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Episode 62
February 27, 2018

Voice Commerce: Distribution vs. Brand

Voice is dominating commerce experiences: but is it kitsch or is it kismet? What separates retailers who are implementing voice strategies? Ryan MacInnis of Voysis joins us to talk about how to give your brand a voice in a world spoken by Alexa. Plus: Facebook Fiona and Aloha - one more smart speaker / tablet to contend for our attention.

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Voice is dominating commerce experiences: but is it kitsch or is it kismet? What separates retailers who are implementing voice strategies? Ryan MacInnis of Voysis joins us to talk about how to give your brand a voice in a world spoken by Alexa. Plus: Facebook Fiona and Aloha - one more smart speaker / tablet to contend for our attention.### Show NotesComing soon

Phillip: [00:01:06] Welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge and next generation commerce. I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:01:11] I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:12] And my word, it only took us like six months to make it happen. But today we have special guest Ryan MacInnis from Voysis is on the line. Hello, Ryan.

Ryan: [00:01:22] What's going on, guys? How's it going?

Phillip: [00:01:23] Wonderful.

Brian: [00:01:25] Good.

Phillip: [00:01:25] And now we're gonna talk a lot about voice and voice commerce today with, in my mind, one of the leading voices himself and one of the experts in the space and helping create space for merchants to engage in commerce experience via voice that doesn't require use of one of those branded smart speakers that everybody seems to have in their homes these days. So very excited to talk about it. So, Ryan, for those who aren't familiar, tell us a little bit about Voysis.

Ryan: [00:01:54] So Voysis this is a voice AI platform, and at a really high level, we're an independent alternative to Alexa. So we wanted to make it really easy for there to be an independent player in the market that wasn't dependent on building something on top of Amazon or Google. We wanted to make it really easy for you to add voice natively into your websites and mobile apps where your customers are already shopping. And so our first product that we've brought to market, Voysis Commerce, is just that. So you can actually add a microphone to your website or mobile app. And because it understands the product catalog and all of the things that make your site what it is, it can be a lot smarter and personalize the content to your users. And if they say "I want men's running shoes in size 12," it takes care of all the boring background stuff that would be checking boxes off, trying to match up keywords to return those results. And we just make that process a lot better.

Phillip: [00:02:52] It sounds like for all intents and purposes, you are incorporating sort of those things that we would have had in websites four or five years ago through like a text search box on the website, but applying that to sort of modern tech and web browser capabilities through voice.

Ryan: [00:03:11] Yeah. Exactly. So the way to think about it is that your website and your mobile app experience, nothing changes aside from the fact that you now have a voice overlay, so users can choose to navigate the site with their voice or they can continue to use their fingers, and what have you, to do that process. So we viewed as very much a complementary experience, not kind of like voice takes over your screen and this is the end all be all but very much that multi modal experience.

Brian: [00:03:38] So when someone is actually going to interact with it, let's say they're on the desktop experience, they would click on an icon that was like "Talk."

Ryan: [00:03:49] Yep.

Brian: [00:03:49] Or a microphone or whatever. And essentially it's a search for the site, correct?

Ryan: [00:03:57] Yeah. So the company or brand would prompt the user how they might want to saying like, "These are some of the things you could ask." And then the user would be able to say, "I am looking for orange running shorts," and then from there you might want to refine it. "Just show me the ones under $30," or "Only show me the ones that have more than 20 reviews." Things like that, so you're able to kind of get really down to the nitty gritty of what somebody might want. And we're able to find all of those things that live on your website. So if somebody leaves review that these are really great shorts to run in a marathon, and you're training for a marathon, we'll be able to pull that up to the top search results.

Phillip: [00:04:33] Now, you're speaking my language. Because that's...

Ryan: [00:04:36] Orange marathon running shorts, yeah.

Phillip: [00:04:39] Actually that's me. I'm the demographic for Orange marathon running shorts.

Brian: [00:04:42] That's true. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:04:43] It's actually really funny. So what's really interesting about your approach here is I feel like you're hitting on something that we've been talking about recently on the show, which is more people are using voice now than ever, but they're using it through like the keyboard app on their phone. And they're not getting the benefit of what the knowledge of a like sort of a personal or digital assistant would have to the understanding in the catalog, on the website. So you have this disconnect between just the I need you to type something for me, and the I need you to understand what I'm saying and how I would engage with the brand. Does that resonate with what Voysis is trying to accomplish?

Ryan: [00:05:25] Yeah, exactly. I think that we see two trends. One is 50% of all search will be done with some component of voice by 2020, and then almost half of all transactions will happen to be a mobile by 2020. That same time frames, so you have half of all search to be done with voice, and in the same time frame, half of all transactions will be done via mobile. So we took the approach and said, "Well, if voice and mobile are the two biggest trends, how do we make it really easy for somebody to be able to make that mobile experience a lot better given how much of their business will be done on it?" So obviously there are people who choose to have things transcribed or dictate to their phones. Then there's a bunch of other people, like myself, who will use the Amazon fire stick to dictate kind of something that I want to look for, a show, and then even go to the Amazon app because they have Alexa natively integrated, and say, "I'm looking for Bounty paper towels," or "Reorder me my hand sanitizer," or whatever it might be. So slowly but surely, we're starting to see voice applications in the phone. I think a lot of retailers today are trying to figure out what that experience looks like. It's kind of like, look, shiny object. Everyone is getting a homepod. How do we be there? As opposed to saying, where are your shoppers currently engaged with today? And that experience is so poor. So how do you continue to make that better since you're already pouring millions of dollars into it? So that's kind of what we're fairly bullish on, which is that voice shouldn't be something that takes, you know, 10 to 16 months to prove out, which obviously like things like VR and AR. That ROI is a little further from that. But being able to say voice is three times faster than typing. And if folks find the products that they're looking for a lot faster, then just inherently, that conversion rate on a mobile device or mobile web will automatically go up, decreasing time to cart, increasing conversion rate. All that good stuff.

Brian: [00:07:24] We were just on the eCommerce braintrust podcast with Kiri Masters, and actually we talked about voice for a good chunk of it. One of things we talked about was sort of the voice to screen interaction. And I think we'll definitely... So when you mentioned, you know, you search for something with voice and does it bring up your search results with like sort of an audio prompt or does it shoot results to your mobile screen or both? Or like how does that interaction actually work?

Ryan: [00:07:57] Yeah. So it's a good question, because a lot of people are really pumped about text to speech just because of the fact that they've been trained with Alexa to kind of tell them back like, "Hey, this is what you wanted," or "I'm playing now Bone Thugs and Harmony." "Okay, cool. I want to make sure that's where we were. We settled on that." But we've actually seen a lot of people that don't want that confirmation or that affirmation of what they ordered. They just kind of want to be able to accelerate that process a lot faster. So if you're on a mobile device and you say, "I'll switch up the orange running shorts, since that tends to be my go to now." So if I'm looking for K Swiss sneakers on the Footlocker site, then that will all update in the background. And you'll now be presented what that refined search will be like of the product that you're looking for. And it would take place on the screen as if you had gone through, checked off all of those boxes, typed in K Swiss sneakers... It's the same experience. We're just making that a lot faster.

Brian: [00:08:54] And one more question, follow up question to that, Phillip, and then hop in. But does the search that you're providing, is it your own search algorithm or can you connect it to existing search providers?

Ryan: [00:09:10] Exactly. We are no additional work on the brand. So we plug into their existing search APIs. We use all of the things that they have today.

Brian: [00:09:24] Got it.

Phillip: [00:09:25] Yeah. So that was kind of right in the vein of where I was going with it, so I kind of see this for lack of a better description, and I hate to draw comparisons. I would never want to do something like that, but it's like Twilio. I see it sort of like Twilio, and correct me if I'm wrong, but, you know, if I were a brand of a specific size, then I would want full control over all the pieces of my brand's interaction. And that's not just on the Web. As an omni channel retailer, I probably have applications and interactions all across my organization that are retail context. So everything from point of sale to, you know, an app that's meant to be used in store to sort of a re-ordering convenience app. A lot of companies nowadays have a lot of points of integration. And I don't necessarily want this particular piece to own everything. I mean, there might be a retailer that wants that, but there are certain size, right? Like where I see the cutting edge of voice happening right now is those sort of late early adoption curve of people who understand the impact it's going to have in 18 months, not today. It's not a quick win.

Ryan: [00:10:34] Totally.

Phillip: [00:10:34] It's that we're skating where the puck's going to be. Right?

Ryan: [00:10:37] Exactly. And the most interesting thing about that is to your point, we actually came to market, we launched the company last February, when we raised Series A round of funding. We came out and said we wanted to be a Twilio or Stripe for voice. We wanted to be able to plug into wherever your consumers were. We wanted to make it really easy to interact with your brand via voice. The thing that we're learning so much in retail specifically right now is that, you know, while search and discovery would be great from a product standpoint, if you have a really large product categories, or really a large product catalogs, you know, if somebody wants to come to and say, "Do you guys even carry hunting gear?" like, where would I even start to see if that's the thing? So for big companies that have a lot of products, that's really helpful. But then you have a lot of companies that are customer service oriented. "Can I return this?" "How much is left on my gift card?" "What's in my bag?" "When will my order be coming?" A lot of things that people are just saying, "We're going to build a Google assistant command for," or "We're going to build an Alexa skill for," these are ways that you can further ingrain voice into your own experience and make sure that you have all of that data to say, "It seems like 50% of what people are using us for is just for asking how much is on their gift card. Maybe we should be pushing gift cards more. Maybe we should be retargeting those people."

Phillip: [00:11:56] Oh wow.

Ryan: [00:11:56] So the big difference between us and an Amazon or Google is that access to the data. They're not very open with, you know, kinds of what queries folks are asking for within your skill. And it's very limiting. But we're able to actually work with a lot of these brands and and say, like, "What are people searching for that you don't have currently? Is it a way that they're asking for it? Or do you just not carry this product? And if there's a high enough demand, maybe you should look into that." So there's a lot of ways to kind of leverage that insight.

Phillip: [00:12:25] This is so smart because if there is one place where people are sensitive to who owns their data, it's retail and partnerships with Amazon. Like that is one of the biggest concerns that we come up against all the time, especially in like the eCommerce consulting realm that Brian and I kind of live in generally. The biggest concern is, you know, "Who's owning my data? Do I have control over it? And am I handing over the keys to my..."

Brian: [00:12:50] "Who has the relationship?"

Phillip: [00:12:52] Right.

Brian: [00:12:52] Yeah, who has the relationship? Who owns the relationship with the customer?

Phillip: [00:12:55] Right. And is that that I'm warehousing all that data with someone who's ultimately, potentially one day, at some level of my business, a competitor? Am I having to do business with them in order to enable this experience, even though on some level I probably compete with them? And those are complicated questions. And probably certainly it's not everybody's mindset, but it's somebodys mindset. And I think that that appeals to a very specific type of customer. One other thing I wanted to get back to, which Brian brought up, which is the sort of consumption of the information that's outside just the voice context and how smart I thought it was that while Amazon is pioneering in the space, and they pioneered in the space with a voice only interaction device. That was novel. But if you see a lot of their new tech depends on screen interaction. So, Ryan, you touched on it. It's more effective and more... It's a lot quicker to deliver information via voice, but you can consume it a lot faster via screen.

Ryan: [00:13:58] Totally. Yeah. I mean, if you think about it, we'd like to talk about it as it's contextual commerce, not only from what somebody is asking for, but who you are as a brand. VaynerMedia, a big agency in New York, obviously started by Gary Vaynerchuk. They had this huge partnership with J.P. Morgan Chase to do Alexa work. Obviously, there're some smart speakers in Marriott Hotels and things like that. So if you're a CPG brand, if you're a grocery brand, if there are things that are, you know, everyday items are repeatable for you to just like rapid, "Hey, what is this?" You get a Q&A kind of response back. Those smart speakers make total sense for you. Go all in on it. For me to be able to trust Amazon, to know what kind of running sneaker I want or, you know, I have a basketball tryout on Monday. And I need some really great Jordan shoes because, you know, I want to make sure I feel like a million bucks and not only play like a million bucks. You're not quite sure what you're even looking at because you're just going to the recommendation that Amazon makes without a screen is something that is going to fulfill your need. And that's not always how it works. We very much view what we do as complementary. So if you're somebody like, maybe you have a Google because they part with Google on this via Walmart, maybe you have something with a Google home or Google Express. But also, if somebody is coming to the jet app and they want to be able to build a shopping list, or they want to be able to navigate, and just see kind of what deals there are today or what's on sale or what they ordered last time or what kind of stuff they want to change. That experience needs to be complementary no matter how they want to search. So kind of to your point earlier about skating where the puck is going, a lot of folks don't really know what people want to do with their voice and they're kind of hedging their bets and saying we're going to wait until someone does it really well. And then we're gonna fast follow. The issue with that is that there's a lot of opportunity right now in terms of brand loyalty and standing out to be one of those first movers. And that's the key. Those are conversations we have all the time where consumers still looking for reasons to have brand afinity. They're looking for reasons why Starbucks has a loyal customer base and why people spend a thousand dollars on an iPhone. There's a reason why people attach themselves to a brand. And the more you can do to not be like everyone else, that's how you stand out. I talk about the distribution versus brand argument, which is do you want to just give your customer relationships and your data to Amazon? Or do you value the brand enough to be able to say, we want to build our own experience that we think people will be able to find great value in? The reason why Nike held up for so long.

Phillip: [00:16:31] There's some shade of green between the...

Ryan: [00:16:39] Exactly.

Brian: [00:16:39] Yeah, I think that's an interesting point. You brought up something that we've kind of talked about this on the show. Voice is an interaction that I think the wider public has finally sort of accepted. But retailers are still seeing it sort of as a first mover, a first mover sort of moment, where they want to see some brand implement voice really effectively up front before they make that move. You mentioned you talk to retailers about this all the time. Could you elaborate a little bit more on those discussions and sort of explain why you think voices here and now?

Ryan: [00:17:23] Yeah, I think... I make this joke all the time. But I think that when Alexa first came out, everyone thought it was going to be like the Apple Watch where they would build this really vibrant community and they would say, hold on a minute, these watches are going to replace the phone. So like everybody go all in on building things for the Apple Watch for these wearable devices. And that fell flat on its head. Now there are people who love wearables. But it wasn't as mainstream as initially thought. However, you look at the advent of like the iPhone and smartphones and how much that's progressed. So we talk about it a lot. We actually wrote a blog post with the former head of product from Alexa. And he's like, it's the exact same thing as mobile and it's exact same thing as social. You know, if you didn't have a social media page, a Facebook page, a Twitter presence, things like that, in early 2010, 2011, no one would have held it against you. And they were still shopped. But if you go to a brand today on their social media presence, and they don't have one, it's one more thing... It's one more thing for you to be able to be like, "Oh, I don't know why..." or "They're not on TripAdvisor. They're not actively doing things here." So it's the conversations we're having with almost every retailer we've talked to to date has said, "We want to do voice." We've gotten their attention. They're really excited about it, but they don't really know where to start. And so a lot of what we're spending our time on is trying to better understand the immediate pains that they have. So it's really easy to go to market and say, "We're an independent voice AI platform, API base, you can plug it in anywhere." But they're like, "We're really focused on mobile," or "We haven't even had a mobile app yet," or "We don't even know how to do X, Y and Z." So how do you get into the world that they're trying to solve for, the pain they're trying to solve for, today? How can voice be used to complement the work they're already doing? So a lot of the conversations we're having is what are some priorities of your team right now? Is it something the mobile team is owning? Is it an innovation team that tried to experiment and do this against the subset of their users? So it's very much a collaborative process, but they're still trying to figure out where this would best fit their user base. And a lot of it has to come down to, you know what, you couldn't really have predicted really anything that a user wants to do, right? No one's going to want to shop online or no one's going to trust their phone to do payments. It's amazing how much we keep saying we don't know how much somebody is going to do something, when as a result they do it anyway because we're not their users. So, yeah, it's just a lot of the conversations are surrounding ways that we could help them tackle immediate problems that they have today or make experiences that they're working on better today with technology that they may think only exists within Amazon and Google's world, but is able to have far more of an impact for them than just kind of doing the one and done "We built that scale. Now let's move on."

Brian: [00:20:11] What do you think about the... You mentioned VenerMedia a minute ago, and we actually we talked about this with Kiri, too. What do you think about this sort of voice community or community of consultants and agencies out there? What's that ecosystem and landscape look like?

Ryan: [00:20:29] I think it's great for overall excitement and energy of voice. I worry that it's that too much in the Alexa direction, because obviously you guys know as well as I do, the adoption rate of some of these skills are not anywhere near where someone wants to say, "Oh, yeah, we should do that because it's just such an attractive place to be." And my biggest fear is that people are building businesses around Alexa skills where it's kind of like the same thing as like Merekat building a platform on top of Twitter, where they're coming in and saying, "We're going to build an entire business on top of this one thing," but as soon as Amazon says, "Hey, no more people, we want to be able to make this proprietary," or "We want to change it, so I can do X, Y and Z," it could affect your business. But at the same time, you're driving all of this. You're basically making recommendations for brands to trust speakers with their voice strategy. Even though it's great that it's getting more notoriety within the voice space, it's kind of pigeonholing the way that brands think about voice today because it's less about it being a channel and more about being a product or an overall strategy. Voice should be just as important as your mobile strategy. Hands down. And so that's where they're kind of it comes a double edged sword, which is all the agencies are going all in on speakers and building things through the speakers because they know that it's an easy sell for clients. They see the consumer adoption. They realize, you know, different countries are kind of coming online with having access to these speakers. But at the same time, as soon as you're able to kind of come back and say, how well is a skill being used or are people actually using it, or does it actually make the experience that much better? Depending on that brand, it's usually not a good scenario.

Brian: [00:24:05] I think our show title might have been there. "Voice Strategy is Just as Important as Mobile."

Phillip: [00:24:10] I actually took it down myself. I love that. One of the things that, you know, sort of intrigues me about what you just said is, and we talked about on a couple episodes ago, is there's a movement out there that's partially backed by the Mozilla Foundation that looks like it's trying to get some traction, at least through Kickstarter, to create an open source design that could be used to build smart speakers by various, you know, third party OEMs or, you know, manufacturers like Anchor, or something like that, that produce other sort of consumer brand electronics or white label electronics. What are your thought kind of taking a shot in the dark that maybe you've thought about this... What do you think about non-branded speakers or the proliferation of non Amazon and Google devices? Do you see a possibility or a future there? Is that sort of why you've gone web first in your approach because you think that the Web will win overall?

Ryan: [00:25:18] Yeah, I mean, I think we realize that mobile is not going away. It blows my mind how many articles are out there telling people, "Double down on voice because they're going to be the reason why no one uses their phones anymore." Everyone's going to stop going to your store buying online because they can just do it all through voice. And the same people are saying, "Make sure your SEO strategy is ready for voice." And it's like if you ask your Google assistant, which we do in the office all the time as a joke, to pair wines with steak, it will literally just read you the top search result on Google. Like there is no special voice SEO. I wrote a blog post on this. There's so many people... Forbes articles... Like all these contributors being like, "This is what you need to do to index your content and make sure these keywords be used." It's a bunch crap. So what the most interesting thing to me is I love the open source model of voice because if you look at past, you know, platforms that do stuff with chat bots... You have like that was acquired by Facebook, and there was That stuff was great at building communities really passionate about this kind of stuff. And then you look at like Mycroft, who had their Kickstarter, they just announced some recent funding.

Brian: [00:26:27] Right.

Ryan: [00:26:27] That's great. Because you're then providing, it's a similar kind of message that we're bringing to the market, which is there needs to be an independent way for brands to connect to their users that they don't feel like is owned by a big, big player. And now you have Facebook having its smart speakers come out this summer, the two that they're going to have. There's going to be another touchpoint in the home for...

Brian: [00:26:51] What is with that? What do you think about that?

Phillip: [00:26:52] This is not news we've broken on the show to this point yet. So maybe...

Brian: [00:26:57] That's true.

Ryan: [00:26:58] Sure. Yeah.

Brian: [00:26:59] Good point.

Phillip: [00:26:59] Something else, right?

Ryan: [00:27:01] Yeah. So basically they're coming out the more expensive Echo Show. So it's going to be two tablets that have 15 inch screens powered by LG, I believe. And it's going to be used primarily to keep in touch with your friends and family. There're going to be two versions of them. I believe, coming out of CES, the price point was close to $500, which is fairly ridiculous given the fact that HomePod we already thought was ridiculous in pricing. But I think what's really interesting for Facebook is that I think a lot of these pieces of hardware that have screens on them are going to almost be like if you've ever seen, I personally don't have any friends in my network like this, but if have home theaters. And you have that like in main switchboard that controls everything in a home theater. These are the lights. This is the TV. It is the inputs. All this big thing that's controlled by screen. I believe that the Echo Show Facebook, even what Google had announced for another tablet with a screen, they have the ability to kind of be that hub for everything in your house as well as what you use your voice for. So Facebook is doubling down on obviously friends and family, and it's gonna have a big social component to it. But you have to remember a big part of their business that they haven't really turned on yet in terms of monetization is WhatsApp. And a lot of people who are looking to keep in touch with friends and family, that FaceTime component, that video component is huge. If I'm able to say, "Hey, Facebook," or whatever I want to call it, "Call Phillip," or "Call Brian," or whatever it might be, how are you able to quickly connect somebody and then within that have an... "Oh, yeah. Hey, share this recipe I was talking about earlier with them," and you kind of get to watch them through it all, "Yeah, this is great." Because right now that FaceTime experience is obviously beholden to Apple. And so I think it's smart. I think they're gonna have to work on price. I already know that the... I think they came out today saying that the HomePod margins are 38%. So they're actually making pretty good money, in terms of a margin, off that stuff. I think that Facebook is kind of going at the route with Apple saying like we have our own loyal fan base. The value prop is there. We're able to set our own price for it. But this summer, we'll see what the actual appetite is for it.

Brian: [00:29:11] I can't help but feel sort of the same feeling about this, that I'm now looking back at Spectacles that I did, actually. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:29:23] {laughter} But you know what, I'm really sad is that we're on is being very bullish on that technology.

Brian: [00:29:30] No, we were bullish on the beginning of...

Phillip: [00:29:33] I like that you want to... Don't reframe it. I mean, we are both on record being like super fan girl excited about Spectacles and Snap. And gosh, how wrong were we?

Ryan: [00:29:42] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:29:43] But, I don't know... Sorry I interrupted you there, you were gonna make a really good point, and I just wanted to crap over your excitement.

Brian: [00:29:52] Yeah, I think you're right about, you know, about having devices that sort of act as the operating system of the home, if you will. But I just don't know. I feel like Facebook is something that could play into somebody else's experience as opposed to creating their own hardware and AI assistant unless the world really is headed towards, you know, sort of the the nosedive from Black Mirror. {laughter} Social first sort of a society. I's just not quite sure...

Ryan: [00:30:32] Yeah, you know, it's interesting because I think all the things you're seeing Amazon work on, obviously they're trying to come out with their own shipping logistics kind of arm to things. They're getting in the home. And they did like Amazon Key, like all of these different things. But I think that they won't really be able to touch that social aspect that Facebook has if Facebook is able to leverage whatever these controllers are, these Echo Show competitive tablets to then make VR and other Oculus related things better have some AR things related to it. So if I use Facebook, and it knows that I've been looking for furniture, maybe brand agnostic, they see it as "Hey, Facebook, I'm trying to remodel my kitchen. Can you show me what would be some options for the table I have?" It takes in, it sees the table and recommends some things based on my Facebook profile, what I've liked on Instagram. I think that that visual search component is going to be huge. So I will go on the record and say that I do think that they will sell more Facebook tablets than the Echo Show.

Phillip: [00:31:35] Whoa. That's a...

Brian: [00:31:38] That's a bold prediction.

Phillip: [00:31:38] I like that though. I love when people are just definitive, like this is what's happening. This is it. There is no hedging in that statement.

Brian: [00:31:45] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:31:46] I am on the record, at least on Twitter, as sort of saying that the only reason I would ever get one of those devices is if I want to have some sort of political argument, and there's no one else at home. Because that's all that Facebook is for me right now. Facebook is a bunch of you know, is a bunch of really frustrating experiences after another since basically 2016. And maybe that's just because that's my social circle {laughter}...

Brian: [00:32:11] Before then even.

Phillip: [00:32:13] Maybe that's just my social circle. And it's definitely something that's, you know, in our popular culture in North America right now. And what we're talking about, but I don't have a lot of trust in Facebook as a platform. And maybe that's just cause I'm more clued in than other people, or I have a particular political leaning.

Ryan: [00:32:31] But the thing is, is you're totally right. And that stuff does need to get better. But if you start to think about the evolution of Facebook as a platform, you think about like Facebook watch and more original content that they're doing there, as well as the increasing popularity of e-sports. There's going to be ways where people want to connect visually to things. And I think it's very smart for them to have a response to it. I don't think that they're too late. I think I've seen people say that Facebook too late, just as we thought that Apple might be too late within their response to having something competitive to Amazon. I think that there is going to be enough for them to make their experience their own. I do think the price point's a little high. Like they're not Apple.

Brian: [00:33:09] What was the price point?

Ryan: [00:33:09] I thought I read somewhere that it was $499.

Brian: [00:33:12] Yes. I just don't see... I don't see it taking off at that price point. It's going to have to come down a lot.

Phillip: [00:33:20] But maybe they are going for broad adoption. I mean even Apple's HomePod is is like abnormally expensive for what it does, which is almost nothing.

Brian: [00:33:30] Think about this. Apple's audience is going to buy the HomePod, right? Like their ecosystem's going to buy the HomePod. If they're gonna go buy a smart speaker, either they're gonna go buy... If you're an Apple fan, you probably already have an Alexa or a Google home device in your house. And, you know, you might replace that with the HomePod, potentially. But it remains to be seen what those sales are going to look like. Are you going to go buy this Facebook device?

Ryan: [00:34:04] So I won't buy a HomePod. I will not buy a HomePod. Only because I have a Sonus. Right?

Phillip: [00:34:11] Right.

Brian: [00:34:13] Right. Right.

Ryan: [00:34:13] So my argument against the HomePod is it's like anything else, right? It's very subjective. It's saying, well, I'm an Apple fanboy, so I'll be the first one to buy the AirPods, which I still think look really stupid. Or do you want to be that kind of... And if you guys have them, I mean, no disrespect...

Brian: [00:34:33] Phillip does.

Phillip: [00:34:33] {laughter} No, no, no, they do look really stupid.

Ryan: [00:34:36] But I also think that there is a place for... There's something to be said by owning a niche. So like Amazon didn't come out and say, "We are all things to everyone." They say, "We do these four or five things really well." And they leveraged all of the data of what people thought they might be able to ask it by how it influenced their roadmap of what features they would come out with later. So I think that Facebook is doing the right thing because it's not trying to be like every other device and speaker out there that's playing in the voice space. I think HomePod... I think they're going to sell out. I think that they're going to have their first... I honestly think that the HomePod will be more successful than the iPhone X or the 10.

Brian: [00:35:21] I would say X, too. Even though the HomePod destroys your furniture.

Ryan: [00:35:24] It's a perfect opportunity for a West Elm partnership. Some coasters... {laughter} Honestly if were part of the Apple Partnerships team, I would 100% work this into like if they're so clean and everything's great, why are they...? Sonos is at West Elm, why isn't Apple trying to be that upscale furniture...?

Phillip: [00:35:49] Sure.

Ryan: [00:35:49] Anyway, I do think... I won't buy the HomePod because I have Sonos. I will be more likely to buy an Alexa and put it in my bathroom and then have the updated Sonos software that I can actually say, "Alexa play something on my Sonos."

Phillip: [00:36:04] Getting back to sort of the world in which you live. So in the Voysis realm, putting voice on a website is likely step one, especially in a commerce context. But what do you see happening five years out from now? Let's  assume that takes off and everybody's doing it. What is the next sort of curve or bent? Where is all this heading?

Ryan: [00:36:31] Yeah. So I think in commerce specifically, there are opportunities to plug in better to like BI tools. A lot of these companies have really robust teams and tools that they use to better understand their users, make recommendations, what not. How can we make voice a lot smarter where the data were that we're returning is able to plug into one of those tools and make recommendations on the fly of ways you can tweak things. And I think a lot of that will be automated in the future. But in terms of where we'll be, we pride ourselves in being really good at building verticalized solutions. So we started with commerce, but obviously there's a huge opportunity with media entertainment. You look at Netflix, you look at music with like Spotify, there's all of these different verticals where voice makes a ton of sense. And for us, we want to get really good at delivering great commerce experiences. So we become the go-to people that can make voice synonymous with the experience that you deliver as your brand. And then from there be able to expand that to other companies in other verticals as well.

Phillip: [00:37:34] Well, you actually said something in the pre-show about a statistic that Comcast and the Olympics with voice. What was that again?

Ryan: [00:37:42] Yeah. So Comcast came out and said that half of their traffic to the Olympics homepage was done via voice. Now they had some work done via nuance to voice enable, the Xfinity remote, and half of all the traffic to that page was done via voice commands.

Brian: [00:38:00] Wow.

Phillip: [00:38:00] And yeah, and voice is being built into a lot of consumer goods now. I mean I've had voice, well they call it "hands free." I've had it in my cars, in every car I have purchased since 2007 maybe. I mean it was always crappy, never worked well, but it's been there. It's been around. What I think the changes is that we're actually coming to rely on it because it actually delivers decent experiences for the most part nowadays.

Ryan: [00:38:30] Yeah, totally. You have to look at where consumers are spending the most time. So they spend a lot of time commuting in the car. That's why a Mercedes came out with their own voice assistant. That's why Hyundai and other brands are partnering with these assistants to try to get voice there. You look at a lot of people who spend time in their homes. That's why Amazon and Alexa were there first. And then you look at people spending time in front of their TV, which is why, you know, you get Siri on Apple TV, you're able to have the Xfinity remote. And then the last kind of a fourth hurdle is your phone. Your mobile device. And we've had such poor experiences with Siri that I think a lot of people are like, "Well, can I just use Siri Kit and can I just build this myself?" And we always say, do you really want to do that? We're not even sure what the quality is, and it can't really do everything you want to do. And we're able to just provide all that stuff for you out of the box. So mobile's like that fourth frontier where it's these are the big four areas where people are spending the most time. And if you look at even all the big players in every market, you look at Tesla, you look at Amazon, you look at Netflix, these are all big companies that are... Even Facebook. Every company is within one of those four frontiers. Facebook phone, Tesla car, Amazon in your home, and then in your living room you have Netflix. So I think that you'll see people trying to map back their investment in voice specifically based on what people are spending the most time.

Phillip: [00:40:00] So where can people find you on the web, Ryan?

Ryan: [00:40:04] Sure. So I'm Twitter. It's RKMAC... Five letters. I do a lot of tweeting. Having worked there previously, I love Twitter. And obviously, if you guys want to check out what we do. We have some really cool videos on our site. I'd obviously love to talk to anybody and everybody about voice. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:40:26] And we appreciate your time. Thank you so much for joining us. I'd love to have you back again sometime in the future. And I'd love to talk more about this stuff because I feel like... Actually you would be a great fill in host for when Brian decides he's going to go on to, you know, start 15 of his own other broadcasting properties. Brian's got plans for world domination. I'm just going to podcast.

Brian: [00:40:50] {laughter}

Ryan: [00:40:50] Yes. Put in your calendar. I'll make it happen.

Brian: [00:40:54] Don't listen to Phillip. He also has plans for world domination. He's just a little more subtle. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:41:01] I love it. All right. Well Ryan MacInnis from Voysis. Thank you so much. And we want you to lend your voice, haha no pun intended, to this conversation. Head over to and hit us up on the Disqus comment box, or you can always e-mail one of us at or and make sure to subscribe and listen on any of this smart speaker devices that...

Brian: [00:41:27] Are in your home.

Phillip: [00:41:28] Well, I guess we've hit that. Yeah, they're in your home. But I think somebody said that they weren't going to be as popular in the future anymore. Somebody said that. I can't remember who it was. I was going to make some sort of dystopic joke there. But it doesn't really matter at this point. OK. Thank you for listening to Future Commerce. The robots are going to kill us all. That's kind of where I'm at. {laughter}

Brian: [00:41:51] {laughter} That's pretty much...

Phillip: [00:41:53] That's all I've got. What how do we close the show, Brian?

Brian: [00:41:55] Retail tech is moving fast...

Phillip: [00:41:58] And Future Commerce is moving faster. Thanks. Bye.

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