Are you ready for digital assistants?

There is Apple's Siri, Google's Assistant, Microsoft's Cortana, and Amazon's Alexa. These are just some of the more well-known digital assistants who are starting to gain ground. After being on everyone’s wish lists this Christmas, voice-controlled speakers have moved into the Danish living rooms. The digital assistants have emerged as a result of the development of technologies such as voice recognition and artificial intelligence and enable us to use natural language when we want to control our homes, shop for groceries and search for information on the web. Because of that, they have the potential to change the way we access our electronics, and, not least, the way companies will work with data in the future.

Much more than a digital assistant

According to Adobe Analytics, 71% of owners of smart speakers use voice assistants at least once a day, and 44% using them multiple times a day (US).

Being able to predict the needs of users - that has always been the alpha and omega in marketing. However, I believe that in the future, it will be much more about why and how the need arises. The brands want more, and that also applies when it comes to extracting information and data about our customers. Data can give us an idea of ​​what the users want from us as brands. A deep and thorough understanding of the user makes it possible to offer accurate predictions and personalized communication.

Try to imagine the abundance of opportunities that arise when you get to know your users. Smart devices that know our daily routines and needs can go from digital assistants to personal assistants and provide contextual recommendations, rather than just telling the time. A context-based understanding – and conversation – is the next step needed for our digital assistants to go from "nice to have" to "need to have".

A sneak peek into the future

Let me give you an example of how brands can use digital assistants to interact with a user:

User: I want to go travel, where do I go?
Digital assistant: Based on your activity level and previous travels, I can see that you prefer skiing over beaches this time a year. Is that correct?
User: Yes, skiing sounds pretty good.
Digital assistant: Is it for the whole family, or is it just you and Mette?
User: The whole family.
Digital assistant: Based on ratings, reviews and price, here are the three best suggestions for child-friendly ski holidays. Do you want to stay in the north or do you want to go to Central Europe?
User: I think I'd like to go to Austria or Switzerland.
Digital assistant: There is a four-day offer in Austria with ski school over your free weekend in March. They rent out premium ski for your level. Should I book the trip for you?
User: Yeah, but I'll have to talk with Mette before I order anything.
Digital Assistant: Okay - I'll remind you later when Mette is home from work this afternoon.

Although it may be difficult to imagine at this moment, I’m convinced that we’ll see lots of similar conversations in the future. While the current functions of our digital assistants are practical, it is hardly something that improves the overall customer experience or creates a closer relationship between brand and customer. No - our customers want to be heard and have a personalized experience tailored to them and their current needs. They want an experience where they interact naturally with technology, and I'm convinced that future digital assistants will meet the growing demand.

Prepare yourself for digital assistants

Let’s get started! You have the opportunity to prepare your brand for future digital assistants. You don't need a Ph.D. degree in AI or practical experience with digital assistants. You probably already have the data you need to take the first step. One way to prepare for digital assistants is to make sure that your current user experience creates value for the customer. The first thing you can do as a brand is to review your existing services. Here I mean your website or webshop, physical stores, customer service - all your touch points where you are in contact with your customers. Do you use all your data optimally or is there room for improvement? It turns out that this is where most people fail. Brands often have a lot of data on their customers but they don’t realize the full potential of it.

Customer and context

It’s also very much about listening. Customers will have higher demands and expect personalized and empathetic responses when it comes to digital assistants. Sure, there is room for errors, but the same errors and mistakes shouldn't return over and over again. You have to learn to listen to your users and understand their context. Context can be many things - from a geographical location to a particular mood or need in a specific situation, and it can be crucial to how, when, and where the user buys or interacts. The example above is a great example where various factors are crucial for the choice of travel. It’s not difficult to imagine how context can affect your user experience. You can therefore already include the user in your choice of communication, target groups, and advertising and ask yourself the question: Do you identify the needs and context of your users?

A valuable investment

I think it can be worth it to spend more time working with digital assistants. As long as you have an overview of your data and put it into play side by side with needs and context, you are already one step ahead. Data in itself is not enough. You have to get to know the user behind the data. There is a big difference between knowing the top 10 destinations on Momondo and to know which trips in March are best suited for an active family of five. The latter is personalized and therefore - in the eyes of the consumer - much more valuable.

It's minor things, like the ones above, which allow you to prepare for digital assistants in the best way possible. When you go from seeing your users as just data and personas to seeing the actual user who has needs, feelings, and context, you are on your way. Then you are guaranteed valuable user experiences and that you always help your users - also when digital assistants take over the marketing world.


Klaus Colding
Ecommerce Director