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What Should My Alexa Skill Do?

As the dust settles on Black Friday it is clear to see, and no surprise, that Amazon had a game plan. Again, they took the opportunity to try and grab even more of the Smart-Speaker market.

They are already way out in front of their competitors with 70% dominance when it comes to these appliances, add to that Apple’s latest capitulations and it’s getting harder and harder to see that lead being curtailed.

As more and more households welcome in the friendly tones of Alexa as their own personal voice-first assistant likewise more and more brands and businesses want to take advantage and launch their very own “Skill”.
Tom Bradley of Code ComputerLove recently suggested (read his blog post here) that brands wanting to take advantage of this new marketing channel should proceed with caution:

“Brands eager to join the rush to produce voice-enabled experiences should approach with caution and, for some, it might be a matter of recognizing that the right choice is to say no to Alexa.”
Tom Bradley | Code Computerlove

Tom is completely right. As with every marketing spend, questions must be asked and decisions must be made as to if the channel, message, and method of delivery are going to achieve the desired goals. Equally the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that he also references is also valid.

I’ve had many conversations over the last few months with teams that have been tasked with “Looking Into” this new technology: Dip a tow in the water, fact-find and see whats out there. As much as approaching this channel with caution is important, there will also be rewards for those who are quick to act.

We have written before on this blog about the impact of “Voice-Activation” on SEO (which you can read about here) but for the most part how it pans out is educated guesswork. Being a “first return” in a voice search will obviously be of huge value but at the same time, how that return is ultimately decided remains to be seen and being among the trailblazers on this new frontier could help.

I have no doubt that there will be a time when having a voice-activated skill for your company or brand will be considered as vital as having a website or social media presence. There are pro’s and con’s to getting involved at this early stage and, as Tom suggests in his post, it won’t be right for everyone, but there is one important question to ask for any brand who does want to take the plunge:

Is there a NEED for my skill?

Every successful brand-led Skill that has launched to date has succeeded because it has fulfilled consumers need. Domino’s and Uber’s Skill’s allowed customers to access their products with greater ease whereas Johnny Walker (whiskey recipes) and Amazon Video (Bosch: A Detectives Case) used content to strengthen their emotional connection with their customers.

It’s unlikely a skill that only lists the features and benefits of your new product will make any real impact as it offers little to the user in return for being “sold to”.

If you are going to put your company into the voice-activated it is vital that you think about what you want to say, how you are going to say it and how that represents your brand in this new space. To help you do this, I’ve created the Wheel of 7 Alexa Skill Needs (bastardized from BBC Dmitry Shishkin, Digital Editor at the BBCs “Wheel of 6 News Needs”) if you’re new skill can’t tick one of these boxes, then maybe you need to start again!

-Inspire.
-Educate.
-Update.
-Entertain.
-Provide (link to services ie: taxi, food delivery).
-Organise (diary, reminders etc…).
-Simplify (smart home enabled skills).

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