In the last article, I summed up the most important reasons why Google Assistant is soon going to change the game for good. Now let me take you a step deeper into the rabbit hole, and explain what it takes to integrate with it, and what business opportunities it opens for you.
There are already over 1 billion Assistant-enabled devices — including smartphones, smart speakers, headphones, TVs, smartwatches, smart home appliances, and more! Every day brings news of new ones being released. Integrating with Google assistant means your business will be there to assist your customers whenever and wherever they need it.
Ordering products, finding stores, scheduling appointments, giving instructions, accessing content — it is only a fraction of what can be done with Google Assistant. Whatever the focus of your business is, I am fairly sure Google Assistant can help you boost it in a way you might not have thought of yet. Below, I will give you plenty of such examples. But first, I will briefly explain how you can write your own Google Assistant extension.
Actions on Google is a platform that allows you to extend the functionality of Google Assistant with your own applications and deploy them for all Assistant-enabled devices.
It is a cloud-based platform which means that the apps you are writing are never really installed on any of the end devices. This makes it extremely convenient for both the developers and the users. First of all, you don’t have to worry about many things that are big issues for mobile or desktop apps, like supporting older versions of the hardware, running updates, etc. Moreover, users don’t have to install your actions to use them — all that is required to open an action is to say: “Ok Google, talk to…” and name the action you want to invoke.
When it comes to the development effort, actions are far easier to implement than any mobile or web application, and their user interface is simple and standardised, thus eliminating much of the standard UI work.
What is really great about actions development is that Google’s tools and machine learning algorithms do most of the heavy lifting for you. They handle both speech-to-text and text-to-speech, and most importantly, they can cleverly guess user’s intents and choose the best path of the conversation. Don’t worry, you don’t have to provide every possible combination of user’s words for the algorithms to work — they manage to correctly infer intents even if a user doesn’t use the exact words you provide in the console. The most important of these tools is definitely Dialogflow. It is a natural language understanding tool, where most of this magic happens.
The biggest challenge during the creation process of an action is to design the conversational experience that is both efficient and pleasant for its users. This requires an in-depth knowledge of the capabilities, restrictions and Google’s guidelines for the platform.
Another challenge is to provide a business logic that will deliver content for the action, perform operations and integrate with external services. This logic is handled by a backend application called a fulfillment service. A fulfillment service is basically a piece of software that receives requests from the Assistant, processes them and responds. It can be written in any technology you prefer, as long as it can communicate with Google’s API. There are also Node.js and Java/Kotlin client libraries that further simplify the implementation.
I do not intend to cover all possible use cases here. I just want to point out a few popular scenarios that might apply to your business, or at least will move your imagination.
These are just a taste of what you can do with Google Assistant. Basically, if you can think of any fast and frequently used scenario within your service where you interact with its users, it is a likely candidate for an action!
There are a few ways to monetise your action directly. If it is an extension or another interface of your premium service, you can introduce account linking to allow for authorisation. There is also an option to integrate payments via Google Pay, enabling users to pay for access to premium features directly from Google Assistant.
Purchasing is another example. With the Google Pay integration mentioned above, the checkout process can be pretty seamless. But if you don’t want to integrate Google Pay, you can as easily implement only part of the flow in Google Assistant, and when the user is ready to check out, ask him to use their phone (if one isn’t already using one), and continue the process in a browser opened directly from your action.
But the business value can also be gained through different ways than online payment. There are countless use cases which prove that assistant can bring profit by allowing users to connect to your service easily, find your business locations, or just by increasing your brand recognition. From Zyrtec’s allergy forecasts to Johnson’s newborn bathing instructions — there are many actions that are not only useful but are actually very smart marketing campaigns.
Google Assistant can provide a powerful interface for your business to connect with your clients, and creating an action is simpler and faster than writing an app for other platforms like mobile, web and desktop. Start small, think of a simple scenario, and release your first app to the Actions Directory. It won’t cost you much, and the results can exceed your expectations!
If you’re interested in writing a Google Assistant application for your business, reach out to Miquido — Actions on Google development experts. And if you have any questions about Google Assistant, drop me a note at [email protected].
I’m far from done when it comes to Google Assistant and actions. The next piece in the series is going to be about Google’s guidelines and tips on how to design a high-quality action for the pleasure of its users and Google’s reviewers. Stay tuned and follow Miquido’s blog!
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