How to Prepare Your Business for Virtual Assistants

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‘Okay Google, where did I park my car?’, ‘Where should I go on vacation in July?’, ‘Will you turn off the TV?’ Your virtual assistant can assist you with all of these questions. These ‘virtual assistants’ and the Artificial Intelligence that powers them still have plenty of limitations, but they are improving daily. Most importantly, these devices represent the fastest growing consumer technology segment in America with over 50 million ‘smart speakers’ expected to sell in 2018. That’s over double the amount that was in the market at the end of 2017. Hence, it’s time to consider how to prepare your business for virtual assistants.

What Are Virtual Assistants?

Virtual assistants (also known as digital assistants and voice assistants) use voice-controlled AI to perform tasks such as internet searches, making calls or connecting with other devices in response to spoken commands. The most commonly used assistants include Google Assitant, Alexa, Siri, and Cortana. They can be either embedded into smartphones or sold as stand-alone devices that usually take the form of a smart speaker.

What Virtual Assistants Mean for Your Business

Even for purely online businesses, the consumer journey is a multi-channel funnel. So in order to effectively reach your users, you need to use the same platforms as them. Increasingly that means using any and all devices available to your business – including smart speakers. Customers will start their interaction on one platform, return to it on a second, complete a transaction on a third. Having multiple platforms and coordinating a cohesive experience across them gives you the best chance of delivering what users want, when and where they want it. Also, users are increasingly expecting these idyllic digital experiences.

How to Create ‘Skills’ for Your Business

The most direct way to enable customers to engage with your business or product is through their smart speaker. Called Skills, Actions, and Commands, these third-party integrations are just Software Development Kits (SDKs) for their respective platform. These SDKs are basically apps – extensions to the core capabilities of the virtual assistant, produced by external companies. Some of the most popular SDKs include playing music via Spotify, ordering a taxi via Uber, and checking your schedule with Google Calendar.

Also, these digital assistant ‘skills’ provide large advantages for businesses. For retail, a virtual assistant app could help customers re-order products or allow them to check whether an item is back in stock. This process could be reduced to a couple of keywords. Travel skills could be used to announce up-to-the-minute status updates and arrival times. The speaker function of the device makes it a good fit for media too, finding and playing podcasts, or playing audio versions of magazine features.

Virtual assistants are quickly becoming an important platform for marketing. As a result, this also means is that consumers will be expecting more from every device. Omnichannel marketing really does mean omnichannel – you can’t afford to ignore virtual assistants. Forward-thinking businesses will develop strategies that deliver the benefits of this new technology across multiple devices, from smart speaker, to smart TV, to smartphone.

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Tim Reed

I am a digital marketing strategist with a technical background. To call me an amateur blogger would be a disservice to the word ‘amateur’. I love coffee, coding, computers, and music (apparently, I also love breaking alliteration). I love to work with small local companies in the DFW area. Follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn.