alexa hackathon workshop london 2018

A few Bookmarkians from our London office were invited to a day-long hackathon at Amazon’s London HQ. Alexa, tell me how they got on…

In October of 2018, we had the chance to spend a day at Amazon London learning from the industry-leading Alexa team. If you think about which companies are pioneering the at-home ‘Voice’ market, Amazon probably springs to mind – and with good reason. It currently has the largest market share of smart speakers in the U.S. with Amazon Echo at 64.6%, streaks ahead of its next competitor, Google Home, at 19.6%.

team hackathon london 2018 bookmark

Alin, Developer; Aleksandra, Strategist; Jeremy, Account Manager; Emma, Editor; Ruxandra, Paid Media Specialist.

The Alexa hackathon structure

The day-long hackathon saw 11 WPP agencies tasked with creating a theoretical Alexa skill for a specific client. The cross-team approach meant everyone had a part to play, and our team consisted of a strategist, editor, developer, paid-media specialist and account manager. The day was spent learning, ideating, building and finally presenting a demo of our Alexa skill that included a proposed go-to-market strategy with multiple channels and a proof of concept.

We chose to build a skill for one of our international travel clients as voice is a particularly interesting area within the travel market. Mobile voice is already regularly used for immediate ‘on-the-go’ travel queries in destination – think “Siri, where are the best restaurants in London?” Booking.com’s 2019 travel predictions revealed that 31% of global travelers like the idea of a virtual travel agent in their home, using voice-activated assistants to answer travel queries.

This insight aligned perfectly with our idea: a traveler app that repurposed our client’s large bank of long-form destination guides and travel blogs into a skill that could help customers decide where to travel. It also offered advice on things to do and the best hotels in each destination.

The challenges

From an editorial perspective, creating a voice skill is another way to, quite literally, bring your brand’s tone of voice (TOV) to life. You can choose the way Alexa speaks and handles queries to fit with your brand, which can be wildly different depending on whether you’re a children’s gaming skill, or a tongue-in-cheek cocktail-making skill. That means making editorial decisions to underpin every part of a voice conversation – from deciding between, “Sorry, I didn’t understand that request. Please try again” or “Whoops! I missed that. Can you repeat?” depending on your TOV.

Amazon explained that one of the main challenges in voice is getting people to come back. Lots of customers download a skill, but only use it once or twice before the novelty wears off and they forget about it. It needs to be simple enough that people aren’t put off by a complex interaction, and there needs to be an element that keeps people coming back for more.

Travel is a notoriously difficult field in which to do this, as people aren’t booking holidays every week. So how could we keep our skill front of mind, no matter what travel stage customers are in? This is where our suggested ‘Deal of the week’ came in: an exclusive offer or saving that gave people a reason to check back.

The future

Voice is an important and constantly-growing tool for content marketers, but it can be a new arena for many of our clients. In 2016, voice search comprised 20% of all internet queries in the U.S., and this is set to rise to 50% by 2020. AI is getting smarter which means voice technology can handle more conversational queries – and the easier they are to use, the more popular they will become.

As marketers, voice is another string to our content bow. It’s another medium through which we can craft meaningful conversations with customers, whether that’s creating brand-new, voice-optimized content, or working to repurpose existing content into a voice format.

When we consider a multi-channel content strategy, voice is increasingly part of that mix. An optimized and useful skill adds value for both customer and client. The real outcome of the day was leaving with all the knowledge and components to create a successful multi-channel campaign (including an Alexa skill as part of the mix) to pitch to one of our existing clients.

Are you looking to integrate voice into your next marketing strategy? Bookmark works with brands to develop customized content programs that resonate with their audiences and drive engagement, turning every activation into a compelling and measurable experience.

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