopping even easier for customers – Walmart Voice Order – a service that gives customers the option to add items to their Walmart Online Grocery Cart by simply saying the words.

Today, we’re proud to announce that partnering with Apple, we’ve made Walmart Voice Order available on Siri. We are always looking for new ways to bring our customers the best experiences when buying Apple products from Walmart and when using their Apple devices every day.

We are introducing a new Siri Shortcut for Online Grocery. Customers simply ask Siri to start adding items directly to their Walmart Online Grocery cart after they’ve paired their accounts. It feels a little like magic on an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, HomePod or in the car with CarPlay.

Customers build out their basket by just saying “Add to Walmart” and then naming the product they want to add to their cart. After that, customers can place their order and Walmart personal shoppers get to work gathering the items for the customer, who can pick the order up on the way home or have it delivered right to their door.

October 23, 2019

Update Your Product’s Name for Voice

Recently, I blogged about this free 48-page playbook by “360i” about what you should know about voice from a marketing perspective. This excerpt from a note (on page 74) by Sean Flynn of 360i about how companies should consider updating their product names for voice makes sense:

Consumers looking for specific products likely will not refer to them by the SKUs (“stock keeping units”) listed on Amazon or existing e-commerce sites. Consider updating product naming conventions to ensure the right products (especially if they come in a variety of sizes) surface in Voice results. This practice goes back to the brilliant basics of e-commerce. Make sure your product description and landing pages include the most relevant details about the product and uses keywords that your user is likely to search with.

Broc Romanek

September 17, 2019

Research How Your Customers Are Discussing You

Since voice requires you to anticipate what will be asked by your customers when building a skill, what better way to figure that out than simply researching what customers have already been asking?

So as part of this research, ask those in your company in the front lines what customers ask. If you have people dedicated to customer service, their knowledge is invaluable for this exercise.

Better yet is if the company keeps records of their customer interactions – that can be an invaluable trove of data. But don’t solely rely on that. You want to talk to your customer service reps to understand their firsthand experiences. You need to learn the ways in which particular questions are asked – so you can anticipate all the different types of utterances that may be expressed – in addition to the types of questions asked.

Another valuable source of information about what customers are asking is looking at social media. Social media has become a preferred way for some people to seek customer service help. Look at the comments on Facebook and blog posts. Review your Twitter feed.

And of course, people email questions too. Or use chatbots. Review what is asked through those channels too.

August 27, 2019

The “Echo Look”: Helping You Dress Since ’17

Sometimes you see something new-fangled & you pause and say “what?” That’s how I felt about Amazon’s “Echo Look.” To be fair, I read about it before I saw one in action. And I’m a typical guy who doesn’t care how he dresses much (a lot of t-shirts). But after seeing this video showing how it works, it piqued my interest.

The “Echo Look” will take pictures (or a short video) of you trying on an outfit using a voice-activated camera (“Alexa, how do I look?”). It will brighten the pic & blur the background so the picture looks good. You can then perform a “Style Check,” which uses machine learning comparing two of your outfits (based on the pictures you just took) against current style trends & what flatters you.

The device also can create a “Personal Look Book” to help you keep track of your favorite outfits. Crazy for a guy like me to do so, but I had to get one. Well almost. I read the reviews and you can’t crop the photos nor do the photos get saved to your phone’s “photo gallery” automatically. But I was tempted because comments said they took very nice selfies. I’m the self-proclaimed “Selfie King.”

And I don’t care about fashion advice – but if I did, it sounds like that feature doesn’t work that well if you believe this comment:

Let me put it this way. When you are buying a high-end product with some huge AWS AI neural network behind it you expect it to be something more than a selfie-taker! I want conversations like:

– Alexa, how am I looking?
– I think that black skirt you were wearing last Sunday would match this top better

– Alexa, am I underdressed for a friends wedding?
– I think high heels would suit better than flip-flops for this occasion.

I want it to have some sort of intelligence, not just randomly assigned percentage score for each look.

May 9, 2019

Voice-Enabled Ads Are Here, Starting With Commuters…

As RAIN’s Eric Turkington writes in “Voicebot” last week, despite Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant offering no formal advertising opportunities, the first companies have developed voice-enabled ads – ones that particularly focus on those that commute. Here’s an excerpt:

All of these content opportunities beg the question of business model. Thus far, voice platforms have been loathe to allow advertising into the user experience for fear of alienating users as they acclimate to the new medium. Given the trends in streaming media today across music and video, it’s a good bet that freemium content models will come into the car, but there are also innovations in interactive audio advertising that could make ad-supported models more attractive. Instreamatic.ai is at the forefront of this movement, enabling content providers like Pandora to offer ads that users can talk to and which then drive them down the funnel. Early data indicates high levels of memorability and conversion compared to non-interactive audio ads.

Also see this TechCrunch piece about how Spotify is doing limited tests of voice-enabled ads…

April 24, 2019

Poor Voice Search Recognition Can Hurt Your Sales

As noted in this “voicebot.ai” piece, new analysis from Score Publishing estimates that NY Times bestselling authors/publishers will lose $17 million this year in sales because of poor voice assistant search recognition. Score Publishing assumed that only about 20% of failed queries led to a lost sale – the $17 million could be higher/lower if that assumption under/overestimates how determined someone is to make the purchase.

Here’s other facts from the article:

– Voice assistants overall only answered 43.1% of the queries but that figure rose to 55% when the toughest of the four questions was removed
– Google Assistant was the top performer successfully answering 72.5% of the queries
– Microsoft Cortana and Amazon Alexa followed with 60.8% and 44.2% respectively

March 28, 2019

Will Co-Marketing With Amazon Help Sell Your Stuff?

This “recode” article explains how Amazon is trying to partner with consumer good companies through co-marketing agreements in an effort to get consumers used to making purchases through voice. Here’s the intro:

Amazon wants more people to purchase more stuff through Alexa — and it wants the companies that make the stuff to foot the bill. The e-commerce giant has been reaching out to consumer packaged goods companies this year, asking them to include in their advertising campaigns Alexa branding and an Alexa utterance — the phrase you’d say to make Alexa purchase, say, Tide detergent or Blue Bottle Coffee.

The terms are pretty steep. Amazon is asking for millions of dollars worth of advertising impressions and months’-long campaigns on non-Amazon platforms to include the Alexa utterance — essentially for free, according to emails viewed by Recode.

It’s likely brands will ask for better terms if they are going to actually do this. “In negotiations, you don’t want to start with the most reasonable offer,” Jason Goldberg, SVP of commerce at digital marketing agency SapientRazorfish, told Recode. “You start with the most favorable deal for you.”

In exchange, Amazon will give CPGs data about how well their product is performing within its category on Amazon, as well as some advertising on Amazon’s sites — stuff they don’t have to spend out of pocket to offer. Amazon will also help engineer the brand’s skill, which is basically a voice assistant’s version of a mobile app.

As the article notes, only about a third of the folks with smart speakers have used them for a purchase – and only a fraction of that do it regularly. But those stats are based on last year. I imagine more & more people are getting comfortable with their voice assistants – and the number of people getting smart speakers for the first time continues to grow rapidly…