THE YEAR OF THE VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

Photo of Fred Schank
Date: 2019-01-16 14:20:05
By: Fred Schank
Date: 2019-01-16 14:20:05

CES has ended and the trends emerging are clear. 5G is coming, the question is, what does that actually mean? Looking at AT&T, things don’t look promising. TV’s got the standard gimmick upgrades to help drive down the price of last year’s models to the realm of actually being affordable. The main headliners were Google and Amazon, who are now joined by Apple, in the arms race to be the virtual assistant of the future. Who can get their intelligence embedded in as many consumer devices as possible?

Amazon started the war and, with Google, the two are now truly going head to head to win our homes. They are each finding every opportunity to practically give away smart speakers to every consumer. Google has made the claim that they will have 1 Billion Google Assistant enabled devices in the market by the end of this month.

For the past several years, since the launch of the first Amazon Echo, the robust use of virtual assistants has been for the early adopters. While many consumers have a smart speaker in their house today, and after the holiday this number has increased substantially, the usage is primarily for listening to music and making shopping lists. This hardly constitutes what anyone expects out of a virtual assistant.

The Trojan horse has been brought into the home, 2019 will be the year the true power comes out.

More importantly, as this becomes the new way consumers expect to interact, brands need to evolve. My 5-year-old knows how to ask, “Hey Google, turn on the TV” and he expects the TV to turn on. As the technology evolves and becomes more intelligent, consumers will begin to use these virtual assistants as a normal part of their lives. The ability for a brand to personalize the customer experience and mine the data around consumer habits to increase basket and create new transaction opportunities is limitless. A consumer will have curated products and shopping options, if your brand isn’t controlling the conversation, you won’t be in the consideration set.

This is the future for consumer interactions, and it is coming to life this year. If a brand does not have a roadmap for building out Alexa Skills, Google Actions, and their own virtual assistant; it may already be too late.

With the exponential rate of technology change, building out your brand’s virtual assistant today is like building out your e-commerce presence in the early 2000’s. The only difference is, brands had about 10 years to get that right, we now have a fraction of that time.

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