Here Comes Dash Wand, An Alexa-Powered Barcode Scanner For Your Kitchen

What Happened
Amazon continues with its master plan of conquering every room of the smart home with the launch of yet another Alexa-powered connected device. The Dash Wand, which the ecommerce giant unveiled on Wednesday night, is a cordless barcode scanner with Alexa integration. Designed specifically for kitchen use with its water-resistant, durable design, it focuses on facilitating grocery shopping from AmazonFresh. Prime members can either push a button and tell Alexa what to add to their shopping cart, like they would with an Amazon Tap. or simply use it to scan a barcode of the item they’d like to repurchase.

Thanks to the full Alexa integration, the Dash Wand also doubles as a smart kitchen aid, capable of finding recipes, converting units of measurement, or even finding nearby restaurants when your own culinary attempt fails. Notably, Amazon is essentially giving out this $20 device for free, as Prime customers will get 20 off their next purchase after registering the device.

What Brands Need To Do
Amazon created a smart home product with an incredibly focused user case – helping people cook. With a water-resistant, durable design, it is designed to be used in the kitchen. From finding recipes to getting the ingredients to setting timers for the oven, Alexa can do it all, making it a super valuable addition to a modern kitchen.

For Amazon, this device serves as a gateway to attract more shoppers to use AmazonFresh, which underscores Amazon’s aggressive push into the grocery market. According to a recent report from Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen, about a quarter of American households currently buy some groceries online, and more than 70% will engage with online food shopping within 10 years. In fact, online grocery sales are expected to hold 20% of the market by 2025. No wonder Amazon is willing to give away Dash Wand for free in exchange of further locking Prime members into its ever-expanding ecosystem.

As Amazon continues to push into the grocery market, it is becoming increasingly crucial for grocery and household CPG brands to make their products available and discoverable through Amazon. For food retail chains, this should come as a wake-up call to invest in ecommerce channels of your own or forge alliances with Amazon rivals that can surface your online services via their competing smart home devices so as to reach grocery shoppers right in their kitchens.

 


Source: Amazon

Header image courtesy of Amazon’s promotional image

Fast Forward: How Brands Can Start Preparing For Apple’s Business Chat

Editor’s Note: This is an abridged version of our actionable intelligence products. For the full version, please contact our Director of Strategy Adam Simon (adam@ipglab.com) to join our newsletter subscription.

What Apple Shared

During a developer session on Friday afternoon, Apple shared some more details about Business Chat, an upcoming feature in iOS 11 that will allow businesses to communicate with customers via Messages, the default messaging app on Apple devices. We briefly mentioned this feature in our in-depth analysis of this year’s WWDC event, but this session provided us with a full set of feature specifications and a roadmap for brands to prepare for the public roll-out of Business Chat, which will occur sometime next year.

First up, Apple specified that Business Chat will be accessible through a “Message” button placed next to the “Call” button currently shown in the business information card found in Apple Maps, Safari search results, Spotlight search results, and Siri responses. Deep-link URLs linking to a specific Business Chat account will also be available for business to embed “Message” buttons into websites and apps so as to drive conversations.

Apple stressed that customers will have to be the ones to initiate the chat, but once they did, businesses are free to provide updates and send other messages. Business Chat conversations are saved as long-lived sessions, meaning that there will be no need for reintroductions and re-briefing when customers re-engage with a business, as they will be identified with an anonymized token ID with all previous chat interactions available for review.

Brands that wish to use Business Chat will need to apply for a Business Chat account and also use a supporting Customer Support Platform (CSP) to help route the inquiries and manage the customer data. According to Apple, there are four CSP services that have already integrated with Business Chat — LivePerson, Salesforce, Nuance and Genesys, meaning that businesses using these CSPs will be able to manage Business Chat using the tools they are already familiar with.

Business Chat also comes with a set of built-in features for businesses to provide a good customer experience. Besides general support for sending texts, images, videos, and documents as users usually can in Messages, it also includes a Time Picker that facilitates setting up appointments (which can also be integrated with EventKit to weed out conflicts with existing calendar events), a List Picker that offers a visual way to present a list of options for customers to choose from, and Apple Pay integration that allows for one-touch payments.

More interestingly, brands can use the iMessage App Framework to integrate iMessage apps into a Business Chat experience to deliver specific services, such as picking out seats in a theater, checking delivery progress, or even playing mini-games. However, Apple made no mention of chatbots, so it remains unclear if there will be a way for brands to automate any interactions within Business Chat.

Why Brands Should Care

The introduction of Business Chat marks an important step for Apple to open its default messaging app to businesses to connect with millions of Apple users, who are spending a significant amount of their mobile screen time in the Message app. According to eMarketer, 34% of all U.S. mobile users are currently using Apple’s Message app, making it the second most popular messaging app in the States after Facebook Messenger.

In fact, one could argue that the main reason that Apple started to add business-friendly features, starting with last year’s introduction of the third-party iMessage app, is to keep up with Facebook and make its messaging platform capable of meeting user’s increasing demand to communicate with businesses. Several studies and surveys have indicated that today’s mobile users would rather text than call. And brands need to be proactively embracing message apps to keep up with the shift in consumer behavior.

What Brands Need To Do

As Apple laid out at the end of the briefing, there are three things that brands can do today to prepare for the official launch of Business Chat:

  1. Start creating customer support experience with Business Chat SandboxApple release a Business Chat Sandbox tool for businesses and developers to test Business Chat Developer Preview on iOS 11. With it, brands can test out the built-in features they choose to integrate and customize the design elements of their chat experiences. They can also use it to test the JSON payloads before and after implementation. Developers can sign in to Business Chat Sandbox with their iCloud account and start testing.
  2. Connect with a supporting Customer Service PlatformBecause all user messages for Business Chat are required to be routed through a Customer Service Platform (CSP) after passing through Apple’s own Business Chat server, it is important that brands that are not currently using the four aforementioned CSPs start connecting their support platforms to one of them.
  3. Apply now for early access to beta testingBrands can now apply for early access to the Business Chat Developer Preview at this webpage, so that when Business Chat enters beta testing, they can be one of the first to start testing it internally with whitelisted employees. This way, once the feature is ready for public rollout, your brand would be ready to jump in on the iOS Message app and reach millions of iOS users, who also happen to be the high-value mobile users.

 

How We Can Help

The Lab has extensive experience in building Alexa Skills and chatbots to reach consumers on conversational platforms. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The NiroBot we built in collaboration with Ansible for Kia is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience,

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational platforms, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Director of Strategy Adam Simon (adam@ipglab.com) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 

Amazon Allows Brands To Surface Video Content Via Alexa

What Happened
On Thursday, Amazon introduced a Video Skill API to its Alexa Skills Kit to allow developers to create Alexa skills that are integrated directly with Alexa’s video capabilities. This means that Alexa users can easily find and consume video content without invoking a specific skill. Through this new API, Alexa is aware of the video devices and services your customer has or subscribes to. While most Alexa-enabled devices are screenless speakers, Alexa does support devices like the Fire TV lineup and new Echo Show that are capable of displaying videos.

What Brands Need To Do
Brands can make good use of this new API to better integrate their video content with Alexa, making it easier for your existing customers to engage with your video content in their home. For brands with an established roster of video content, this is a great way to boost content discovery for existing fans. Entertainment brands in particular should integrate with this API when developing a voice experience for Alexa to make sure their content is easily accessible for users.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in building Alexa Skills and chatbots to reach consumers on conversational interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The “Miller Time” Alexa Skill we developed with Drizly for Miller Lite is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience, supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Barrett (samantha@ipglab.com) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 

 


Source: Amazon Alexa Developer Blog

BET Debuts Messenger Bot To Promote Branded Summer Festival

What Happened
BET network is launching a Facebook Messenger bot to serve as a companion to the BET Experience, a four-day festival in Los Angeles that will culminate in the BET Awards, which air June 25. Working with bot-building startup Conversable, BET designed the bot to be capable of answering common inquiries such as directions and set times. It will also serve up content like GIFs and other media of the festival as they happen, providing attendees with fun, shareable content to post to social media to amplify the event’s earned reach.

What Brands Need To Do
Previously, entertainment brands such as Sony and NatGeo have created chatbots to engage fans via conversations with fictional characters, be it a villain from the Resident Evil franchise or Albert Einstein. In contrast, BET’s take on chatbot is a lot more utilitarian, functioning primarily as a customer service bot and content dispenser to improve the event experience for the festival attendees. This is a cool take on how an entertainment brand can use conversational services, like a chatbot or an Alexa skill, to improve the customer experience in a fun, innovative way.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in building Alexa Skills and chatbots to reach consumers on conversational interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The “Miller Time” Alexa Skill we developed with Drizly for Miller Lite is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience, supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Barrett (samantha@ipglab.com) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Source: Digiday

What To Expect From Apple’s 2017 WWDC Event

Apple is set to kick off this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) with a keynote presentation on Monday at the San Jose Convention Center. Historically, the WWDC events are typically dedicated to introducing software updates, covering iOS and macOS, as well as tvOS and watchOS in recent years. On this front, Apple is expected to unveil the next iteration of iOS, with enhanced security and productive features, along with a refreshed design. The other OS’es should receive their respective updates as well, although details have been scarce.

Notably, however, this may be the year when Apple announces a new hardware product at WWDC, as reports on Apple starting production for a Siri-enabled smart speakers started to emerge earlier this week. The Cupertino company has long been speculated to be working on an Amazon Echo competitor, and Monday could be the moment of truth for Apple to reveal its first conversational smart home product.

For now, the Echo lineup dominates the smart speaker market with an impressive 70.6% market share, according to an eMarketer study. Late to the market, Apple will have to produce a superior user experience and significantly improve Siri’s capabilities in order to catch up.

As always, the Lab team will be watching the event live on Monday and bringing you all the marketing-related implications coming out of Apple’s announcement. Follow us on Twitter @ipglab for our live updates, and remember to check back later this week for our in-depth analysis of all the things marketers need to know.

 


Source: The Verge & Bloomberg

 

Instagram Ads Can Now Link To Messenger Accounts And Bots

What Happened
Facebook is ramping up the cross-platform promotion among its popular properties by allowing brands to buy ads from Facebook to run on Instagram that link to a brand’s account in Facebook’s messaging app. This means that brands can now add deep-linking codes to their photo, video, and carousel ads on Instagram, which will open up a specific messaging thread on Messenger for users clicking on them, enabling brands to drive conversations and promote their chatbots on Messengers.

What Brands Need To Do
This update reveals two things about Facebook’s conversational strategy. First, this indicates that Instagram probably won’t be getting chatbot anytime soon, a reasonable move considering that Instagram’s messaging section is already getting a bit crowded after incorporating Snapchat-inspired ephemeral messaging features. It helps to uphold the distinction between Instagram, the visual-heavy social sharing app, and Facebook Messenger, the all-in-one chat platform. Secondly, Facebook is betting on Instagram as a lead generator to rev up consumer interest, but opts to leave all the customer service tasks to Messenger, which has some advanced features such as payment support that Instagram lacks.

Messaging apps has become an increasingly important channel for brands to effectively reach mobile customers. Sephora recently launched a Facebook campaign with in-feed ads that directed people to Messenger, resulting in an 11% increase in makeup booking sessions. Bots can be a powerful and cost-effective tool for handling basic information requests, managing business bookings, and facilitating direct purchases. More brands should be coming up with a conversational strategy that include not only how to use bots to improve their brand messaging and services but also how to properly promote the bots.

 


Source: Marketing Land

Denny’s Embraces Conversational UI As It Launches Mobile Ordering Service

What Happened
Following Domino’s and Pizza Hut, Denny’s is the latest quick-service restaurant brand to embrace mobile ordering as the fast-food chain announced support for 24/7 mobile ordering and delivery service. Partnering with digital ordering provider Olo, the new Denny’s on Demand service is accessible via its revamped mobile app and Direct Messages on Twitter. In the case of Twitter DM, Denny’s created a menu-guided conversational experience to take orders and complete purchases. The company says it is also working on a Facebook chatbot to take mobile orders as well.

What Brands Need To Do
Adopting a conversational design for its mobile ordering service is a smart move on Denny’s part, as it vastly improves the dull experience that traditional food ordering on mobile presents, while also giving brands more wiggle room to plug their latest promotions and bundle deals. According to eMarketer’s forecast, the number of messaging app users worldwide will reach 2 billion by 2018, which will be 80% of smartphone users. More brands should consider adopting a conversational design for their mobile initiatives to provide a more engaging and user-friendly customer experience.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in building chatbots to reach consumers on messaging interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The NiroBot we built in collaboration with Ansible for Kia is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience, supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Barrett (samantha@ipglab.com) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Source: 9to5Mac

IKEA’s New Smart Lighting Will Support Alexa, Google Assistant, And Siri

What Happened
IKEA is embracing conversational interfaces as it announced on Tuesday that it is adding voice command support to its TRÅDFRI line of affordable connected lighting, which includes several different LED bulbs with prices starting at $11.99 in the US. Coming this summer, the updated line will be compatible with Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s HomeKit (which uses Siri) for voice control. Besides, users will also be able to control the lights via the respective apps.

What Brands Need To Do
By integrating with the three most popular smart home systems, this new line will undoubtedly be versatile enough to appeal to a wide range of smart home shoppers. That, plus its competitive pricing, should help push more consumers to try out connect lighting and familiarize themselves with the voice-controlled smart home setup.

According to BI Intelligence estimates, connected-home device shipments hit 1.8 billion units shipped in 2019. Most of them will support some type of voice control, most likely through integration with digital assistants, as IKEA is doing here, as opposed to building their own voice command solutions. As the availability of smart home devices rapidly grows, they provide a valuable emerging platform for brands to connect with consumers at home via voice, and brands should take a proactive approach and start experimenting with voice experiences.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in building Alexa Skills and chatbots to reach consumers on conversational interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The “Miller Time” Alexa Skill we developed with Drizly for Miller Lite is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience, supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Barrett (samantha@ipglab.com) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 

 


Source: The Verge

Dish Integrates With Amazon Alexa For Hands-Free TV Control

What Happened
On Monday Dish Network launched an Alexa skill that will allow users to watch TV hands-free. Once activated and paired up, Dish says pay TV customers using either its Hopper or Wally receivers will be able to search for programs, change channels, as well as pause, rewind and fast forward television just by asking Alexa. This marks the first time a live TV content provider have integrated Alexa for voice control. Previously, Alexa is available as the voice interface on Amazon’s own Fire TV streaming player and Fire TV Stick products.

What Brands Need To Do
There is no denying that voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant are taking over smart home devices and conquering the smart TV is merely a part of that. Last week, Google announced it is working with GE and LG to integrate Google Assistant into a slew of connected home appliances for voice control. Alexa, on the other hand, has enjoyed an early lead in conquering the smart home space with various third-party integrations. Now adding Dish Network to its roster of supported device, Alexa is able to infiltrate the OTT TV experience as well, further broadening its reach. For brands, now is the time to start formulating a voice strategy and start thinking about how they can leverage Alexa skills to enhance their services and customer experience.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in building Alexa Skills and chatbots to reach consumers on conversational interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The “Miller Time” Alexa Skill we developed with Drizly for Miller Lite is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience, supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Barrett (samantha@ipglab.com) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Source: Engadget

Header image courtesy of Dish Network

Telegram Adds Apple Pay Support For Chatbot Payment

What Happened
Encrypted messaging app Telegram has updated its iOS app to add support for Apple Pay for its Bot API, allowing chatbots on its platform to accept payments and complete transactions without leaving the app. Users can now buy a cute handbag, order food deliveries, or hail a cab simply by chatting with one of the bots available on Telegram before authenticating the purchases via TouchID. Telegram first introduced chatbots nearly two years ago, and it is working with Stripe to enable payments. The company also has plans to add support for more localized options so as to support conversational commerce on its platform in global markets.

What Brands Need To Do
While Telegram’s user number pales in comparison to that of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, this Apple Pay integration nevertheless shows a good example for designing a frictionless user experience to facilitate conversational ecommerce. With messaging apps quickly taking over texting and phone calls, especially among the younger generations, it is important that brands keep a close eye on the development of conversational ecommerce and evaluate each platform to determine the ones that they can reach customers with.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in building chatbots to reach consumers on messaging interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The NiroBot we built in collaboration with Ansible for Kia is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience, supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Holland (samantha@ipglab.com) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Source: TechCrunch