Where does a consumer find information about a product or service they need? Well, this has changed over time.
First, it was advertising in newspapers, radio and on TV. With evolving technologies and personal computers becoming popular worldwide, companies began creating and promoting corporate websites. Through this, they were able to provide potential customers with more useful information than they previously could in short TV commercials.
Now that everyone carries a smartphone in their pockets, mobile apps have become a must-have for almost every type of business.
Will you guess what the next step will be in product and service marketing? Find a hint in the title of this article. Yes, smart speakers are a new marketing channel and, surprisingly, one of the cheapest ones! Let us explain why you should consider expanding your marketing strategies to popular personal assistants.
What you need to know about smart speakers
Smart speakers are intelligent voice-controlled devices that help their owners solve everyday tasks. They are considered extremely valuable for several reasons:
No learning curve. We are all used to asking questions or making requests – you’ll interact with a smart speaker in the same way. Even your grandma, who is still afraid to switch on the laptop and doesn’t touch a smartphone will freely communicate with a smart speaker.
Hands-free interface. You can use a smart speaker while cooking, washing dishes, or planting flowers. The device is fully voice-controlled and won’t distract you from your current occupation.
Extremely affordable. The cheapest devices, like Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home Mini, cost just 50 dollars.
56.3 million smart speakers will be sold worldwide by the end of 2018. Consider the fact that such a device is usually bought for a household, and not for personal use. Can you already estimate how many people will have access to a smart speaker soon?
How to reach your target audience?
When speaking about more common channels, such as printed media, TV, and mobile devices, the easiest way to reach the people was (and still is) advertising. You just had to create a commercial and let it play during breaks in a popular TV show, or in a useful mobile app, which is one of the popular monetization tactics for free apps.
Unfortunately (or not), smart speaker users aren’t that easy to reach. Amazon, for example, still doesn’t allow advertising on its Echo devices and hasn’t discussed any plans to do so.
So, you have to think of more sophisticated ways to let your customers know about your products or services. And the most efficient way to do this is to develop your own skill for the Alexa platform.
What is a smart speaker skill?
Although this could sound confusing at first, a skill is a very simple concept. It’s just the analog of a mobile app, but for a smart speaker. These programs extend the basic functionality of a smart speaker and allow users to customize their devices according to their needs and preferences.
Each major platform has a skill store, and developers are welcome to publish their new skills as well. This is also a chance for businesses to release useful skills to promote their products and services in an unobtrusive, but effective manner.
Best Alexa skills for businesses
So, direct advertising is a taboo in the world of smart speakers. This brings us to a conclusion: it is important to pack as much usefulness as possible into your new skill. A bit of creativity is also vital.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can market your business through a useful Alexa skill!
Cooking recipes skill by a grocery
Asking a personal assistant about a new recipe is one of the technology’s most common uses. If people like this feature, why not offer them something beyond just speaking a recipe?
If you’re a local grocery store or a farm, provide your customers with simple recipes and let them order missing ingredients for the dish straight away! Even if they’ve never heard of your store, they’ll appreciate the unique service and are likely to return for more shopping. And more recipes!
Healthcare consultations by a clinic
It’s common to search various symptoms on the internet, and the popularity of healthcare-related questions to Alexa remains high. Users can receive a basic consultation about some common illnesses from their personal assistants. Right there, you can offer to schedule an appointment at your clinic to investigate other symptoms. As a result, you may attract new customers by offering them a bit more than your competitors.
Destinations comparison skill by a travel agency
A user may be wondering where to spend their coming vacation and ask Alexa for a tip. Along with comparing some of the most popular directions, the user may be able to instantly book a tour. As a result, your travel agency could receive a customer who would not have used your service under other circumstances.
Product delivery by restaurants and retailers
Beloved Alexa feature is the ability to order food and products. This works best for local businesses. You can provide your customers with the ability to order Chinese noodles or a flower bouquet via voice - an experience they will definitely appreciate and come back to order more.
Informational Alexa skills by local service providers
Queries like “What is the nearest real estate agency?” or “What are the opening hours of the nearest laundry?” are also gaining popularity. So make sure that essential information about your business is available to potential customers using voice-controlled devices. The price for developing a simple informational skill doesn’t exceed $500, but the ROI is incredible.
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How are Alexa skills for business built and what is the price tag? Let's take a closer look!
Alexa skill for business. How is it developed?
When building a voice assistant app, you have to keep in mind that it will be controlled by voice only. Ensuring that user interaction is intuitive and unambiguous is crucial.
Think of an invocation first. It's a phrase that wakes up the device and requests access to a certain skill. The invocation should contain the name of the skill and the specific query. Think, “Alexa, ask Avocado Laundry about their opening hours”. Aim for short sentences and make sure you predict the majority of queries variations. That way the smart speaker will better understand what the user actually wants to know.
Voice assistants app development is a lot like creating a web app. However, voice skills have a significant advantage: there is no need for a visual interface. In most cases, there is nothing to display on the screen (and there’s often no screen, except for two Echo models which have tiny screens not designed for interaction). So, you can skip two important stages of the usual product creation process—interface design and frontend development. All you need is a strong backend for your Alexa skill.
As a result, significantly less development time and resources are needed. You don’t even necessarily need a team—one experienced backend developer can handle the task.
The backend for a voice assistant app
Usually, for backend development, you have to choose between two options: develop your own backend or use an available and ready solution, also called backend-as-a-service, like Amazon Lambda.
Custom backend is more reliable and corresponds with your use case. However, it requires more time and effort to create and therefore costs more. In contrast, a BaaS is a one-size-fits-all solution with less customization capabilities but one significant advantage: the price. We have already described all pros and cons of both approaches, check out our comparison of mobile backend as a service and custom backend.
You will also need a chatbot package to enable your Alexa skill “understand”, process and respond adequately to user queries. A PHP library like Botman.io, for example, will satisfy the needs of a smart speaker skill, no matter the skill’s complexity.
When developing a skill for Amazon’s Alexa, Alexa Skills Kit is also useful. It offers APIs for specific types of skills, such as Smart Home Skill API if you want to enable Alexa control your home devices, or Video Skill API if you want to give the smart speaker access to a TV enabling it playing the requested videos. The Skills Kit reduces the Alexa skill development time and costs significantly.
Custom voice assistants app development
Most voice skills don’t fit in pre-defined types and require a more thorough approach to creating an interaction model. You will also have to consider voice assistant app integration with certain services to make the desired functionality possible. Take a look at some integration examples:
Slack. Enable a smart assistant to post messages in a chosen Slack channel.
Google Calendar. Grant access to your calendar and enable an assistant to add new events and remind you of upcoming appointments (works well if your skill users can book an appointment at your company - the event will be automatically added to your calendar).
Wikipedia. Enable your digital assistant skill to extract information from an extensive knowledge database and answer almost any question.
Shopify. Let the smart speaker access essential information about your online store on Shopify, such as the best-selling products or products that need to be fulfilled this month.
The list goes on and on. You can integrate your new Alexa skill with any existing service that provides an API. As a result, with a bit of creativity, you can offer a truly useful brand skill smart speaker users will appreciate.
How much does Alexa skill development cost?
We have finally come to the most important section of the article—the price.
Development costs vary according to the time required to build the needed functionality and the average development rate of the region where you choose to outsource. In this article, we’ll walkthrough rates offered by Eastern European app development companies, including Clockwise Software.
Let’s consider the simplest possible informational skill. It can provide an Alexa user with general information about your business, including your number of employees, the opening hours, the address, etc. This basic functionality takes between 8 and 10 hours to build.
If you need a more extensive voice skill, such as enabling instant ordering, integration with an online shop, enabled transactions and delivery tracking, development time can quickly add up. Count on 100-120 development hours.
Generally speaking, a smart speaker skill of nearly any complexity can be developed within a month and will come to no more than 180 hours total.
Eastern European companies offer their software development services at a rate of between $25 and $60 per hour. This means, that the total price for a simple informational Alexa skill for business starts at $200 and likely won’t exceed $750.
A more sophisticated smart speaker skill will cost $2000-6000.
As you see, the prices for voice assistants app development are significantly lower than those for mobile applications or websites. At the same time, their usefulness is hard to overestimate. Along with access to a new audience, you will be able to market your product in an environment with relatively low competition. So, don’t miss your chance to be among the first businesses to offer your services through a voice UI!
Would you like to discuss the opportunities available to your company? Use the form below to describe your case. Then, we will calculate the cost of voice assistants app to support your business. Our consultation is free!
Smart speakers are just beginning to conquer the world. Forwarding your marketing efforts to this channel could prove successful: this is not a blue ocean anymore, but the competition isn’t tough either. There are around 30,000 Alexa skills currently available. And the number of mobile apps published to the Apple App Store has already exceeded 2,000,000, Google Play Market is close to reaching the milestone of 4,000,000 apps. Can you see how the competition in these channels might differ?
Creating your own Alexa skill will take your business closer to your actual customers and helps you reach an audience you probably would not reach through other channels. A smooth experience and intuitive voice-powered interaction with your company might impress users. This is often rewarded with returning customers and sincere recommendations.
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