One if by Voice, Two if by Drone – Make it Easy or Turn out the Lights

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So, who’s in your home? Is it Alexa, Siri, or Google? If none of them occupy a nightstand or counter space, it is likely only a matter of time.

Voice Activated Assistants and Voice Internet Access

Of course, I am talking about voice-activated digital assistants and according to Brian Braiker’s Ad Age article titled What Really Works in Voice — And Why Google is Smarter than Amazon, 55% of all US households will have at least one digital assistant by 2022. Oh, and by the way, the trend toward voiced based internet access is likely to be even more striking globally, as it opens up the “next billion” internet users. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Eric Bellman notes:

The internet’s global expansion is entering a new phase, and it looks decidedly unlike the last one. Instead of typing searches and emails, a wave of newcomers—“the next billion,” the tech industry calls them—is avoiding text, using voice activation and communicating with images. They are a swath of the world’s less-educated, online for the first time thanks to low-end smartphones, cheap data plans and intuitive apps that let them.

I was an early adopter of voice-activated assistants (three of them are in my home at present, although I am slow to move from words to pictures) and like most others who use voice as a replacement for the typed word, I have chosen Alexa. In fact, Amazon’s Alexa is definitely leading the way with market penetration in the US.

In the Ad Age article mentioned above, Doug Robinson CEO of the Fresh Digital Group (a company that has built approximately 400 skills which enable voice assistants to perform tasks for various brands and non-profits) notes, “Amazon is clearly winning…the reality is from a distribution standpoint, they have the market share. Who’s smarter? Google.”

I won’t tell Alexa that!

It Comes Down to Ease

Irrespective of which of the big players will win the voice assistant battles, the future of voice-activated internet access and voice assistance cannot be ignored. These tools address a broader consumer trend of wanting to exert less and less effort to get their needs met (granted that the technology is far from perfect and frequently it’s easier to grab a remote control rather than having Alexa tell me she is having difficulty communicating with my Logitech hub).

Brands like Starbucks (the target of two my books The Starbucks Experience and Leading the Starbucks Way) were early adopters of voice assistant based ordering – as well as other platforms like voice-activated text-based ordering – which enable customers to make purchases as easy as possible.

Ease Beyond Ordering

From the standpoint of effortless and efficient delivery, Domino’s was the first company to make a commercial food delivery by drone:

Pizza Hut is betting on self-driving Toyota delivery vans referred to as e-Pallete to expedite and make pizza delivery even more seamless.

In an article for CNN Tech, Akio Toyoda notes,”Today, you have to travel to the stores. In the future with e-Pallete, the store will come to you.”

While e-Pallete is early in concept, a prototype is anticipated for deployment at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. That, however, has not stopped Pizza Hut from tweeting about the effortless future ahead.

I Am No Megabrand

Ok, you probably don’t have the budget of Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Starbucks, Google, or Amazon but you do have the capacity to watch and listen to your customers. Where are their pain or friction points in their journey with your brand? What are the “low hanging” opportunities you have available to reduce customer efforts?

Technology is one way to make a customer’s life easier! However, sometimes customer ease is as simple as making a change in a legacy process or training your people to anticipate customer needs.

When I asked Alexa how she can make the life of my customers better she honestly replied that she didn’t “know that.” I guess it’s up to me and I suspect it’s up to you as well!

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