Amazon’s Chief Evangelist for Alexa and Echo Devices Thinks Voice is the New HTML

David Isbitski shared his thoughts at Shoptalk

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When Amazon announced Alexa was coming to a microwave, people naturally wondered if this was crossing a line. Does society really benefit from a “smart” microwave? But according to David Isbitski, chief evangelist for Alexa and Echo devices at Amazon, the microwave is just the beginning.

At the Shoptalk retail conference in Las Vegas, Isbitski shared why voice isn’t just about smart speakers, every possible appliance and product. Welcome to the future.

Alexa is becoming second nature to consumers

To illustrate the rapid evolution and adoption of voice assistants, Isbitski explained that people went from saying “the Echo” to “Alexa” and now they say “our Alexa.” Alexa is the new Kleenex or Xerox, where the brand becomes the cultural shorthand for the product.

“It’s part of people’s everyday routines, their lives, a way to have conversation naturally and in ways we can easily ask for things,” Isbitski said.

For brands thinking about how to deploy a general voice strategy and a specific Alexa Skills strategy, Isbitski said it’s a rare “opportunity” to reach customers in a moment, without any clunky app or web experience. It’s opening up the ability to start a natural conversation with consumers that isn’t easy to have—unless there’s a physical store to visit.

“The whole idea is you can have conversation be the interface for technology in your life,” Isbitski said. “That’s what I like to tell people: Don’t think of this as a new device that is a smart speaker revolution—this really is having voice be the new HTML. It’s the interface for everything.”

The possibilities for brands expand if a customer has a good experience with a retailer, Isbitski said. The consumer behavior could instead center around asking Alexa what they ordered previously from a brand instead of going through an app to remember.

“If you know exactly what you want and you can just ask for it, nothing beats that,” Isbitski said. “Typing, touch—all that is very low bandwidth compared to speed.”

Voice has a “utility” that’s different than other tech devices

Though several reports show that most consumers are using smart speakers and voice assistants for tasks like playing music or asking the weather, Isbitski said that behavior is going to change as people become accustomed to the speed of using voice to order something or set reminders.

“By having Alexa everywhere, it’s just enabling those conversations on people’s terms when they want it,” Isbitski said. “There’s a utility that happens with voice that’s very different than visual.”

Isbitski wrapped up his conversation with Nithya Thadani, CEO of Rain, a voice agency, about the potential of voice as it continues to learn context. For example, if a consumer asked Alexa to play “Game of Thrones,” without context, it doesn’t know if they meant play an episode, the trailer or something else. But, with the help of artificial intelligence, Alexa is getting there.

“But now, AI understands context, so think about that in relationship to your customer,” Isbitski said.