It’s 2018 and voice assistants are entering the home at record pace. Soon we’ll all but expect to be able to walk into a room, speak out loud, and have one of several devices (or a few of them in concert) carry out our orders. The technology is there; all that’s missing are the services, skills, and apps to handle these requests. Or perhaps a given product or service already exists on these assistants—but how do you get people to discover them? You can’t take advantage of a service if you don’t know it exists.

This question of discoverability is the most important factor in this race to be first among competitors to serve customers on smart assistant platforms. You’ll need to get there first and best.

At WillowTree, we pride ourselves in great user experiences, and a great user experience can’t overlook this discoverability touchpoint. While a brand might very well throw ads everywhere or blanket message everyone in their apps to alert people to their presence on a smart assistant, we figured there had to be a better way.

We took discoverability not as a problem but as a challenge and got our teams together to figure it out. The result? We realized that the users we wanted to reach were the ones near physical hardware assistants and also had our client’s mobile app installed. These are the most invested in the tech and simultaneously the most likely to want to interact with our client’s brand.

We also realized we could detect the presence of those assistants within the mobile app and deliver personalized messages to our users on how to interact with the voice assistant.

But what’s the fun in researching something without sharing? We’d like to present a set of libraries to aid in voice discovery and a set of best practices on how to use them. Hopefully, with these tools in your hands, you can help your customers discover your voice interactions and better assist them in their daily tasks. Here are some (still experimental!) libraries we put together to demonstrate detecting Google Homes and Echo Devices:

Guidelines for Assistant Detection

Below are a set of guidelines on how best to use these libraries. Remember, detecting a smart speaker or smart display in someone’s house has the potential to be off putting and to some a violation of privacy. Therefore, it’s important to detect them in a way that keeps the user at ease. In order to do that, we recommend the following best practices:

1. Don’t highlight the device, highlight the actions.

Your customers already know they have an Echo, Google Home, etc. Skip that language and simply let them know you’re available on their voice device. Use language such as:

  1. Have you tried our our action? See here for more information!
  2. [Your brand] is now on the Google Assistant. Tap here to find out more!

Don’t say:

  1. “We see you have a Google Home…”
  2. “Now that you own an Echo device…” This kind of language isn’t as actionable or motivating as something specific to your product, to say nothing of the fact that some users may not respond well to you drawing attention to the fact that you’re able to “see” what connected devices they have in their home!

2. Introduce the idea when they’re more inclined to see the value in it

As with any other engangement strategy, you’ll want to identify key moments in your users’ lifecycle to suggest certain actions; in this case, that they check out your voice skill. A couple we recommend:

  1. When onboarding new users in your app (e.g. “Thanks for downloading our app! Be sure to check us out on your Google Home!”)
  2. When current users take an action that is better accomplished via voice (e.g. “Did you know you can do that via your Google Home?”)

3. Only indicate voice actions in your app

While one could technically detect a smart speaker in the background and show a notification on the speaker, this could put the user off; it’s best to ask permission before connecting across a users’ devices. Because of this, we recommend only showing the detection indicator inside of your app.

4. Don’t assume everyone wants to use your voice app

Be careful about how often you choose to prompt users to access the skill, lest you risk annoying the user with repeated instructions for something they are already aware of. However, it’s possible that they simply won’t have time to go through the onboarding at the time that they see the notification. This is especially true as the user might not be comfortable to speak out loud when they are shown the indicator, so an occasional reminder won’t hurt

5. Don’t force the user into an onboarding experience

At the same time, be considerate and intentional with where you put those reminders. You don’t want to lose users in your mobile app simply because you’re overzealous about pulling them into your voice skill. Don’t force them to go through the onboarding experience if they don’t want to. Simply showing them that you have a voice experience is enough to let them know they can check later if they don’t want to onboard now.

6. Show, don’t tell

This is your opportunity to provide your users with a guide on how best to interact with your product over voice. Show them phrases they can say. If you have a complicated interaction (For example: a voice command for group ordering that sends push notifications to friends), this is a great opportunity to ease them into the interaction and alleviate their fears in using their assistant.

7. Provide deep links into the interaction in the assistant

Google announced assistant action links which allow you to put the user directly into your skill within the assistant. Since you’ve just introduced them to it, provide some action links to allow them to try it out immediately. Since they’ll be around the Google Home, they could talk out loud to try it, but by giving people a text interaction, you allow them to try it out privately first.

For Alexa, we recommend you deep link them to the skill page so that the user can install the skill.

8. Be mindful of where your user is

Some assistants require more configuration in the respective assistant app. It’s likely that a number of users won’t see this indicator in their home, or that they won’t be able to set it up the first time they see it. Therefore, if there is any setup they need to do we recommend exposing an Assistant section of the app after one is detected. If you expose it to all users, it’s likely to be off-putting to those that don’t have an assistant or are nervous about the supposed privacy implications having an assistant implies.