Omni-Channel Platforms: Booking Gig Tickets with Alexa, Apps & Web.
Omni-channel experiences can unify digital platforms to create a more cohesive user-journey and provide a unique experience with brands. I wanted to explore digital strategies by developing an omni-channel ticket-booking system that utilises the latest trends in voice and mobile app technology.
What inspired me to explore omni-channel platforms?
When it comes to deciding on the best platform to reach users on, many get swept up in the excitement of new technologies like voice and Alexa, while others prefer to stick to the more traditional channels like websites and apps.
New voice and mobile technologies are creating opportunities for brands to adopt an omni-channel approach to their digital strategy. Using all of the platforms mentioned above to create touch points that are far more intuitive and engaging for their audience to use.
The challenge to this approach is effectively using each channel at different stages throughout the user journey. Letting users chose the platform they want to use, rather than just stumbling across your website, app or Alexa Skill after they’ve bought their latest device.
Designing a journey across mobile apps & Alexa Skills:
Innovation Time is an initiative that dedicates 15% of our team’s time to explore emerging technology and solve problems they’re passionate about. I wanted to spend my week figuring out how we can combat the limitations around existing platforms, by combining two of my biggest passions: music and technology.
Which problems could this project solve?
1. With all the benefits of Alexa and voice assistants considered, there are still no visual capabilities, which could be easily solved if a mobile app could operate in real-time along with the Alexa Skill.
2. A huge issue facing the wide-adoption of Alexa Skills is the lack of trust audiences today have around voice-enabled devices. Rather than forcing them to give personal information, they could be offered an alternative platform to make payments on.
3. Different types of content and communication require different channel and platforms to make sure users engage with your brand and don’t find your messages annoying, irritating or intrusive.
The SoundCheck platform is an omni-channel service that lets users search, select and purchase music event tickets from Ticketmaster. The platform uses various technologies allow users to engage with different channels, including:
An Alexa Skill with search functionality
A mobile app with listing pages and a chatbot
An website with user profiles and payment processing
What makes this approach omni-channel?
The SoundCheck platform allows users to pick up their journey across all three touch points, meaning that they can pick up any stage in the process (finding gigs/booking tickets/making payments), on any of the platforms provided (the Alexa Skill, mobile app and website).
What does SoundCheck do?
1. Finding gigs on the Alexa Skill:
Users can start their journey using any Alexa-enabled device, like the Echo Dot. After opening the Skill with the invocation, users can search for various artists, genres and upcoming gigs in their area. SoundCheck will send results or listings to the mobile app, so users can pick their journey back up on a more suitable platform (providing visual content).
2. Browsing results on the mobile app:
Once users have made a request on SoundCheck, their results are served on the mobile app (avoiding Alexa reading out hours of gig information), these results are based on the parameters used during the search, including different genres of music, locations/areas and dates that gigs are happening.
3. Making payments on the website:
After selecting the gig that users want to attend, their tickets are added to their basket, because the system is set-up with individual profiles, users can process the payment on different platforms, as well as having the option to go back to previous steps in their journey on either the app, website or Alexa Skill.
How do you develop an omni-channel platform?
The first task when developing the service was to break down the simple user journey into key stages, which must be completed in sequence:
Select event genre and date
Select event from search results
Purchase event tickets
The platform keeps record of the “state” of the user’s journey through the process as each stage is completed so it may be later resumed, perhaps on another device or platform.
As each stage is completed, key details are stored, such as search criteria, selected events and purchased items. Which required the system to identify individual users on various channels, using Amazon Cognito as the user identity provider.
Hosting the platform on AWS:
AWS Lambda allowed us to set up the platform so that code can be run without the need for provisioning or managing servers. AWS Amplify also allowed us to create, configure and implement scalability into the mobile app, meaning we could use a simple framework that connected the back-end and front-end across Android and iOS devices.
To make sure that the system could operate in a way which allowed users to pick up different stages on different channels, we used AWS Step Functions to design workflows across all three platforms, while the AWS Appsync GraphQL service offered real-time updates and built-in offline support.
Developing touch points throughout the user journey:
The React-Native mobile app:
The app itself was developed in React-Native and React.JS, so that different versions of the app on Android and iOS devices all share the same code-base. This not only meant we could save on time and resources, but also ensured that the system would work effectively no matter which channel the user is engaging with.
The VUI (Voice User Interface):
Luckily the Alexa Skill Kit does a lot of the hard work in the background, meaning that the complexities of designing the VUI was far simpler as synonyms, intents and other ways of phrasing the same sentence could all be recognised by the system. Amazon Lex also meant we could design these conversational interfaces into any application using voice and text (like the chatbot), which is powered by the same deep learning software.
The future of voice in omni-channel digital platforms:
We’re seeing more and more brands adopt an omni-channel digital strategy in the world of apps and Alexa Skills, harnessing the benefits of both platforms to create a unified user-journey and cohesive experience with their brand. There are huge opportunities for developers and brands alike to use emerging tech like Alexa Skills to implement this approach in more effective ways:
Consumer behaviour & technology adoption:
According to a report by TechCrunch, nearly one in five US adults have access to a smart speaker at home, meaning that the growth of smart-speaker adoption has grown to 47.3 trillion US adults in two years alone, which equates to 20% of the US population. This incredible growth can only be credited to the implementation of the technology, like with most disruptive tech, voice-enabled devices need to be readily and easily available for anyone and everyone, meaning with the increase in brands and devices that all range in price and features, this trend is showing no signs of slowing down.
The growing list of Alexa-enabled devices:
The reach of Alexa is vast beyond smart speakers and home assistants, from car radio systems to thermostats, bedding and home security systems, the list of devices that use Alexa technology now encompasses a huge range of user experiences, however, one of the biggest opportunities in this area lies in one of the simplest devices; smart plugs. These plugs, as simple as they are, mean that any normal (non-smart) hardware can be turned into an Alexa-enabled device, such as lighting, fans, heaters and other socket-based appliances.
The rise of voice technology, and Alexa in particular, means that developers are now able to use a much larger range of hardware and devices, all of which suit different groups of consumers.
Kevin Borrill, front-end developer, 3 Sided Cube
Advancements in artificial intelligence & machine learning:
We’ve come a long way in enabling machines to take over the world. In the realm of artificial intelligence, developers now have access to software like Wit.ai, that can not only understand human conversations, but also the intent behind the actions and ways to communicate in a more natural way. Alexa Skills in particular can now be trained to mirror natural speech patterns and learn from interactions with individual users, creating more personal and unique experiences with communities that engage with your brand.
If Alexa Skills and mobile apps could be the key to unlocking your omni-channel strategy, get in touch with our team or find out a bit more about us.
Published on December 13, 2018, last updated on January 11, 2019