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GE's voice-activated learnings

News, 31 May 2017
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AUSTIN, TX: General Electric, the conglomerate, has gleaned various useful strategic insights from using Amazon Echo, the voice-activated interactive speaker, in a program seeking to get kids excited about science.

Sam Olstein, Global Director of Innovation at General Electric, discussed this campaign – and the wider lessons for GE – at MediaPost's OMMA @ SXSW event held during the 2017 South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference in Austin, Texas.

More specifically, he spoke about LABracadabra – a do-it-yourself science program for kids that also lets the brand experiment with Amazon Alexa by using it to provide directions for undertaking simple, safe, at-home experiments.

Olstein admitted there are "creative limitations with the Alexa ecosystem" which brands should be aware of. "And it just has to do with the natural language … [and] communicating with a robot," he added. (For more, read WARC's exclusive report: GE conjures up digital brand magic with "LABracadabra".)

"It was clunky at times, because you're getting directions and you're combining ingredients, and that takes some time. So, while you're in the process of combining stuff, we played some music on Alexa, which leaned into the [platform's] stiff, robotic nature … and actually wrote a couple of really bad jokes that Alexa said as you were combining stuff."

Another issue involves consumers finding a brand's offering in the Alexa Skills Store, as "discovery is really challenging" from a marketer's perspective, Olstein continued.

Measurement, too, presents obstacles, as Amazon is extremely protective of user data, placing the impetus on brands to make sure they have additional provisions in place.

"Yes, it would be amazing to get all kinds of data from Amazon around the performance of our 'Skill'. But we're not going to get them to move any quicker than they want to," said Olstein.

"I think the onus is on other third parties who are innovating and experimenting in these places to be really smart and entrepreneurial around how to … make the best of the data signals we have that are out there."

A connected consideration relates to privacy, which was particularly important for GE during the LABracadabra initiative, as it was aimed at children, but clearly required adult involvement, too.

"It was definitely challenging navigating around privacy, especially with children, because … you have to be a certain age to, inherently, agree to brands or Amazon using what they said back to Amazon," said Olstein. "It was tough to do."

Data sourced from WARC

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