Post Featured Image

Alexa! What good is a skill for the promotional products space?

A while back, I received an Amazon Echo from some friends of mine. I had heard of the device. Seen rumblings on the web and passively wondered what a "connected speaker" could be good for. My first couple of days were spent asking it the same questions you would ask Siri for to impress your friends (a few years ago). Alexa's joke library is pretty good. I was impressed by its ability to pick up my voice and the music that came from the speaker itself was rich and loud. Over the course of a few weeks I get the Alexa set up to control some of my smart home build and security system.

Sweet. But this is not a product review.

Amazon has been doing a fantastic job growing its developer program. In addition to some very accessible tutorials, they entice developers to release Skills (apps) on the Alexa platform with some pretty cool swag. Thanks to Amazon's efforts and my ever-present curiosity about how the promotional products industry can work its way into every corner of technology, I published an Alexa Skill.

The SwagExpert.com skill is pretty simple. Find it today in your Alexa app, then ask it "what makes the best swag" to hear ROBYN's swag philosophy. Ask SwagExpert for a tip from a random selection of product marketing hints. Or, ask about a specific product category (try golf) and you might hear about a featured product with a photo sent to your mobile phone.

That's it. Not a mind bogglingly useful skill at the moment (most of them aren't). But it was fun to put together and releasing it on Alexa feels like the old iPhone app days. I'm happy to say that, as of this writing, SwagExpert appears to be the first skill in our industry to be released. There's plenty of potential and many unanswered questions about the promo industry's involvement with apps like these. Much more so than screaming at Siri, who is with me everywhere. Allow me to speculate on behalf of:

Distributors

Dear to my heart and as one of your kin, I am sensitive to the fact that pursuits in the areas of bleeding technology and emerging platforms can be both baffling and appear to be a colossal waste of time. I'm there and currently asking myself the following questions:

  1. Can my audience buy product from me with this? Could replenishment orders be triggered with an ask?
  2. How can I offer order status updates with this?
  3. How else can this be helpful to people who write me checks?

I'm not entirely certain if I'll ever be able to receive cold orders for product via Alexa. It seems that Amazon intends for these devices to help move their own product. Imagine that! However, there are Skills like the Dominos Skill that allows you to link an account and re-order your favorite pie as well as track order progress.

For now, my own plan with the SwagExpert.com Skill is to develop it further into a tool that is helpful to marketers by offering product marketing knowledge, cool product tips and expertise. Alexa offers a feature called Flash Briefing which allows you to insert your favorite news stream into a daily or hourly news briefing. Expect the Swag Experts at ROBYN to appear in savvy marketers' Flash Briefing soon.

Suppliers

The path for suppliers looks very much like Distributors. I can't imagine there is much opportunity for actual commerce. But if I could get a shipping update or a freight estimate by asking Alexa, I would check in with her before I ever picked up the phone or fired off an email.

Consider content marketing as well. Feature a product in a Flash Briefing or offer an exclusive offer to those who listen.

Organziations

This should be a no brainer. If you're in the promotional products industry and you've got a podcast, there is no reason I shouldn't be able to listen natively with Alexa. I know I can stream my phone to it, but that's not what I want to do. Alexa supports TuneIn and if your podcast is there, all I have to do is ask Alexa to play it.

More importantly, I want PromoKitchen and commonsku's skucast content in my personal Flash Briefing. Short-form audio content that inspires and informs. You already have so much of it produced! Remember, your podcast is long-form content that I set aside time for. Your Flash Briefing should be a few minutes long at most. Here's what you need to know to set up your own Flash Briefing skill.

Story Time

It's Tuesday morning. As Chad approaches the door to his office, he's already mentally plotting his course through the day. He enters his office and begins to slip out of his jacket. As he does so he asks Alexa for his Flash Briefing. She begins to play the latest NPR News update, plays the forecast, and then the fun stuff.

  • An inspiring message to boost sales confidence
  • A helpful reminder of seasonal promotions coming up
  • Notice of an engaging conversation happing in the community

As the Flash Briefing concludes, Chad, now up to speed, gets to work. This is his morning office ritual. And you are a part of it.

Note: This post contains affiliate links because that's how I hustle.

Copyright © 2017 Eric Granata