In this week’s issue, we look at the changes Amazon are making to the Alexa platform to make Skill discovery easier, what runaway success on mobile looks like, why San Francisco’s scooters aren’t just toys and the launch of IGTV.


Hi Mum! Said Dad

Image source: Voicebot

Amazon makes Alexa Skills easier to discover

Amazon has announced it is taking steps to counter an obvious pain point of the Alexa platform: Skill discovery.

Currently, users need to be aware of the existence of a Skill before they can invoke it, which, to some extent, defeats the point of a smart assistant. Alexa will now be able to respond to a user’s question or request by finding the most relevant Skill to fulfill said interaction. Amazon has stated that the algorithm will consider the user’s request but also take into account Skills’ rating and engagement levels before suggesting the best option to the user.

This is interesting because the Alexa platform is now going the way of Google search and App Stores with users effectively being able to ‘search’ with their voice. It was only a matter of time and this is somewhat of a watershed moment for both consumers and businesses. This feature clearly makes Alexa more compelling because Amazon will now be curating Skills and delivering a better user experience (as opposed to dead ends) whilst businesses who have invested in voice will begin to see the fruits of their labour with a new avenue for discovery and more importantly, a potential monopoly over particular user requests/intents.

For Amazon, this could also represent a potential route to monetisation. Considering how much money has been haemorrhaged by the production of Alexa devices, such an opportunity would be welcome. Will pay-per-invocation be to Amazon what PPC is to Google?

PPI…you heard it here first, folks.

By Jeevan Jayaprakash, Strategist

Panera Bread’s app is set to earn the business $250 million in sales this year. Image source: Forbes

What it means to do well on mobile

There is no doubt that developing an app can be an extremely profitable move for businesses. A recent NYTimes article provides a few compelling examples: Panera Bread’s app is set to earn them $250 million in sales this year, thanks to a feature that allows fast and frictionless ordering from the bakery chains’ outlets. By allowing users to buy tickets directly on their phone, cinema chain Regal have received more than 9 million downloads on their app. Discount coupons, notifications, a loyalty scheme and a live chat feature has earned pharmacy-chain Walgreens 5 million active monthly users on their app.

Smartphone users can be a difficult crowd to please. A recent study by WillowTree Inc showed that half of the users surveyed found 50 percent or fewer of the brand apps to be useful after downloading them. So what do the above apps have that many brands’ apps don’t? A solid product strategy, that focuses not only on getting users to download, but also on getting them to return to the product regularly.

Two important tools to get users to return to an app are “triggers” and “investment”:

  1. “Triggers” are things that make users open your app. Push notifications are a great example — when sent at the right time, and using the right content (such as rich pushes), they can compel users to open your app.
  2. “Investment” is acknowledging the time and/or money that users have spent in your app and rewarding them for it. The same survey by WillowTree found that more than 60% of respondents said that they wanted exclusive access to sales, limited edition products, loyalty points or other perks for making a purchase through a brand’s app — proof that users expect their “Investment” in the app to be acknowledged and rewarded.

This should come as no shock but according to ComScore, the main reason why users delete apps is because of infrequent use; it is therefore crucial that businesses have strategies in place for creating a habitual product.

By Oliver Iyer, Strategist

Image source: Telegraph

Scooters — more than a toy?

If you aren’t aware already, scooters recently infiltrated San Francisco (as if its inhabitants needed another reason to be different).

They look like toys. Most people would describe them as toys. A gimmick even. However, Andrew Chen, a partner at the esteemed VC Andreessen Horowitz and former Growth Lead at Uber believes there is more than meets the eye. Let’s be honest, Chen’s instincts when it comes to transportation are probably more acute than the average Joe’s.

His logic is compelling. Scooters are designed for short trips, they are ubiquitous in San Francisco and they are cheap. In other words, they directly compete with walking. Walking may have the USP of being free but consumers are clearly willing to pay a small premium to arrive at their destination in, err…style. They became a home screen app for many and this is where Chen believes things get interesting because all of the above makes scooters more than a toy — they are a strategic platform play.

He likens scooter apps to Google, which is fundamentally a text field on a page that understands user intent with Google charging advertisers for the privilege of being among the answers to a user’s intent. It follows that scooter apps, which are high frequency and high intent and therefore the first port of call (much like a Google search), may become the window into many other trips such as ridesharing, autonomous vehicles as well as the upselling of say an Uber over Lyft — i.e. they can begin to own the customer.

It’s early days and scooters have been temporarily removed from the streets of San Francisco as companies undergo a permitting process but it’s safe to say that scooter companies are here to stay and may just wield a lot more power than you would think.

By Jeevan Jayaprakash, Strategist

Image source: Tech-news

Instagram leverages mobile video trend with the launch of IGTV

Smartphones are increasingly becomes our device of choice when it comes to watching videos and contrary to what you might expect, the videos we are watching are becoming longer and longer.

eMarketer have reported that mobile video accounted for over half of digital video in 2017, with the average smartphone user watching 27 minutes of content a day. With Quartz predicting that number to go up to 45 minutes by end of 2019, the potential for longer video content to be surfaced on mobile is ever increasing.

After introducing the “Stories” feature in 2016, Instagram are now taking another step towards going from a picture-only app to a video-sharing platform, by launching Instagram TV (IGTV). IGTV can be accessed both from the Instagram app and from a new, stand-alone app, and will allow content creators to upload long-form videos with up to 1 hour length.

With Cisco predicting that by 2020, over 75% of global mobile data traffic will be video content, it will be interesting to see what proportion will belong to Youtube, Netflix, Facebook Watch and IGTV.

By Oliver Iyer, Strategist

Cool thing of the week!

The Weather Channel have been showing off ‘immersive mixed reality’ in their studios. In other words, imagine a tornado virtually annihilating their studio interior.

It feels super realistic!

By Oliver Iyer, Strategist

Originally written as part of Hi Mum! Said Dad’s weekly newsletter, H! Lites.

H! Lites hits you with a short, sharp, weekly dose of the latest and greatest across tech, business, design and other contemporary issues that we think would be of value to our readers.

If you would like H! Lites sent your inbox every week, click here to sign up.