A few months ago I was reading Crushing It! by New York Times bestselling author Gary Vaynerchuk. In Crushing It!, discusses how entrepreneurs can take advantage of social media, music streaming services, and Alexa skills to create their dream business.
One of the most interesting points Vaynerchuk made in the book was specifically about using Alexa skills:
“While brands have developed countless Skills, most deliver the same basic experience. The field is clear for anyone who is clever enough to come up with something fresh and new….Very soon, as even more brands jump onto these platforms, it will get harder to make a dent in people’s awareness. Don’t let this moment pass. Don’t let the big guys snap up all the cheap real estate.”
Vaynerchuk definitely has a point. And the numbers back up his claim about the opportunity presented by smart speakers:
- By 2017, 45 million homes possessed a smart speaker with voice recognition technology.
- Experts predict this will rise to about half of the 120 million US households by 2022.
- The voice shopping market is expected to grow from $2 billion in sales to $40 billion in 2022.
What is Amazon Alexa?
Amazon’s Echo smart devices are leaders in the smart speaker market. These devices use the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect to other smart technology, like thermostats, light bulbs, and door locks. As long as a device is IoT-enabled, consumers can connect it to an Echo and start automating.
FYI: Many people use Echo and Alexa interchangeably, but they are actually two different things. “Echo” refers to the physical devices that users interact with. And “Alexa” is the voice-activated artificial intelligence (AI) assistant service that communicates with Amazon’s servers and other smart devices.
Alexa Commands vs. Alexa Skills
First, we need to explain the difference between Alexa commands and Alexa skills. Alexa commands are basic requests you ask Alexa to complete. For example, “Alexa, play ‘Jump’ by Van Halen,” or “Alexa, set an alarm for 6:00 tomorrow morning.”
But Alexa skills are something separate. Skills are additional voice apps offered in a variety of categories, such as business, shopping, and productivity. All Alexa Skills are free, but some require a subscription service to operate. Third parties can create Alexa skills in about two dozen categories. These include business and finance, local, productivity, and shopping, to name a few.
There are three ways to turn on an Alexa skill:
- Ask Alexa to activate it.
- Enable the skill on Amazon.com
- Activate the skill in the Alexa mobile app.
How Ecommerce Brands Can Use Alexa Skills
Using Alexa skills and smart technology is definitely fun and helpful in your personal life. But what you may not realize is your ecommerce business can benefit from Alexa, too. Especially if you take advantage of Alexa skills.
Here’s how using Alexa skills can help both internal operations as well as the customer experience.
As of May 2018, there are over 40,000 available Amazon skills. As an online retailer, Alexa can help you with many tasks throughout the day. This includes tracking sales, organizing tasks, getting industry news, and more.
For example, if your online store is hosted by Shopify, you can use the Shopify Alexa skill to get important information about your store. Ask Alexa for shipment details, inventory levels, or average order value (AOV).
If you sell on the Amazon Marketplace, you can use the Amazon Seller Central Alexa skill. This skill alerts you to any buyer messages awaiting responses and lets you know what your current account balance is.
Astrobot – Email Assistant is an Alexa skill that connects to your Gmail or Google Apps address. It identifies high-priority emails and shares the details so you can quickly respond.
Connect with Customers
Alexa skills are a great tool for ecommerce brands to use internally to improve operations. But Alexa skills also offer retailers the opportunity to open up a new selling channel.
For example, in 2016 1-800-Flowers launched an Alexa skill that allows consumers to order flowers via their Amazon Echo. Shoppers can say, “Alexa, send Mom a bouquet of tulips,” and the flower delivery service will handle the rest. If the shopper isn’t quite sure what to order, they can ask Alexa for recommendations.
One thing to note is that the 1-800-Flowers Alexa skill isn’t totally hands-off. Users must have Amazon Pay enabled and have the recipient’s delivery address already inputted into a 1-800-Flowers account.
How to Create an Alexa Skill
Ready to get in on the ground floor of ecommerce ordering functionality in Alexa skills? There are companies that will do it for you, or you can use the Alexa Skills Kit which gives detailed instructions on how to create a custom skill.
If you’re not ready to set up ordering capabilities through Amazon Echo and Alexa, consider creating a skill that offers customer support, deals, or product information. For example:
- Carter’s provides a skill where you can ask Alexa questions about your Carter’s, OshKosh B’gosh, or Skip Hop orders.
- B&H Photo and Video created a skill that allows you to ask Alexa for its daily deals.
- Rebel Popcorn offers a skill to get up-to-date information on Rebel Popcorn flavors.
Using Alexa skills with the Amazon Echo is certainly great for playing music or checking the forecast. But you can do so much more. Ecommerce companies can use Alexa skills for business purposes, to become more efficient, and even increase sales. Now is the time to explore how using Alexa skills can help you.