Alexa Conference 2019 Recap

Milkana Brace

Milkana Brace

Alexa Conference

(L to R) Rodrigo Prudencio, Abhishek Suthan of Pulse Labs, Milkana Brace of Jargon, Bradley Metrock

The third annual Alexa Conference presented by VoiceFirst.FM took place in Chattanooga, TN last week. It attracted 600+ attendees, doubling in size from the previous year. I enjoyed participating in a couple of panels, sharing ideas with other innovators in the ecosystem and meeting customers and partners.

While there were many perspectives brought to the conversation, below are some of the highlights for me:

  • Paul Cutsinger (Head of Alexa Voice Design Education, Amazon) painted a vivid picture of “Alexa everywhere”. Amazon is heavily investing in making voice available across multiple devices and supporting multiple scenarios. Consumers can interact with Alexa from the moment they wake up at home, to their experience in the car, to their meetings at work, and their entertainment and games back home. Paul also highlighted opportunities for the 4,500 brands that are already on Alexa, as well as independent developers to monetize their skills.

  • One of my other favorite presentations was by Ben Fisher (CEO, Magic + Co) who works with brands to craft engaging voice experiences for their customers. Ben made the compelling point that while marketing has traditionally relied on content campaigns to engage with users, it is shifting towards providing helpful virtual products that lead to a much more meaningful engagement with users. Ben explained how voice is an excellent platform for such products. I can relate! One of my favorite skills is the Tide skill, which guides users through removing any stain (grass, wine, etc.). I would likely tune out a Tide commercial, but I find the skill very helpful, happily engage with it, and tell others about it. It will be exciting to watch this shift in brand marketing as it takes advantage of the voice platforms.

  • Dr. Sandhya Pruthi from the Mayo Clinic talked about the opportunity for voice to dramatically change how healthcare organizations reach patients and consumers, how they can impact their lives and reduce hospitalization. The Mayo skill provides a wealth of information about health-related topics, conveniently accessible through Alexa. A number of other conversations during the conference focused on the intersection of voice and healthcare, as well as voice and elderly care.

  • Finally, another recurring theme was the use of voice in the car. The In-car Voice Assistant Consumer Adoption Report was published last week showcasing the rapid adoption of voice in the car: “Nearly twice as many U.S. adults have used voice assistants in the car (114 million) as through a smart speaker (57.8 million). The car also claims far more monthly active voice users at 77 million compared to 45.7 million. ”

Smart speakers emerged on the market only four years ago and their initial usage was largely limited to asking about the weather or setting a timer. With the proliferation of 3rd party skills, usage extended to far more complex and engaging scenarios. All this has been instrumental in training consumers to interact with technology through voice and as result, voice is quickly becoming an expectation for any smart device. We’re now quickly shifting away from smart speakers and towards “voice everywhere” - fully ambient, immersive, contextual and proactive. The opportunities this shift is enabling for brands and indies are mind boggling. At Jargon, we see these developments as presenting tremendous opportunities for us, as we enable skill owners to dynamically and contextually define the in-skill dialogue.

2019 has already been an exciting year for voice with a slew of announcements from the tech giants on both sides of the Pacific, showcases in CES and inspiring conversations at the Alexa Conference. We can’t wait for what’s ahead!