Amazon continues to build a powerful commercial ecosystem with the help of our own voices. The company’s inroads into the market for voice-activated products underscore just how quickly voice-based solutions are creating a new foundation for how people live. Businesses need to be ready to adopt voice into their product development strategies to be relevant.

Recent Amazon Announcements

On September 27, Amazon rolled out several new versions of its Echo voiced-activated assistant, ranging from Echo Spot (a smart alarm clock that can make video calls) to the Echo Plus, a smart home hub. The company’s announcements included a $99 Echo with improved sound and an offer to bundle three Echos together for $250 – which is important because more affordable Echoes with better fidelity will tempt consumers to replace their multi-room Sonos speakers with Echo, thus helping Amazon make a stronger inroad into music. In all, Amazon now has eight versions of Echo to manage our lives. By contrast, Apple and Google each offer one.

Meanwhile General Electric and BMW are launching products compatible with Alexa, the voice assistant that powers the Echo:

  • General Electric unveiled built-in appliances that make it possible for anyone to use a voice assistant, including Alexa and Google Assistant, to perform cooking tasks.
  • BMW is incorporating Alexa into its dashboard consoles (Ford, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz have done so already).

These developments underscore a point we made earlier this year: Amazon seeks to build a superplatform, with voice at the center of the experience. As Jeff Kirk, our Vice President of Innovation, wrote in May:

Amazon continues to leverage their “super powers” in the technology assets that the company has created over the past decade. These powers allow Amazon to delight consumers in new and unexpected ways with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Alexa. The net effect of all of this: a new intelligent and continuously evolving super platform is emerging.

Amazon continues to push into new markets such as communications, fashion, product manufacturing, cloud infrastructure, and media. As a customer-centric organization with an everything store, Amazon continues to pursue the total customer conversation, and voice is just the beginning.

Lovable voice-based products are crucial to Amazon’s strategy. Using our voices is a natural way to interact with technology. But it has taken awhile for voice assistants such as Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant, and Siri to become accurate enough for people to use them regularly. In the past few years, though, voice assistants have become more reliable. As a result, 35.6 million Americans will use voice-activated assistants monthly in 2017 according to eMarketer (a 128.9 percent year-over-year increase), and four out of 10 adults use voice search at least once a day.

Amazon seeks to build a voice-based ecosystem with its products powering the way we live, including how we control our smart homes, drive our cars, and perform everyday tasks such as checking the weather. And Amazon is not the only company trying to do so – Apple, Google, and Microsoft all continue to launch products based on their own voice assistants. Apple, for instance, announced the launch its own high-end HomePod earlier this year in an effort to create a product that integrates especially well with its own Apple Music streaming service.

But Amazon is in the lead. The company owns 70 percent of the voice-enabled speaker device market. Amazon hopes that rolling out new Echo devices will make the company indispensable to the operation of our homes, while the uptake of Alexa among automakers will give Amazon more influence over our lives on the go. Lovable products are crucial. Products need to be accessible, easy to use, and natural to be lovable. So far, Amazon is firing on all cylinders.

What You Should Do

All brands should be asking how to make voice a viable part of your customer experience strategy by dipping your toes in the market – not just because of what Amazon is doing but because Amazon’s actions are reflective of a broader shift in the way people live their lives. At Moonshot, we recommend using the right test-and-learn process to assess the role voice fits in your product development strategy while mitigating the costs of doing so.

We use the techniques of design thinking and lean innovation to create minimum lovable products for your customers and then scale those products for commercial application. Through design thinking, businesses identify the right problem to solve, create and consider many possible product options, refine selected directions, pick a solution, and prototype one. They employ tools such as customer personas and journey maps along the way. For instance, you might ask, “What kind of consumer problem do I think a voice-based platform would solve?” and test possible solutions from there. The result is the design of the minimum lovable product that creates maximum customer love with the least amount of effort and expense.

And then to develop the minimum lovable (voice) product into a real product for commercial application, we apply lean innovation. With lean innovation, cross-functional teams collaborate on holistic product design in an iterative, agile fashion. Lean innovation employs continuous process that requires product managers, experience designers and engineers to collaborate from inception to completion.

To get started thinking about how voice fits into your company’s product development, contact Moonshot.

Mike Edmonds

Mike Edmonds

Managing Director, VP Product