How Amazon’s Alexa is Changing Small Business

With smart speakers and digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Digital Assistant, there’s no doubt that voice search and AI are quickly changing online marketing for small business.

A new development has recently allowed BizIQ to add our client’s business information to Alexa, making it easier for their customers to find them online with just a few spoken words.

When I was a kid, a computerized digital assistant with developing artificial intelligence was the stuff of dystopian science fiction like HAL 9000 in the famous Stanley Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke, the film depicts an intelligent computer that controls a spaceship and decides to turn off all life support.

At the time, a device that could talk as well as control your home, answer questions, and order products for you, let alone a homicidal AI, seemed impossible. These days digital assistants like Alexa, Google Home, Microsoft Cortana, and Apple’s Siri are everywhere and while it can seem like these talking AI’s are similar to something from science fiction, in reality, they’re just another way for consumers to search for information and make life easier.

All this is great news for your small business. According to an article in Emarketer, in 2017 virtual assistants and voice-enabled smart speaker usage went up 130% over the previous year. The same article also states that Amazon, not Google, controls 70% of the market for voice-enabled smart speakers. Furthermore, according to Campaign magazine, data company Comscore predicts 50% of searches over the internet will be voice searches by 2020.

Alexa is already operating inside some smart homes, vehicles, and other devices.

While you’re probably aware of products like Amazon Echo and the Google Home device that run their own proprietary voice assistants, you might not realize that voice search, particularly via Amazon’s Alexa AI driven assistant has also infiltrated the Internet of Things. In fact, Alexa is now on a whole host of smart devices including thermostats like Ecobee and Nest, as well as some newer model cars from both Ford and Toyota. There are even watches with Alexa inside allowing you to live out your very own James Bond fantasy, or look like the guy from Get Smart.

This means that every smart device that includes Alexa already is also in effect a free Amazon Echo smart speaker and digital assistant. For small businesses, the internet of things and Alexa equals another opportunity to help customers find your business when they search for things like plumbers by just saying to their thermostat, “Hey Alexa, call a local plumber” or impress their friends by asking their watch to order them a pizza – “Hey Alexa, order me a pizza.”

Alexa Skills allow Alexa to access specific smart devices or perform specific tasks.

In addition to devices with Alexa as a native voice assistant, Amazon also allows developers and companies to create their own skills for Alexa. Similar to apps for your smartphone or tablet, There are already over 40,000 Alexa Skills, and they can all be found on the Amazon Alexa Skills Store. Most of the skills on the first page of the Alexa Skills Marketplace are for games and trending activity tie-ins to popular movies or video games. But there’s more to Alexa Skills than that.

Besides games and other fun activities, there are also skills that give Alexa the ability to control specific smart devices that are connected to the internet like your television, refrigerator, or lights. Right now most Alexa Skills are free, but third-party developers can also charge for Alexa skills in the same way developers charge for some apps on your phone. There are even skills like Our Groceries and My Chef Kitchen Assistant that will order groceries for you.

Amazon recently added a new interface to improve location searches and recommend Alexa Skills.

In addition to AI, Alexa also uses machine learning to help improve how it interacts with users. Recently, Amazon added a new Alexa ability via its CanFulfillIntentRequest Interface. The new interface means developers can now tell Alexa what their Alexa Skill does. Your customers don’t need to remember the name of the Alexa Skill that would allow them to search for the products or services your business provides.

Furthermore, the CanFulfillIntentRequest Interface helps Alexa with location based search queries that include phrases like “near me” or a specific location, such as when you ask your watch, “Hey Alexa, find pizza delivery in Phoenix.” That’s a big help for small business owners, but what if your business doesn’t have an Alexa Skill?

BizIQ adds our small business clients’ information directly into Alexa.

The good news is that BizIQ can add all of our small business clients’ local listing information directly to Amazon Alexa. Currently, we can add your business name, address, phone and hours of operation, but Amazon says they could be adding more information fields soon. It’s just one of the many ways we’re working hard to help small businesses all over the United States grow.

By adding your business’ local listing information to Alexa, you make it much easier for potential customers who use their smart speakers and other Alexa enabled devices to find your business when they perform a voice search. That means if you’re a plumber, restaurant owner, hair salon or another type of local business, you’re more likely to appear as the answer to a customer search query when they ask Alexa for help.

With consumer use of smart speakers, digital voice assistants, and other smart devices that use Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant growing every year, small businesses can no longer afford to ignore the impact that voice search has on local markets.