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Destiny 2: An Amazon Alexa Gaming Wingman

So “Destiny 2″ has it’s own Alexa Skill. A Ghost Skill if you will… that is embedded into Amazon Alexa devices, to give players some help from the famous A.I. assistant, synced and integrated directly into the game in real time. The Ghost Skill enables a series of brand new ways to interact with the […]


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Amazon Alexa and Smart Speakers Are the Next iPhone

Amazon Alexa and Smart Speakers Are the Next iPhone

The iPhone is called that because when it debuted 10 years ago, making telephone calls was the primary reason to have such a device. My, how things have changed.

I used to get 10 to 12 phone calls and voice mails each day. Now? One or two at the maximum.

And my kids (proud Gen Zers) won’t talk on the phone at bayonet point. They’d rather listen to Gilbert Gottfried sing opera than place or receive an actual telephone call.

The magical thing about the iPhone is that we bought it for one reason, but quickly discovered lots of other ways in which the device is a boon. And the exact same pattern is repeating right now with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomePod, and the “smart speaker” phenomenon.

New research from NPR and our friends at Edison Research called The Smart Audio Report (download it at no cost here) confirms and illuminates this trend.

The Smart Audio Report

4 Ways Smart Speaker Adoption Mirrors iPhone Adoption

The full report is fascinating, and I absolutely suggest you give it a look. Here are the data that really stood out to me, in terms of Amazon Alexa and its brethren walking the same path as the iPhone.

I was one of the first people to get an Amazon Alexa, and many of these research findings struck a chord with me personally. My notes about that are below, in italics.

Device Was Bought for Specific Functions, and Is Now Used for Many More Functions

90 percent of smart speaker owners bought one for music. 86 percent wanted one just because it seemed like a cool, new gadget (that’s me).

Today, however, the average smart speaker owner is using the device for 7.5 functions, and 12 functions (adding an item to a shopping list, for example) are being used by at least one-quarter of all owners.

Like the iPhone, once you get a smart speaker, you start to discover more and more ways it can work for you. It starts to slowly creep into your life, like kudzu, or The Rock.

Usage Goes Up, Post-Ownership

47 percent of smart speaker owners use the device more today than they did one month after purchase. This indicates a strong level of feature discovery, since we typically use a new tech toy a ton immediately after we get it, and then the glow fades.

(Because I travel so much, I tend to use mine in spurts. I really need to get the Echo Dot and bring it with me on the road.)

Increased Usage Makes Smart Speakers Indispensable

Nearly one in three Americans would give up sex before they give up their smartphone. Talk about raving fans!

Smart speakers are well on their way to similarly strong bonds with their users. According to NPR and Edison Research, 42 percent of owners say their smart speakers are essential (and I use the plural because four in 10 own more than one).

Further, 65 percent say they “do not want to go back to life without a smart speaker.”

(I agree. I also don’t want to go back to life without ATMs, Co-Schedule, or Dang coconut chips).


65% of smart speaker users say they don't want to go back to life without one.
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Owners Struggle to Keep Up

This may be the most iPhone of all the findings in The Smart Audio Report: 72 percent of owners say they don’t know enough about their smart speaker to use all of its features.

Smart speakers are creating FOMO among their users, just like the iPhone did when it was shiny and new, and people didn’t understand all it could do. To some degree, this condition persists, given the millions of options available in app stores.

(I get an email from Amazon about every 45 seconds telling me about something else I can do with Alexa. I love tech, but I’ve got a life to lead. I seriously need to take a whole weekend and just plow into all the stuff I can/should be doing with it, but am not yet.)

I am bullish on smart speakers in general, and this study also highlights their role in increasing consumption of music and podcasts. They may end up being a transitional technology, like the iPad, as we may land on in-ear versions of Alexa, et al. soon enough. But for now, it’s fascinating to see history repeat itself.

How about you? Do you own a smart speaker? How has it changed your behavior?


Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting

E-Commerce and Apps Pave the Way To The Future of Retail: Inside Amazon Go, A New Retail Experience

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We’re a company of builders. Of pioneers. It’s our job to make bold bets, and we get our energy from inventing on behalf of customers. Here are just some of the innovations pioneered by Amazon, and we’re always looking for the next one. – Amazon

Every industry is ripe for disruption. It’s what you do now that defines your future and legacy.

One of the most exposed industries to disruption at the moment, among many, is the retail sector. From the internet of things (IoT) to sensors to beacons to displays to apps and everything in between, each new trend introduces new challenges and opportunities to compete.

Technology trends however, do not solely define the future of retail. People count for everything. How they shop today versus how they want to and will shop in the future is the source of meaningful innovation. Technology changes. People evolve. That’s digital Darwinism at work. But there’s more at play.

Mobile, social, and every popular app or device that become the next big thing constantly push people further and further toward new and exciting experiences. Digital payments too, such as PayPal, Square, Venmo, ApplePay, Google Wallet, et al., are conditioning consumers to rethink the relationship between physical cash and transactions. With that said, even transactions are open to new dimensions.

On-demand companies such as Postmates, Uber, and the like, are hiding payments and transactions and packing everything together as “an experience.” Add everything together, and those paying close attention will see how outside forces are influencing new customer behaviors, preferences and expectations day in and day out.

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Business as usual is no longer ok. Taking new tech and tying it down to old perspectives and processes is not innovation. It’s iteration at best and dangerous in common practice. Retail and e-commerce not only face new pressures to innovate, but also must explore co-existence and even collaboration to re-imagine the meaning of “space.” The reality is that competition can come from anywhere.

What’s the difference between iteration and innovation?

Iteration is using new tech to do the same things better or differently.

Innovation is doing new things that create new opportunities and value.

Only one sets the stage for a new normal.

What’s clear now is that customers do not want compromise. Yet, they’re forced to compromise in many ways throughout the customer journey. Innovation in shopper experience is all the work you do to conform to expectations and aspirations of people as they evolve instead of making them conform to your legacy perspectives, assumptions, processes and metrics of success.

Physical retail space, operations, and everything behind the scenes are your opportunities to disrupt and at the same time, thwart disruption and competitive threats.

Amazon Sets The Bar for a New Level of Customer Experience…Again

Amazon made news when it opened a brick-and-mortar bookstore to challenge everyone’s idea of what a bookstore could be in the 21st century. Now, Amazon opened a beta version of what a grocery store could be. Introducing Amazon Go. Opened only for employees in Washington at the moment, this 1800 square foot pilot demonstrates exactly how retailers need to rethink the future of retail beyond beacons, magic mirrors and apps.

What is retail?

That’s a serious question.

We tend to base the answer on retail as we know it. It’s a form of cognitive or validation bias if you will. When we consider new possibilities, they’re centered on a common perspective of today’s functional environment. We don’t start from a new center and as such, we unintentionally wrestle with iteration vs innovation.

But not Amazon…

This is a company that often starts with a blank slate, customer-first perspectives, and different questions:

What if…?

Might we…?

Why…?

Amazon is yet again, demonstrating that the future of retail is left to imagination. It seems that more and more, the path to innovation is tied directly to the ability to appreciate, but also see past, iteration.

So, what is Amazon Go?

Let’s start with what it isn’t…a traditional retail store.

Amazon is beta testing a grocery store for the 21st century that reconsiders space and transactions in a world that blurs mobile, online and spatiality. It all takes place in a new 1,800 square foot space at 2131 7th Ave in Seattle.

It all starts with an app…Amazon Go. You “check in” via the app when you walk in the store. Using a combination of sensor (fusion), computer vision and deep learning, the smart shelves track what’s removed and returned creating a virtual cart of sorts. When the shopper is finished, they…wait for it…just leave. There is no check stand, register, or clerk waiting to take your money. The app charges your account and sends you a receipt.

Brilliant.

In a statement, Amazon explained the inspiration for Amazon Go:

Four years ago we asked ourselves: what if we could create a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout? Could we push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning to create a store where customers could simply take what they want and go?

Our answer to those questions is Amazon Go and Just Walk Out Shopping.

At the moment, the store is open to employees only. But it’s just a matter of time until it, or something like it, opens to the public. Make no mistake, analysts and strategists everywhere are now forced to rethink the future of retail from a new perspective…starting with adapting customer experiences to connected consumerism. Retail now has a new normal.

It’s smart brick-and-mortar retail fused with Amazon Prime built upon a new perspective for physical and virtual space all with the frictionless transaction model of Uber. All it takes to re-imagine the future of retail is to explore the experiences consumers love outside of the industry. Then and only then, can you balance iteration with innovation. As Steve Jobs once famously said, “Start with the customer experience and work backwards from there.”

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Please read X, The Experience When Business Meets Design or visit my previous publications

Connect with Brian!

Twitter: @briansolis
Facebook: TheBrianSolis
LinkedIn: BrianSolis
Youtube: BrianSolisTV
Snapchat: BrianSolis

Invite him to speak at your next event or meeting. 

The post E-Commerce and Apps Pave the Way To The Future of Retail: Inside Amazon Go, A New Retail Experience appeared first on Brian Solis.


Brian Solis

Is Your Data Safe With Amazon Echo?

Amazon Echo smart speakers have been a rather popular gift this holiday season. In a press release yesterday, Amazon revealed that the company sold 9 times more smart home devices than it did this time last year. Now millions of homes around the world have Echo’s AI assistant, Alexa, to cater to their needs.

The utility and novelty of smart home technology like Echo is undeniable. After all, who isn’t excited about the prospect of ordering pizza without having to lift a finger? However, it is important to recognize that this type of technology may undermine your privacy. With Echo’s aural interface, the device is always listening, just in case someone gives it a command. In other words, “Big Brother is watching you”.

Should You Be Worried?

It could very well be possible that Alexa is recording and storing every conversation in your home. However, Amazon claims otherwise. According to the company, Echo only streams/stores a fraction of a second of audio before it detects its “wake word”, along with the audio of the command itself. Since Alexa is powered by AI, “she” stores your command history to help make her “smarter”. That way, Alexa can better respond to your future commands. While Amazon’s reasoning behind storing your command data is sound, imagine what could go wrong if someone else gets access to that data?

Amazon does let you delete specific voice recordings in the Alexa App. You can also delete your entire Echo history on Amazon’s website. However, Amazon cautions against doing so, warning that deleting voice recordings “may degrade your Alexa experience”. On the flip side, Amazon is also seemingly dedicated to protecting its Echo customers’ privacy. The company is refusing to provide authorities with the Alexa data of a man accused of murder. Amazon defended its action, affirming that it will not allow data access to third parties “without a valid and binding legal demand”.

While this move sets precedent for future concerns about Echo data, user information is still vulnerable. Police claim that they eventually extracted information from the alleged murderer’s Echo device without Amazon’s help. Whose to say that others couldn’t easily do the same?

The post Is Your Data Safe With Amazon Echo? appeared first on Social Media Explorer.


Social Media Explorer

Netflix vs. Amazon in 2016: A big year for 2 video streaming giants

Netflix vs. Amazon Video


If the year 2015 saw Netflix and Amazon go head to head in the video-streaming realm, this year we’ve seen more of the same, as the two companies ramped up their respective efforts to capture the cord-cutting video generation.

Here, we take a look back at some of the notable developments in the worlds of Netflix and Amazon in 2016.

Going global

In January, Netflix launched in 130 new markets, taking the service truly global and giving the company a serious leg up on rival Amazon, which was limited to just a handful of countries.

That remained the case for nearly a year, until Amazon revealed it was launching Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 markets for $ 6 per month. Amazon’s big international push was perhaps more notable, because its video-on-demand (VoD) offering had traditionally differed from Netflix in one key way — it was bundled alongside Amazon’s broader Prime subscription service, which costs $ 99 per year.

I’ve long argued that Amazon should spin Prime Video out as a standalone subscription service, like Netflix, and that’s exactly what it did in April. Prime Video was already available as a standalone service in the U.K. and Germany (though it was hard to find), but spinning out the video service in Amazon’s domestic U.S. market laid the foundation for what was to come — a global VoD service available to just about everyone, everywhere.

Content is king

Amazon: Top Gear chaps sign up to The Grand Tour

Above: Amazon: Top Gear chaps sign up to The Grand Tour

Image Credit: Amazon

For Amazon, going global was pretty much imperative, given its aspirations in the original content realm. The company had invested a reported $ 250 million in the talent behind the BBC’s Top Gear, and in November it launched a similarly themed show called The Grand Tour, starring Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond.

The Grand Tour represents Amazon’s biggest content investment to date, so to capitalize on the popularity of the trio of presenters, Amazon needed to get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible — and a global rollout of Amazon Video was inevitable.

Both Netflix and Amazon continued to boost their slate of original or exclusive titles throughout 2016. Shortly after Amazon announced its big arrival on the international scene, Netflix announced it had secured a major content deal in India, after signing up Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies for all past and upcoming films.

Elsewhere, Netflix extended its deal with DreamWorks Animation to add a ton of exclusive content to its global streaming service. But more than that, the company debuted a number of great original shows, including Stranger Things, The Crown, and The OA.

Netflix’s Emmy Award nominations grew from 34 to 54 this year, while Amazon’s grew from 12 to 16. But nominations don’t automatically convert into wins — Netflix scooped up a personal record nine awards, while Amazon took home five. So Netflix won more awards, but Amazon’s win-to-nomination ratio was higher.

However you slice and dice things, both Amazon and Netflix will continue to invest in original and exclusive content. It’s the only thing that differentiates one VoD service from another to any significant degree, so it’s something we’ll see both companies plowing cash into in 2017 and beyond.

Own-brand and exclusive content is also what gives both Netflix and Amazon an easier path into their expanded operations. With third-party content, owners of the rights can dictate things like whether content is available offline, as they normally negotiate terms on a market-by-market basis — a complicated process that consumes significant resources for VoD companies. But when the companies own the rights themselves, the problem vanishes — they can broadcast what they want, in whatever country they want.

Downloads

Netflix: Downloads

Above: Netflix: Downloads

Image Credit: Paul Sawers / VentureBeat

Arguably one of Netflix’s biggest pieces of news in 2016 was its decision to finally offer its users offline access.

The company had previously claimed that it would never allow users to download shows and movies for offline access, but with its decision to expand into new markets, Netflix was forced to reconsider. Wi-Fi and 4G internet aren’t omnipresent in many developing markets, so to fulfill its obligations to customers, Netflix had to start offering downloads.

Netflix is adopting the same approach Amazon did when it opened up to offline access last year — only some titles will be available to download, including its own slate of content, such as The Crown, Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, and Narcos. There is some third-party content on that list, but it’s limited.

Other factors

Way back in December of last year, Amazon launched a new program allowing Prime subscribers to add additional VoD subscriptions to their annual membership — at an extra cost. Some notable brands were on board for the launch, including Starz and Showtime, but earlier this month HBO and Cinemax were added to the mix, for $ 15 and $ 10 a month, respectively.

This was a major scoop for Amazon and served as one more big reason for cord-cutters to sign up to Prime — they can garner contract-free access to their favorite channels without a cable subscription.

Building off the back of this development, in May of this year Amazon introduced a new platform that lets creatives and video-makers upload their own videos to rent or sell through Amazon Video. With Amazon Video Direct (AVD), Amazon is looking to increase the amount of content available through its service, giving creators the ability to make their titles ad-supported for free access or to earn royalties as part of Amazon’s $ 99 Prime membership.

With Amazon focused on becoming a platform for other subscription-based services, Netflix launched its Recommended TV Program globally, having introduced it to the U.S. a year earlier. It’s basically Netflix’s way of letting TV-makers align themselves with the video-streaming giant and letting customers know whether a TV supports Instant On and TV Resume functionality, features that let TVs “wake up” quickly and “remember” where you left off in an episode.

To the future…

Both Netflix and Amazon evolved in 2016, and it’s interesting to note the similarities between the two services as they increasingly converge. In 2015, Amazon gained offline access, and a year later Netflix followed suit. At the start of this year, Netflix launched globally in nearly every market; a year later Amazon did the same.

What is becoming increasingly clear is that Netflix and Amazon will continue to evolve in tandem from a features perspective. Where they will seek to differentiate themselves is in the realm of content, and this is where we’ll likely see some interesting developments in 2017 and beyond.

Word on the street is that Amazon is chasing premium sports packages and has been in talks with a range of sports leagues, with a view to acquiring broadcast rights. That would be a major game changer, as live sports is something that consumers are insanely keen to subscribe to.

But it’s also worth remembering that as both Amazon and Netflix continue to bolster their respective content offerings, their competition will serve to give viewers more reason to subscribe to both streaming services.

So for 2017, it may not be a case of “Netflix or Amazon Video?” but rather a case of “Netflix AND Amazon Video.”

Social – VentureBeat

Wynn Las Vegas Hires Digital Butlers, Places Amazon Echo in 4,748 Guest Rooms

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Many hotels offer USAToday for guests. Now guests at the Wynn Las Vegas will simply say, “Alexa, read today’s USAToday headlines.”

I believe the future of any brand is directly tied to the experiences they design and deliver consistently through the customer lifecycle. It’s not just any one thing, it’s everything. That’s the definition of customer experience after all. It’s not the technology company’s invest in, nor the touch points they modernize, nor the new policies and processes they introduce to streamline engagement. Customer experience is just that…it’s what a customer experiences in each touchpoint along their journey. It’s measured in each moment but more so, defined by the sum of all engagements a customer has with a brand. As such, experience must be considered from the customer’s perspective. And as such, it takes an empathetic approach to understand problems and uncover opportunities that were previously undetectable or simply not prioritized.

Here’s a simple story of one company thinking about technology with customer experience in mind.

Have you ever tried to call the hotel concierge or the front desk  just to get simple answers about local destinations, events or even instructions on how to use some of the tech in the room? Sometimes you’re put on hold seemingly forever. Sometimes you have to leave a message. Sometimes you get the answer and you’re able to move on. In a world where human engagement becomes less and less scalable, artificial intelligence, chat bots, apps, et al., are rising up to help people in times of need. But it’s what we do in each moment of truth, in each touch point, that defines the experience that people have and remember (or don’t).

The Wynn Las Vegas hotel started with customer experience and explored technology solutions to deliver against the standard they set out to define. What’s the experience they want to deliver? They want guests to feel like they have an in-room, on-demand butler. Steve Wynn announced that to do so, the company would place an Amazon Echo device in each of its 4,748 hotel rooms. Think of it as a “digital butler” of sorts.

In Wynn’s own words…

“I have never, ever seen anything that was more intuitively dead-on to making the guest experience seamlessly delicious, effortlessly convenient, with the ability to talk to your room and say: ‘Alexa, I am here, open the curtains, lower the temperature, turn on the news.’ She becomes our butler at the service at each of our guests.”

Wynn also shared his perspective of the relationship between technology and customer experience in an official statement…

“If I have ever seen anything in my 49 years of developing resorts that has made our job of delivering a perfect experience to our guests easier and help us get to another level, it is Alexa.  The ability to talk to your room is effortlessly convenient. In partnership with Amazon, becoming the first resort in the world in which guests can verbally control every aspect of lighting, temperature and the audio-visual components of a hotel room is yet another example of our leadership in the world of technology for the benefit of all of our guests.”

Alexa is the brain behind Amazon Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices – just ask and she’ll answer questions, read the news, set timers and alarms, recite calendars, check sports scores, control smart devices in-home, and more. Since Alexa runs in the cloud, she is always getting smarter – plus, it is simple and free for developers to build Alexa skills and integrate Alexa into their own products. In the US, there are already more than 6,000 skills available for Alexa. Beyond that, there are programming platforms, such as IFTT, for experience designers to think about implementing personalized experiences with Alexa as a CX platform.

Alexa isn’t the only intelligent hub on the market either. Google recently announced its Home device, which is similar to Alexa, but built upon Google platforms that boast years of algorithmic development. Either way, Wynn has set the bar for in-room experiences that can be used to inspire new applications that are limited only by creativity, imagination and inspiration.

As Joe Pine and James Gilmore famously predicted, we are now competing in an experience economy. Technology gets us part of the way. But, experience design is the new customer engagement and the new brand. It’s meant to be enchanting, shareable and unforgettable….to leave customers with an experience that, to use Steve Wynn’s words, is “seamlessly delicious.” Those moments need to be designed. The feelings people takeaway must also be designed. That takes empathy. To do so, we must think beyond transact to create value, which translates into meaning. Meaning gives way to memories. Remembrance begets loyalty. And, loyalty drives customer lifetime value.

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Please read X, The Experience When Business Meets Design or visit my previous publications

Connect with Brian!

Twitter: @briansolis
Facebook: TheBrianSolis
LinkedIn: BrianSolis
Youtube: BrianSolisTV
Snapchat: BrianSolis

Invite him to speak at your next event or meeting. 

The post Wynn Las Vegas Hires Digital Butlers, Places Amazon Echo in 4,748 Guest Rooms appeared first on Brian Solis.


Brian Solis

Friday Round-Up: Twitter translates, Amazon wallet folds, and men are hanging out on Pinterest

Friday-Friendly-Funny-Dave-BlazekAnother week is at an end and it’s been a week of change here at MarketingPilgrim. Out there, in the rest of the digital marketing world, not so much. Seems like everyone is caught in the January slump. . . .or worse.

eBay gave their state of the union address and it wasn’t good. They used phrases like “going to get worse before it gets better” and capped it with layoffs for 2,400 workers. Later this year, eBay will be splitting from its sister company Paypal and though Paypal is expected to grow after the split, eBay is headed into dark waters. The hope is that someone will buy the company and return it to its former, collectible auctions, glory. I hope so because I can’t go a day without eBay.

Twitter announced a few new tweaks this week. The “while you were away” feature will push important Tweets you might have missed to the top of your timeline on mobile. This goes against Twitter’s real time philosophy and makes them more like Facebook in that they’re going to decide what’s important to you and what isn’t.

Si usted puede leer esto. . . you might be using Twitter’s new translation tool. Click the globe in the corner of any foreign language Tweet and the Bing translation pops up right below it. It’s a nice feature not just for the casual user but for social media managers who need to keep an eye on what people are saying about a company.

I tested a few Tweets and the translations are pretty good, especially when they were coming from professionals. As expected, casual Tweets with a lot of slang, didn’t always make sense.

In another part of the web, Amazon shut down the Amazon Wallet app this week after a short, 6 month beta test. The digital wallet should have caught on by now but everyone’s still struggling to make the idea work. I wonder why. . .

My favorite story of the week has to be this one from Pinterest where they try to convince you that a lot of manly men hang out on the site.

More men use Pinterest in the U.S. every month than read Sports Illustrated and GQ combined.

They also say that men are the fastest growing demographic on the site – but of course they are. They’re the only demographic left that isn’t already using the photo pinning site.

That’s it for me this week. I’m off to the Lost in Space reunion convention. Hope your weekend will be just as fun. See you back here on Monday.

Marketing Pilgrim – Internet News and Opinion

Amazon Dash Button: Place it. Press it. Get it.

Perhaps its an April Fools video, but the reality is this has been a long time coming. We’ve talked about connected fridges and sensors in your pantry that can detect when products are low to automatically re-order… Well, Amazon is taking control of that and getting to market first with the ‘Dash Button’ a new […]


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