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Should your content be in the hands of a digital assistant?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Alex Knight / Unsplash)

Look over at your counter/desk/coffee table. Chances are there is a small device with a voice, waiting for your next request. Digital assistants are exploding in popularity, popping up in homes and businesses around the world. With all these devices becoming more commonplace, companies might be asking themselves, “Should we make our content available to these assistants?” In this article, I’ll give you my take on this topic to help guide your decision.

Technology is a tough race to keep up with. Unless you have very deep pockets, buying new devices every time they are released is a one-way ticket to bankruptcy. Luckily, as the technology adoption cycle starts and the early majority climb, prices and availability often become a bit more manageable. This broadens the potential userbase and opens the doors to those of us not (yet!) driving a Tesla.

For Digital Assistants, the road to the adoption phase was a relatively short one. People quickly learned how useful they could be in their everyday lives. While consumers and businesses incorporate these devices into their daily routines, brands are playing catch-up in refocusing their content for the channel. You may be thinking, “Am I missing out on a business opportunity here?”

An overview of digital assistants

Digital assistants are like a window into people’s behaviours. From simple to-do lists to home automation, these devices allow users to offload mundane and routine tasks to technology. For example, they help students and parents organise their lives, and even remember to feed the cat in the morning. From small, household appliances to mobile-based voices, digital assistants are available to nearly every consumer. How and when they use them can reveal to brands a tremendous amount of personal data about their spending habits, favourite travel destinations, and what music they like to hear while cooking dinner.

The major players in the household space are Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Amazon was the first on the scene and owned the market by pricing their Alexa devices so any user could afford to them. Combined with a vast network of connected systems and services, the Alexa Echo can play read an audiobook, tell you a joke, and even order a pizza. Similar in function, Google Home brings the now customary phrases and offerings to the home, but with a lot more search know-how behind the scenes. Because these devices are backed by Google’s own data, their information is endless.

From the mobile perspective, the field gets a little more diluted. There’s Apple Siri and Google Now, long-time standards on their respective devices. Microsoft’s Cortana is another major player, with installs on nearly every Windows 10 device. From these handheld and desktop devices, users can integrate their email, shopping lists, calendars, and nearly any other kind of data, all which can be easily accessed with a simple voice command.

Why would you want to expose your content? 

With the sheer volume of customers using a digital assistant in some way, why would you not want your content available to them? Whether it’s a voice search or an integration, people find what they’re looking for in the manner that suits their needs the best. As more people become accustomed to having a voice-activated assistant at their beck and call, how they get their search results will also evolve. Every business should start thinking of how to make their content available in as many of these as possible.

Ten years ago, a company without a website was considered a dinosaur. Five years ago, a mobile app was absolutely essential for survival. Today, on-demand dynamic content and automated experiences are becoming the norm for what it takes to stay relevant in the market. The more relevant content you expose to your users, the more likely they are to consume it. Incorporating digital assistants into your marketing and communication strategy is not just a good plan, it’s a critical plan. If you want to continue to grow and meet your customer’s needs - across all channels - you need to be jumping into action.

How can you expose your data? 

Digital Assistants aren’t magic. They’re simple responses to input, with pre-determined results. All the major devices on the market have made it very easy to integrate with their systems to make this process as simple as possible. From simple information to guided ordering process, it all starts with your content.

How you manage and expose your content will dictate how easily you can work with these new systems. If your information is in a structured, easily-accessible system, you’ll find providing it to Alexa or Google is a simple process. This means how you are currently managing your content becomes very important, as your data is key to the whole process.

Most companies have a centralised platform where they are currently building and distributing their content. These legacy systems may prove quite challenging to work with, limiting integrations and access. They may lock you down to a technology or platform, or require a lot of restructuring of the content. To expose your content to digital assistants, flexibility and scalable are the key.

Why going headless is a good idea

Until now a traditional CMS was used in conjunction with a templating engine to render ever bigger and more elegant web pages. This is the “head” of the CMS and determines the presentation layout of the content. To ensure future compatibility and manageability, it’s necessary to separate the head from the body. Which lets the CMS do what it is designed to do—be the content repository and management tool for the content you write—and let your team of developers just concentrate on what they are good at—building the applications for the channels you need.

Such Headless CMS systems solve this legacy system challenge, mentioned above, by breaking content down into logical structures and components. These components are accessible through technology-agnostic interfaces, allowing companies to expose them to Amazon and Google. Companies can reuse these pieces of information throughout the organisation, simplifying their content management process and unifying their messaging across all channels.

Headless CMSs already exist in the market today, such as Kentico Cloud which is built from the ground up as an API-first, multi-tenant SaaS offering.

Don’t miss out

Hopefully, this article got you thinking about how you can leverage the digital assistant channel in your business. Through proper planning and management of your content in an accessible system, you can easily integrate with these devices. You should be thinking about how you are managing your content and looking into a Headless CMS for your future needs. The exposure that digital assistants can bring to a brand is astounding and, if current trends continue, is only going to keep growing. Don’t miss out on the action!

Bryan Soltis is the Technical Evangelist at Kentico
Image Credit: Alex Knight / Unsplash

Bryan Soltis is the Technical Evangelist at Kentico and an avid .NET developer. He enjoys working with the development community and educating developers on best practices, new technologies, and utilising the .NET, cloud, and Kentico to their fullest potentials.