There’s a new player in the consumer marketplace, and she has the potential to change everything we think we know about how people shop and interact with businesses.

Her name is Alexa (or Cortana, or just the generic Google Assistant), and she may be your business’s new best friend.

As of May of 2018, Amazon sold 25 million Echo bots, bringing the AI assistant Alexa into a huge number of homes. By 2020, that number is expected to more than double, and that’s just one brand. Microsoft and Google are working to bring Cortana and Google Assistant to even more households. As of this year, 1 in 6 adults in the US now owns a voice-activated smart speaker.

But it’s about more than asking Siri to beatbox. These handy assistants will help consumers navigate the increasingly complex decisions we make, like choosing big purchases, financial planning, and more.

But the big question for business owners is: how do you position your products and services to be part of the AI revolution?

How do you get Alexa to recommend your product or service over the others vying for consumer attention?

It’s All About the Skills

Smart speakers with AI will transform how brands interact with customers in the next decade, and skills are the new app. But as with apps, skills must have a clear objective beyond brand voice and product descriptions. Consumers want information. They want to know the best way to solve their problems, eliminate pain points in their lives, and save time and money while doing so. Skills are the equivalent of your downloadables on your website. Provide good information delivered straight into homes through the trademark voice of Alexa—a voice consumers already trust—and businesses have an in with consumers that’s never before been realized.

Leading the pack are the skills that go beyond the product. For example, Tide introduced a skill for Alexa to deliver step-by-step instructions for removing more than 200 different stains from clothes. Zyrtec delivers a daily AllergyCast to prepare allergy sufferers for the day ahead. The possibilities are endless, from setting up briefings on the news, daily forecasts, the latest TED Talks, and updates on the stock market. Consumers can even get their Twitter mentions read to them and hear about trending hashtags. Need help preparing for a job interview? Interview Prep can tailor interview questions from a database full of different jobs to help people practice before the big event and land the job of their dreams.

Where Do Businesses Start?

Much like keeping your SEO keywords updated to rank as high as possible in search engine results, your Personal Assistant Search Optimization (PASO) can make or break whether or not the AI assistant mentions you to their owners. The more up-to-date and relevant your PASO is, the more likely you are to be mentioned in Google Assistant’s pool of users.

But the key is capturing and engaging with your audience.

Creating audio content—much like content generated for websites, blogs, and social media—will help your business keep the conversation relevant and ongoing, or in the case of The American Heart Association, even life saving. Users can ask how to perform CPR in an emergency, or what the signs of heart attack or stroke are. It’ll never supersede a 9-1-1 call, but it can be critical help in conjunction with that call.

There are several keys to keep in mind while developing your skill:

  • Keep your audience top of mind. If you know the kinds of things your clients ask, you can tailor the answers to those questions when developing your skill to be the greatest value to them.
  • Stick to your brand voice, tone, and goals. Your message should remain consistent whether you’re posting on social media, delivering information on your website, or having Alexa answer your consumers’ questions.
  • Customize and personalize. Just like with email marketing, consumers love it when their desires are taken into account. Use your analytics. If your market research shows humor appeals to a large portion of your target market, try to incorporate that into your skill.
  • Quality, quality, quality. Sure, consumers using smart speakers are used to the voices of Alexa and Cortana, but what better way to grab their attention than hiring professional voice actors to deliver your content? It might be jarring at first, but quality delivery of your skill’s content will outstrip those robotic voices any day of the week.
  • Don’t forget the Call to Action. Remind your customers who’s responsible for delivering to them the information they are increasingly relying on. It doesn’t help you to provide the day’s allergy forecast if you don’t remind them your air filters can give them the best air they can breathe in their homes, with the added bonus of reminding them when it’s time to replace their filter.

As time goes on, consumers’ trust will shift from trusted brands to trusted AI assistants. As technology grows and those assistants coordinate consumers’ homes, mobile devices, and cars, they will become the gateway through which people do all their shopping and information gathering. Predictive analysis and learning algorithms will mean Alexa and Google Assistant will know consumers’ patterns better than anyone else, adapting to their needs in a self-reinforcing cycle. Becoming an integral part of that cycle, where the AI becomes the marketing portal, the sales and distribution channel, and the fulfillment and service center all in one, is a surefire way to earn brand loyalty we can only begin to imagine. By focusing on gaining the AI’s loyalty, businesses have the opportunity to maximize their relationships with their customers’ lives like never before.

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