How Can Marketers Know If Voice Activation Is Working? Amazon Alexa’s Dave Isbitski Explains Fallback Intent

"Meet your customer in the moment," Isbitski advises, "because the one thing you can't measure right now is what are your customers asking you."

The growing adoption and broadening use cases of voice activation are shaping up smart devices and their assistants as a crucial channel for marketers from restaurants to retailers to financial services.

But as the media buying cliché goes, “I won’t pay for it if it I can’t measure it.”

Obviously, determining whether a marketing program conducted across voice assistants can’t be measured in standard metrics like viewership or clickthrough rates. And while an estimated 40 percent of searches by U.S. adults today are spoken, SEO measurements don’t necessarily apply either, since voice activation involves passive content listening as well as active searching.

Fallback Position

Naturally, Amazon, in its race to make its Echo-based Alexa the central point of entry for how consumers access digital information as well as shopping, has a suggestion: “fallback intent.”

Back in May, the company began discussing the idea of giving brands who are developing Alexa Skills greater flexibility in how the Amazon Echo might respond. It was called fallback intent.

In his presentation at July’s Voice Summit, Dave Isbitski, the official chief evangelist for Amazon Alexa, discussed ways that fallback intent can serve as a guide for brands to figure out how well they’re engaging and connecting with consumers.

“One of the first things I hear when I talk to brands is how do I measure this stuff? So the first thing I say is meet your customer in the moment because the one thing you can’t measure right now is what are your customers asking you, and you’ll be able to do that,” Isbitski said from the gym at New Jersey Institute of Technology, which played host to the three-day voice conference hosted by Modev, which represents a community of some 25,000 developers and brand leaders focused on educating companies on the latest tech.

“We have technology called Fallback Intent,” Isbitski continued. “Capital Onehas a skill, and the first thing they saw Alexa get asked of their customers ask is, “How am I doing?” It’s asking just ‘how am I doing,’ such as, ‘what’s my bank balance look like, what’s my stock portfolio look like.’ Meeting your customers in the moment should be the number one thing you measure right now.”

Brands can connect the number of conversations people are having “in the moment,” and help them with what’s important to them. There is a direct line between being helpful to being trusted as a brand and then seeing the resulting sales.

But compared to other marketing channels, that can still seem a bit nebulous.

Amazon Alexa’s Dave Isbitski presents at the Voice Summit: One of the central points marketers need to master the use of voice activation to engage with customers.

Monetizing The New Age Of Audio

And that brought Isbitski to the other big question he comes across with increasing frequency: “How do we monetize this stuff?”

He pointed to three ways marketers can think about monetizing their “Alexa Skills” to drive direct revenue. One way is built around the established mobile method of in-app purchases, something that has proved fairly sustainable with interactive games. Sponsorship messages also represent a clear line from the previous “age of audio” when radio and TV first emerged commercially.

“A lot of this you’re familiar with in the mobile space,” Isbitski said. “I want a power up, I want a new level. You can do things like subscriptions where you can unlock the ‘pro version.’ There are things where podcasts give you additional content. You have the ability to do that right within the Alexa Skill and with Amazon Pay.

“Let’s say one day I want to be able to sell sneakers on Amazon,” he continued. “I can do that and I can monetize directly with monetize with Amazon Pay and Alexa can say, “Would you like to buy the sneakers that I just covered in this podcast?” And people, in the moment, again meeting them where they are, can say, ‘Yes.’

“Then if you’re a company and you already have existing customer relationships — and Domino’s and Pizza Hut, and Uber and Lyft, as well as Capital One have these capabilities to enable their Skills —  the Alexa conversation becomes another end point for your existing customer relationship. So you can have them interacting with you on mobile, you can have them interacting with the web, and conversationally all using the same account, all having the same customer relationship with you.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.