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Amazon Alexa To Let Users Make Voice Calls

Reports state that the company will release new Alexa-powered devices for initiating phone calls by voice this year. Here's what that means for marketers.

Amazon’s Alexa can dim your lights and answer your search queries — and soon it might be able to call your friends, too.

Citing “multiple sources,” Recode reported in March the coming launch of “one or more new Alexa-powered devices this year that will allow people to initiate phone calls by voice.” This follows The Wall Street Journal’s report that both Amazon and Google are exploring voice calling features; a more detailed announcement around the new hardware is expected “in the coming months.”

The rise of voice-activated in-home assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home is well documented. But the opportunities for both marketers and consumers are shifting rapidly as new features are introduced and company-based specialization continues.

How Voice Search Is Changing The Game

Voice search has already changed SEO. As a major driver of intelligent search, it’s part of the reason that responses to search queries today come as structured answers, not just a series of blue links. When a person asks, “Alexa, where can I get pancakes?” they’re seeking a concrete answer — ideally the name of a restaurant nearby. Google now assumes that people are searching for something in the physical world.

This is important for marketers, who now need to think about “deep knowledge” — in other words, all of the attributes that drive intelligent search. It’s not enough to show up in a search for “Tesco,” for example; a supermarket needs to show up if a consumer makes a voice search for “groceries.” Today, marketers must consider all of the paths that consumers take when searching on mobile, with voice search, and more in order to show up in “unbranded” situations.

With the addition of voice calling features, this means that we’re not far off from a customer asking Alexa to search for a restaurant and then call it directly — seamlessly and immediately. In much the same way that enabling click-to-call or click-to-map buttons has mattered for businesses on mobile, ensuring that listings include correct phone number and contact information accessible to intelligent assistants is the next horizon.

So, too, will marketers have to watch for specialization within this world of “Connected Intelligence.”

“AI Assistants have started to specialize, and this will become more pronounced in 2017,” VoiceLabs’ 2017 Voice Report states. “[We expect that] Google is going to excel at mining the web and providing intelligent responses to general knowledge questions. Amazon is going to excel at commerce, [and] Google and Microsoft should excel at email, contacts and calendar.”

It’s too early to tell if these projections will hold up, but it’s certainly clear that Amazon and Google’s ambitions in the voice-powered space are just beginning.