Skill is the New App

In the IoT, your brand can finally have a real conversation


In March, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella outlined his future vision, which included the idea of “conversations as a platform.” While I can’t disagree with his central thesis, the IoT will certainly be more fragmented and not allow one type of interaction to rule all others. And the reality is, conversation as a platform has already arrived, in the form of Alexa


With improved intelligence, warm accessibility and more integrated features all the time, Alexa is leading out of the gate as what M.G. Siegler calls the bridge to vocal computing.


And while some marketers are still throwing shade or playing the wait-and-see game, the embryonic (but exploding) arena of Alexa Skill development is showing real signs of life. For those who haven’t spent time with Alexa, Skills are basically apps users can enable on the Echo to increase her knowledge and capabilities.


Alexa’s Skills are growing every day, and the potential for brands is pretty wild. Here’s why:


Currently, Alexa’s set of Skills ranges from the amusing (Dr. Who trivia, anyone?) to the useful (NYC transit status—good to know before you schlep to the F train) to the seemingly useful (translate English phrases into foreign languages) that really isn’t (how often do you find yourself struggling to translate “Where is the library?” into Italian in your living room?).


But within the Skills are a few early-adopting brands. USA Today, Uber and Domino’s are three standouts. While Alexa is (for now) just another channel to play to their core functions, ordering your UberX sans phone is nice. And the fact is, these Skills are a bridge not just to vocal computing, but to brand conversations that are, well, actual conversations. To draw a clear line to the world of CRM, the potential impact to customer loyalty and retention is more than massive.


Has your CRM agency brought up developing Skills for the Amazon Echo? Why not? Even if you’re not ready to let Alexa speak for your brand, your agency should be exploring and helping you determine what potential the Echo has for your customers. And beyond Alexa’s Skills, your CRM needs to prepare for all the connections—and opportunities—of the IoT as more platforms and devices gain traction with users.


Want to learn more? This summer at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, I’ll be presenting a keynote session on How Calm Design Will Save the Internet of Things along with Amber Case (cyborg anthropologist, author and TED Talk veteran). If you plan on attending, please join us. If not, keep watching HackerAgency as we reveal how marketing must evolve as the IoT gains traction. Together, we can Save the IoT.