By Rylan Barnes & Phil Barrett

Voice interfaces are getting a lot of buzz right now, and for good reason. Gartner predicts that by 2018, 30 percent of our interactions with technology will be through conversations with smart machines. That’s why tech giants from Google to Microsoft to Apple are investing in voice — but this shouldn’t just be the business of the Goliaths. Savvy business owners and entrepreneurs, especially those in retail and ecommerce, must find a way to adopt these platforms to remain competitive as voice takes a front seat in commerce enablement.

This doesn’t mean creating your own Alexa or Siri. But it does mean taking advantage of the voice platforms already in place and the built-in audiences that are using them to increase customer loyalty and attract new business. For retailers or ecommerce sites, this means tapping into voice platforms so customers can ask if a certain store or site has the jeans they’re looking for in their size. For product review or comparison sites, this means asking where they can find the best camera for under $250 and asking for a detailed review, all while driving or cooking dinner.

In the best scenario, these voice platforms can offer guidance on all aspects of the buying process, removing any friction for the consumer and alleviating some of their decision-making responsibilities. But not all voice platforms have equal potential. Consumers are quickly realizing that most voice interfaces can’t do everything they claim (think Siri).

Why Alexa above others

So why isn’t the same happening to Alexa? Alexa does two important things to sidestep consumer disappointment. First, Alexa doesn’t try to do as much. It doesn’t have a screen to fall back on, and it forces users to stick to the script. In a way, Alexa is copying the original Google search model but in a more concise way. While Google can return several results, Alexa gives just the best answer, and it needs to be short and to the point. When people search Google and don’t find what they want, they just assume it doesn’t exist or that they put in the wrong search terms or Boolean logic. They don’t blame Google for not finding it. And it’s similar for Alexa. It’s a nuanced user response, but it could make all the difference in determining which AI platform(s) make it and which ones don’t.

Read the full article here: http://venturebeat.com/2016/11/01/why-amazon-alexa-is-so-dominant-right-now/

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By John Divine

Amazon.com, Inc. (ticker: AMZN) does pretty much everything retail.

What started as an online bookseller quickly expanded into other product verticals like electronics, clothing and toys, and eventually morphed into an all-encompassing web store with virtually every legal product you can imagine. AMZN even helped put a few billion-dollar businesses – RadioShack, Borders and Circuit City being three of the most prominent – out of business along the way.

There’s arguably no other American company ever that’s been so successful in so many areas.

That’s not to say there haven’t been flops. Amazon Local, the Fire Phone and Amazon Destinations each failed; the Fire Phone arguably registered as one of the biggest tech flops of the last decade. Still, Amazon’s track record of success far exceeds its failures, and with a hard-charging billionaire intent on taking humans to Mars at its helm, Amazon investors and competitors alike should be prepping for its next ambitious business expansion.

Search. “When people are looking for products and they want to buy something, they’re already starting on Amazon.com, not Google (GOOGGOOGL),” says Phil Barrett, senior vice president and general manager of Purch.

Barrett believes that Amazon Alexa, the company’s AI-powered, voice-activated personal assistant, could become the Google Search of what he calls the “post-app” world.

Alexa products like the Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot have been surprise hits for Amazon, and that, combined with Alexa’s ease of use and impressive functionality, makes Alexa a serious contender to be the search engine of the future, Barrett says.

Alexa is also an open platform for developers to add skills, enabling the assistant to become even smarter. In contrast, Siri had been closed to developers until very recently, and Google Assistant is only now commercially available in the Pixel phone.

“In the future it’s not gonna be Android vs iOS, it’s gonna be Alexa vs. Siri or Alexa vs. Google Assistant,” Barrett says. And that makes Amazon’s sizable head start in virtual assistants all the more valuable.

“That for me is potentially very scary for Google,” Barrett says.

Read the full article here: http://money.usnews.com/investing/articles/2016-10-21/amazon-com-inc-amzn-stock-next-industry

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