People are happily using smart voice assistants more than ever. You know their names: Alexa, Siri, Google, Cortana. It’s so easy (and fun!) to just say what you want, and your magical assistant orders it for you. Then it shows up at your doorstep, and you’re living in the future!
This isn’t great for small town and independent retailers. You just got cut out of the order process. Unless…
Unless we could find a way to get Alexa and friends to talk to your store. And it turns out there is. Here is the trick you need to know:
Your customers don’t ask Alexa to order. They ask her to send a message.
Alexa and Siri and the others will all send any message to anyone, as long as they have the necessary skills and contact info.
Here’s what that looks like. I’ll use Alexa in all these, but they could work with any of the voice assistants.
Send an email
- You don’t want your customer to say “Alexa, order lemon soap” because that will always default to ordering through Amazon
- You do want your customer to say “Alexa, email the The Copper Penny Store and say ‘Send me a bar of that lemon soap you know I love.”
Send a text
- Bad: “Alexa, order a pepperoni pizza,” which will go to their paid partners
- Good: “Alexa, text the Olive Pit Pizza Place and say ‘I want a large pepperoni delivered,'” which will go straight to the local store
Make a call
- Good: “Alexa, call the Olive Pit Pizza.”
- Good: “Alexa, call The Copper Penny Store.”
How to teach these new tricks to Alexa, Siri and friends
In order to make this work, your customers have to do a little setup work. Depending on how comfortable you are with the technical stuff, you can decide how much or how little you’ll help them.
If you have zero technical skills
Right now, some of your customers are early-adopter types. They not only have a voice assistant, but they use it all the time. They already know how to add a contact and send a message. You just have to prompt them with the idea that they can use it to reach you.
- Easy to-do: add “Ask Alexa email us at ________ to place an order” to all your ads and social channels
If you have medium technical skills
If you have any Alexa enabled device, you can call out and receive calls from any other Alexa device. So you could actually set up an Echo Dot in your store. It would be like another phone line, of sorts. Then you just let customers know they can call you via Alexa. Here’s a CNBC article walking you through the voice-calling setup process. (Of course, the exact process will change over time.)
- Medium to-do: get an Alexa device like an Echo Dot in your store and give out the contact info to customers who also have an Alexa-enabled device
If you have all the technical skillz
If you’re the technical sort and good at writing directions, then you can show customers how to do the setup, in an easy way. Even if you only know how to work with one of the assistants, then you can give instructions for that one. If you are super savvy with more than one, hey, go for it and write instructions for them all.
- Difficult to-do: write a one-page cheatsheet to walk customers through the setup
- Bonus round: set up a demo in your store and show customers how to do the setup
Be sure you test your plan with your own voice assistant, then enlist friends and family to help you test. Once you’re sure you can do this, start inviting in your customers. Suddenly, you’re the coolest store in town.
“Siri, call the liquor store.”
(Uh oh. Siri isn’t 21.)
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.