Podcast Episode 168: Interview With Amazon Alexa Chief Evangelist Dave Isbitski

Podcast Episode 168: Interview With Amazon Alexa Chief Evangelist Dave Isbitski

By: Paul Hickey, Founder and Lead Strategist

Part 1

Part 2

For almost three years I’ve been making Data Driven Daily Tips, useful pieces of information for Small Business Owners and Small Marketing Teams to learn Web Design and Development, Digital Marketing, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Blogging, Content Creation, Instagram Growth Strategies and more.

There are almost 300 “DDD Tips” now, and they’ve taken many forms. Originally shot on Instagram Stories and saved down and uploaded to YouTube, and reposted in blog form on the website with written transcriptions, the “tip” has now evolved into a simulcast YouTube Video and Podcast with audio ripped down and published via Anchor.fm. The YouTube video now is post edited into IGTV format requirements to ensure omnipresence on all socials, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Medium.com

This latest version of the “tip” is a first. It’s our first with a guest. And this guest is an important one, so we took about 45 minutes together via Zoom Conference. Myself from my office in Valencia, Spain, and Dave Isbitski, Chief Evangelist for Alexa at Amazon and Alexa Marketing Employee #1, I assume from his office in Seattle.

Here are the main highlights of our conversation:

On helping brands figure out “what does this all mean?” – “Alexa is not a smart speaker revolution, it’s about connecting with your customers.”

Talking about what it’s like to help build a community of Alexa Developers via the Alexa Developers Console and the Alexa Skills Kit. Also, the Alexa Voice Service. –

Alexa Voice Service is where you put Alexa into things. This can be done with Windows machines, Sonos speakers, Cars, Headphones, Homes, etc. So Alexa Voice Service basically extends the amount of Alexa-enabled devices that exist. Right now, I think of Echos and Echo Dots as Alexa-enabled devices.

An Alexa Skill is, “anybody being able to teach Alexa about anything.

Alexa Skills Kit is a way for brands and businesses (and anyone, really) to have a presence on Alexa-enabled devices. So Alexa Skills are a great way for brands and businesses to add a voice, conversation, interaction component with their product(s) and service(s).

What is an Alexa Blueprint?

Dave says “one of the things I’m most excited about that has been happening in the last 18 months or so are Alexa Blueprints.”

You can go to https://blueprints.amazon.com and create an Alexa Skill in minutes.

Blueprints is a visual tool for creating a Skill. Now you can share them and publish them to the Alexa Skills Store for anyone to download and use. This can be a great tool for brands and businesses to connect with customers.

So an Alexa Blueprint is a visual tool for creating an Alexa Skill. Brilliant.

As a Human Being, You Always Have “The Latest Version.” In the history of computing, we’ve always had to update our devices or our operating systems. With Voice (specifically Alexa), you always have the latest version. For the first time in the history of tech, this is the case. So in Dave’s words, “the tech doesn’t get in the way.”

“It’s basically the maintainability of the web, with the discoverability of the app store, and human’s telling each other.”

How Would You (Dave) Explain to Small Business Owners, the Importance of Having a Presence on Alexa, Like an Alexa Skill or even Alexa Flash Briefing Skill?

“Yes, I work for Amazon and Alexa but this is bigger than all of that. This is the way that human beings are going to be interacting with the technology around us moving forward. It’s not a smart speaker revolution, it’s a human being revolution. And it’s all inclusive. It’s just talk to us.”

Updated numbers from Dave: There’s now over 100 million Alexa-enabled devices, there’s over 80,000 Alexa Skills and three out of four people in the U.S. have used a Skill.

“The neural pathways in your brain will switch. Like how you tap on any screen now because you’re used to tapping on your phone, one day you will get to a hotel room and say “Alexa,” and she’s not there….why? Because nothing’s faster than just asking for it.”

Dave’s Ideas For Brands to Have Skills (Keep It Simple)

-“Hey, what are your specials this week?”

“When you build these (current web and mobile) applications, I like to think of them as on-ramps. So what you’re doing, is you’re forcing a human being to think the way that you’ve actually coded a computer. And that’s NOT what you want. You want to actually hear from them what’s on their mind. For example, Capital One is looking at ratings of Skills and seeing what people are asking for, then building Skills around that, like car payments.”

“It’s all about speed (for voice). Nothing is going to beat speed.”

How Should People and Brands Think About Alexa In Cars?

“Alexa in cars just becomes another way for you to talk to the AI in your life that you already have existing relationships with. For example, when we’re driving back from the airport on vacation, I’ll just say Alexa, set home to 70 degrees. I could also say show me the front door and see if there’s any packages there.”

“Here’s a super cool scenario – you can play games. You can play family-oriented games like Jeopardy, etc. We’ve never had the ability to play an app game in the car while driving until now.”

Can An Alexa Skill BE A BUSINESS, or Should It Be An Extension of a Pre-existing Business?

It can be either for sure.

Interesting Scenarios:

  1. Account Linking – businesses can use their existing APIs and accounting systems, etc. to link up with a voice-based Alexa Skill. That’s how something like ordering a Pizza online works. The user already has an account, the user just says it, and the Pizza company with the Alexa Skill just charges through their pre-existing system.
  2. Amazon Pay Integration – small businesses can sell things online and use Amazon Pay.

Dave adds: “what’s interesting about the Amazon Pay Integration is meeting your customer in the moment. Let’s say I have a podcast about running shoes, and I could say on the podcast “would you like to buy these right now for 50% off on Amazon.”

3. In-Skill Purchasing – Games do this, selling power-ups and turns, etc.

“Another interesting example is working maybe with an age demographic that skews higher,” Dave says. “Let’s say your business fields a lot of calls, and it’s a huge cost center for your business, when in fact, if they could just talk to you, that would completely solve it!”

Perhaps the most interesting part of the conversation for me, happened when Dave started talking about the fact that current data and analytics from websites and mobile devices are only really based around what the brand or business has allowed the customer to do.

“The top three things users do in my mobile app are these things. Right, because those are some of the only things you’ve allowed them to do. With Alexa, it’s different, you can get data around what they’re asking you about. For example, you may give your customers 100 different conversation paths. When you see a drop off at a certain point, you know your customers were looking for something that wasn’t there. You learn as you go, and you improve, in a very different way than with web and mobile apps.”

What Is Alexa For Business?

“While Alexa was started as a Consumer Product, it has evolved into a couple different areas.

  1. Business Skills, like the one Data Driven Design has built to allow clients to ask Alexa how their web traffic is doing…
  2. Skills that are only available to employees of a particular business. This is what Alexa For Business is.”

Alexa For Business gives the IT department of companies a way to manage and control access to a company’s internal only Alexa Skill or suite of Skills to employees that need/want access.

Thanks for reading, watching and listening, and have a great day!

KEEP MARKETING!

Paul Hickey, Founder / CEO / Lead Strategist at Data Driven Design, LLC has created and grown businesses via digital strategy and internet marketing for more than 10 years. His sweet spot is using analytics to design and build websites and grow the audience and revenue of businesses via SEO/Blogging, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook and Instagram Ads, Social Media Content Marketing and Email Marketing. The part that he’s most passionate about is quantifying next marketing actions based on real data.

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