How to boost your business with Actions on Google
In my 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 further down the rabbit hole and explain what it takes to integrate with Google Assistant and what business opportunities it opens for you.
Assistant is everywhere – use it to reach your customers
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 even more devices 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 — this is only a fraction of what can be done with Google Assistant. Whatever the focus of your business is, I am certain that Google Assistant can help you boost it in a way you might not have thought of yet. Below, I will give you plenty of examples of this but first, I will briefly explain how you can write your own Google Assistant extension.
Actions on Google – Cloud platform of the future
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 significant 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 they have to do to open an action is say: “Ok Google, talk to…” and name the action you want to activate.
When it comes to development, 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 it takes to create an action for Google Assistant
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 the user’s intentions and choose the best path for the conversation. Don’t worry, you don’t have to provide every possible combination of the user’s words for the algorithms to work — they manage to correctly infer intent 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 comprehension tool, and it’s where most of the magic happens.
The biggest challenge during the creation process of an action is to design a conversational experience that is both efficient and pleasant for its users. This requires an in-depth knowledge of the capabilities, restrictions and Google 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.
Possible use cases for integration with Google Assistant
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 spark your imagination.
- FAQ — The most straightforward scenario is an intelligent FAQ bot, which can share its “knowledge” and answer questions about your service or products.
Examples: Visa Guru, Pringles.
- Customer service — Going further, a virtual assistant can aid your call centre, staff or even banking system in some of their duties.
Examples: Bank of America, Mr. Spring, AGL, U. S. Bank.
- Ordering — Ordering a cab, coffee, pizza or even flowers? You can do all of that with Google Assistant in a matter of seconds!
Examples: Uber, Starbucks, Domino’s Pizza, 1–800-Flowers.
- Purchases — From groceries through tickets to pretty much everything… You can buy them just by using your voice or screen interface.
Examples: Asda, Fred Meyer, Ticketmaster, Fandango, eBay.
- Information — Checking flights, air quality, the weather or movie recommendations can be done on the go using voice interface.
Examples: Singapore Airlines, World Air Quality Index, AccuWeather, Itcher.
- Multimedia — You can listen to and control your music and video streaming services. There are also use cases for audiobooks, children’s stories, background music or even meditation!
Examples: Spotify, Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, Disney, StoryCastle, Headspace.
- Lists, tasks and notes — Shopping lists, work trackers, notes — Assistant can be the fastest and most natural way to interact with these.
Examples: Todoist, Evernote, Trello, Timesheets Companion.
- Instructions — You can give your users instructions on pretty much everything. The most common scenarios probably involve cooking and workouts. But assistant can be easily used to make quick, hands-free guides for things like hair colouring or newborn bathing.
Examples: Tasty, Fitness Buddy, Clairol Color Expert, Johnson’s.
- Communication & Social media — Assistant can be a quick way to send and receive messages and emails, add posts on your social app, or even find a date.
Examples: WhatsApp, Twitter, Viber, Sonus Mail, Only One.
- Location — Finding the nearest branch offices, restaurants, dental providers, events, or dogs to adopt — you can write an action that will direct clients to your business.
Examples: OCBC Bank, Hipster Cat, Sunfish Events, Petfinder, MetLife.
- Reservations — Dining, activities, beauty and fitness — the Reserve with Google service allows your clients to book appointments with Google Assistant. There are also many existing services that provide appointment scheduling actions. Using one of them will allow you to reach your clients even without writing your own action.
Examples: Appointy, Booksy, MINDBODY, Tiqets, TripAdvisor.
- Smart home — Once you try it, voice becomes the most natural interface to control your smart home appliances like lighting, entertainment systems, heating, cleaning robots and more. But it doesn’t really stop with home smart devices there. Many car brands like Lexus, Mercedes or Volvo provide integrations with Google Assistant that let their users check fuel levels or turn on heating remotely.
Examples: Philips Hue, Harmony, Nest, Roomba, Volvo on call, Mercedes me.
This is 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!
How to make your action profitable?
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 nearly seamless. But if you don’t want to integrate Google Pay, you can just as easily implement only part of the flow in Google Assistant, and when users are ready to check out, ask them to use their phone (if they’re not already), and continue the process in a browser opened directly from your action.
But business value can also be gained through different ways than online payments. 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 tactics.
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!
Want to develop an action?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!