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Alexa in Effect at Marketing Nation Summit

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David Haas
David Haas

Director, Technology Solutions


How Marketo partnered with Amazon and Freeman to bring intelligent voice response to attendees

Intelligent voice services are poised to be a game-changer, not just in our lives, but in our industry, thanks to the advent of smart, interactive voice-activated services. This technology is still in its infancy, but companies like Amazon are rapidly bringing it to the mainstream. Amazon’s interactive Alexa voice service, available via connected devices like the Echo, Dot, and Tap, allows users to access “skills” that can answer questions, make Amazon orders, interface with other apps, and even help manage and control a smart home.

In the event space, this technology holds so much promise. Voice response could run the gamut from providing intelligent virtual concierge services — guiding attendees who ask “Alexa, what’s going on right now?” to sessions, meetups, and more — to handling mundane requests — answering “Alexa, where’s the bathroom?” for attendees trying to find their way around the event. This could be used across all types of events in the future to provide a fun, engaging experience for attendees, while providing event owners with another option for sponsorship visibility along with valuable data about what’s on the minds of attendees.

This week, Marketo displayed the future in action by teaming up with Amazon to introduce a customized, Alexa-powered skill at its Marketing Nation Summit, held in San Francisco. Last week, Amazon’s Lex, the technology behind Alexa that allows for building conversational applications via voice or text, was opened up to developers, and its abilities were shown off to thousands of attendees at Marketing Nation Summit.

Amazon development teams worked directly with Marketo and Freeman’s digital team to first create a list of common event questions (like, “Where’s the general session?” or “Where can I take an Uber?”). Then the custom skill was created using Alexa’s natural speech language translation platform to provide intelligent dialogue, randomized responses to  requests like “Tell me a fun fact about Marketo!”, and iterative conversation. Marketo provided whimsical responses to questions that were informative, but made attendees laugh and smile.

Fifteen Amazon Echo devices were set up throughout the Moscone Center to act as intelligent information stations, with the most frequently used located on the exhibitor floor and upstairs session areas. To help things run smoothly, brand ambassadors were also on hand to help guide and encourage attendees, and table tents next to each device provided attendees with  lists of sample questions to get them started.

The response to the Alexa experience? Phenomenal. Attendees began approaching the stations right away to ask multiple questions at a time, finding out what they needed to know and having a little fun in the process. During the first two days, the Echo units received over 500 Alexa requests.

So what was the most-asked question at Marketing Nation Summit? “Alexa, ask Marketo, where’s the coffee?”

That’s an attendee priority if we’ve ever seen one.

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