TL;DR: The Echo Show is demonstrating the power of Voice+Visual smart assistant experiences, and consumers will expect these experiences when they are not at home. The most logical device to capture this demand is the mobile phone, and Google’s Pixel 2 is the best mobile Voice+Visual experience currently available.
The Echo Show is a smart innovation on the original Echo device and paves the way for future customer delight on the Amazon Alexa platform. That said, it is seeding the market for consumers to desire robust Voice+Visual experiences outside the home, which benefits Google Assistant and the Pixel 2.
We are entering a new phase of voice innovation, which is a step-function improvement in Voice+Visual experiences.
Siri started with Voice+Visual innovation in 2011, but the Echo Show is the first to help both consumers and brands re-imagine what is possible. Poised to take advantage of this epiphany is the Pixel 2, which is a mobile phone with native Voice+Visual capability, a powerful smart assistant, and an open platform to encourage application innovation.
Being an early voice-enabled adopter and a super frugal start-up CEO at times produces internal conflict. I typically only buy one bleeding edge device, even when I base my whole company on an ecosystem. That doesn’t mean I don’t try everything that comes out…but it does mean I loiter in the Verizon store testing all the pretty things.
We recently started borrowing the Echo Show, and put it in the kitchen. We already have an Echo and a Google Home, but this is the first cohesive Voice+Visual experience that entered our home.
Adding a Screen to Always-On Voice Greatly Increased Usage
The results have been staggering – we have increased Amazon Alexa usage 3-6x. Having a screen that both suggests things to do, and gives visual feedback when you ‘ask Alexa,’ makes the voice-enabled experience so much easier to adopt.
This usage growth doesn’t even factor in the enhanced experience of playing video from voice commands (like Food Network how-to’s) or watching TV (like NFL football) directly through the Echo Show.
Especially for those in the voice-enabled market, it is so easy to forget how FOREIGN voice commands are to consumers. People just started using their voice to ask their personal devices for help, and getting used to the interaction is still a work in progress:
- First, they need to learn the ‘wake words.’
- Then, they need to clearly ask for something.
- Finally, that ask needs to jive with the limited capabilities Smart Assistants currently can handle.
From the many conversations VoiceLabs has listened to (no privacy breach here, just lots of hours sitting in the Amazon pop-up stores with clipboards and surveys, and impromptu user testing during dinner parties), these conversations constantly remind us this user behavior is so new, and apps have to guide users in order to provide great experiences.
Great apps balance structured guidance with natural delight, allowing for free-form conversation in certain scenarios. A great example is Food Network’s recipe search. It starts free-form, then quickly gets structured to drive consumers to a Successful Session.
Voice+Visual experiences make it easier for consumers to adopt voice applications. It also helps in discovery, with ‘hints & tips’ keeping the Digital Assistant and Voice Applications top of mind.
The Amazon Echo Show is a truly innovative product
A quick qualifier, the Echo Show is by no means a runaway success – it is caught in the middle of a tussle between Google and Amazon, and currently YouTube is not allowed on the device.
However, the Echo Show is a truly innovative product and Amazon should be commended. Many in the market have talked about Voice+Visual opportunities, but Amazon moved fast and delivered a cohesive experience. It is a classic ‘first to market device.’
Amazon is training millions of consumers to interact using their voice, and both hear and see feedback. It is an easier user experience than voice-only, and for many use cases better. If you are in the kitchen and want to get step-by-step instructions to make a Barefoot Contessa dish, the Echo Show rocks.
However, if you are in your car, I don’t recommend duct taping it to your dashboard – voice-only is here to stay.
So, with the Echo Show, Amazon is training millions of consumers to value Voice+Visual experiences, how does this help the Pixel 2?
The Echo Show will help sell Pixel 2s
Consumers will now seek out dynamic Voice+Visual experiences when they are not at home. We are not talking about a limited set of commands – we are talking about 100’s or 1000’s of capabilities that are constantly evolving because of a robust ecosystem.
For 10-15 hours a day, consumers are not at home – what devices are available during that time?
The far and away most prolific device is the mobile phone. So, which mobile phone is going to have the best Voice+Visual experience in the next six months?
The answer is the Pixel 2. Google Assistant is easy to access from the phone, and easy to access via Pixel Buds. The HTC U11 has Alexa inside and is selling well, but Amazon Alexa “isn’t native to the phone. It takes three or more seconds for Alexa to show up after you squeeze the edge or speak the wake word.” Samsung’s Bixby is still a work in progress.
The Pixel 2 puts Google Assistant front and center and is 100% built by Google to ensure easy and fast access to Google Assistant. This is the first phone that both offers native Digital Assistant access and has a third-party ecosystem that enables any company to build a flexible Voice+Visual application (that is what excludes Apple and Siri from this conversation).
Amazon is training consumers to value Voice+Visual experiences and brands are taking notice, and building new and delightful experiences. Google is hoping to use that consumer training to its advantage. We will see how Pixel 2 sales pan out, and whether Google Assistant voice sessions grow as a result.
At the very least, it is the perfect example of how a rising tide lifts all boats, and how important it is to be easily available when the consumer is ready to interact.
The Echo Show will help sell Pixel 2 phones; let’s see if consumers love the Google Assistant experience on this smartphone.