Nestlé Purina and Acquia Labs team up to explore voice-enabled search

Nestlé Purina and Acquia Labs team up to explore voice-enabled search

Voice has become an important component of the marketer's toolbox in recent years, thanks to the spread of chatbots, messenger bots, and voice assistants that are now cementing conversational content's rightful place in the omnichannel landscape.

For our part, Acquia Labs has long been fascinated by conversational interfaces, culminating in our Ask GeorgiaGov project last year and several proofs of concept involving chatbots and cooking with Alexa's help.

Webinar: Alexa, Ask GeorgiaGov

Learn how Acquia Labs and GeorgiaGov Interactive collaborated on an integration between the Georgia.gov Drupal website and the Amazon Echo voice assistant. 

WATCH NOW

As I've written previously, conversational interfaces are now making our lives much easier when it comes to performing simple tasks. But what if they could reduce the amount of time we spend seeking out the content we're looking for most?

What if dog lovers could instantly find the specific food that's right for their dog's needs? What if cat lovers could look up whether their chosen brand makes sense for their feline's nutrition, as quickly as a short turn of phrase?

The Acquia Labs team is excited to launch our implementation of voice-enabled search on the Purina.com website in collaboration with Nestlé Purina North America.

Using technologies native to the browser, we explored how search by voice can improve customer engagement and free us from the device-specific confines of Siri and Alexa by reinventing how we can access content on the browser.

At the tips of your fingertips and your tongue, too

Voice search is increasingly becoming a paramount concern for marketing teams conscious about reducing friction for their customers. As early as May 2016, Google reported that a fifth of searches on mobile are now conducted by voice.

Get updates

Receive the best content about the future of marketing, industry shifts, and other thought leadership.

Voice searches are valuable not solely for the hands-free convenience they offer and the marketing insights they confer, but also for the ability to search for unwieldy text like those dog breed names we all have trouble spelling.

Acquia Labs and Nestlé Purina joined forces to extend Purina.com's site search feature into the realm of voice by providing another way for users to query for content.

Best of all, this functionality isn't tied to a particular device or ecosystem like mobile voice assistants or conversational hardware; it leverages systems already available natively in browsers on both desktop and mobile.

Accessing content by voice, natively

Increasingly, accessing content conversationally either requires a hardware purchase that doesn't come cheap — devices like Google Home, Amazon Echo, or Alexa-enabled speakers — or corners us in a locked box with assistants like Siri or Cortana.

The spread of new devices with their own closed ecosystems points to a worrying trend in conversational content of compartmentalization into walled gardens only accessible to Alexa or Siri users.

Luckily, emerging technologies available natively in the browser through HTML5 allow us to begin examining a more future-ready web where voice-enabled capabilities like speech recognition and dictation are present not only on our smartphone applications but also on the websites we visit every day in our desktop or mobile browsers.

As such, the prospect of accessing content through such open ecosystems and web-based approaches has considerable implications for web accessibility. Users of accessible web technologies like screen readers and refreshable Braille displays will ultimately benefit from findings that favor browser-native technologies rather than closed device ecosystems.

Accessibility will be a key facet of this project as we inspect the impact of browser-native voice capabilities in addition to that of similar voice input features on accessible hardware.

A new way to navigate Purina.com

A new way to navigate Purina.com

Search is a logical place to start, but we also believe that voice-enabled search points to tasks beyond the search field, like navigating between web pages or finding direct quotes on the page.

With the advent of better browser-based technologies, voice input is no longer a stronghold of device manufacturers; after all, performing a simple search shouldn't require us to invoke Cortana before switching to Alexa in frustration.

With this partnership between Acquia Labs and Nestlé Purina, we explored what's possible in search and beyond — and how a more open approach to voice technologies can serve as a tide that lifts all boats and enrich the experience for every one of us.

You can check out our voice-enabled search feature in action right now on Purina.com, in your browser on desktop or mobile.


Innovate for omnichannel with Acquia Labs

How can Acquia Labs help your organization achieve its innovation priorities and think beyond? To learn more about working with Labs, contact our sales team and mention Acquia Labs during your conversation. Together, we’ll work on your forward-looking ideas that need the right expertise — just like our innovation partnerships with Digital Services Georgia and Nestlé Purina North America — and map out your digital future.

Preston So, Acquia

Preston So

Director of Research and Innovation Acquia

Preston So has been a web developer and designer since 2001, a creative professional since 2004, and a Drupal developer since 2007. As Director of Research and Innovation at Acquia, Preston leads Acquia Labs and new open-source and research initiatives. Previously, he managed the Entertainment Weekly website, led its development team at Time Inc., co-founded the Southern Colorado Drupal User Group (est. 2008), and operated an award-winning web and print design studio. Preston has presented at conferences on four continents and in multiple languages about diverse topics such as decoupled Drupal, responsive design, front-end development, and user experience. Most recently, Preston presented the keynotes at DrupalCamp Connecticut 2016 and, in Portuguese, at DrupalCamp Campinas 2016 in Brazil.

"Working at Acquia allows me to contribute back to an open source community I love deeply," he said.