Siri, Alexa, Echo and other intelligent assistants are fast becoming part of the family. They simplify our home lives and are learning to anticipate what we want to see – or not. And they are becoming a threat to anyone running email and telemarketing campaigns.

As we get better at training and using intelligent assistants on our smart phones and devices they will make our lives more efficient.  The technology is improving rapidly and soon we will be able to teach our devices automatically and intelligently to handle some emails or filter calls and messages.

A key feature of this new generation of technology is it is backed by artificial intelligence. This learns by watching and training itself – what do we mean by our instructions and what do we want to see.

One colleague told me the first thing he does on waking is to ask Google Home to play news. When it starts reading headlines or playing a news station, he either says ‘tell me more’ or ‘move on’. Google is working out what he does or doesn’t like – and also whose voice wants English news or the Spanish channels for his partner. It will not be long before Google will proactively ask ‘do you want this?’ and then refine its understanding of preferences even further.

How will this apply to marketing? Robot assistants on our smart phones will start ranking calls and emails for usefulness before passing them on to us or filtering them out. This is already happening, to some degree, with software tools such as Microsoft Outlook Clutter and will save us time and effort.

However, in the not so distant future, sales and marketing people will have to learn how best to communicate with our robot assistants on our devices. For example, they will have to learn to write content to get past the robot assistants and reach a human. In a way this is another version of writing good content to get to the top of Google – if it looks ‘salesy’ it probably won’t get through; if it is written to be really helpful then Siri may decide this is just what you have been looking for.

Marketing people will also have to work out the words and the way we instruct our assistants to ensure our products and services are the ones chosen – this is taking keywords to another level!

There was an amusing – and horrifying – story in the US earlier this year. A child in Dallas, Texas said ‘Alexa order me a doll’s house’ and the next day a $160 doll’s house arrived from Amazon. The story was then reported on TV news channels and the presenter’s voice, telling the story, triggered doll’s houses being ordered across the States.

Many sales channels are now being automated with the addition of chat bots (the chat boxes on websites asking ‘do you want help?’ or ‘chat now’) that have robots handling the first line of customer contact. So in future, we could have a customer’s robot assistant talking to a sales chat bot - robot-to-robot!  Marketing teams need to ensure their chat bots can understand not just human voices and instructions, but also those of personal robot assistants.

All this means marketing people need new skills to think like a robot and write in new ways to engage the robots, never mind the humans. Those who understand this new market should have an early advantage.


By Sarah Burnett, AI analyst at Everest Group

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