That Didn’t Take Long! Siri-based Comparison Shopping Adds Best Buy Catalog
It’s quickly becoming apparent that Conversational Commerce and Recombinant Communications are inextricably intertwine. (Try saying that five times fast). We’re in month 2 of Siri’s beta release on Apple’s iPhone 4S and we’re already witnessing how the service will improve as a product of natural selection, gradual upgrades, augmentation and evolution. As a case in point, spoken queries to Siri regarding electronic gadgets, appliances, games and computers will result in a display of responses that include the the SKUs (stock keeping units) in Best Buy’s catalog.
You can find coverage of the phenomenon in dozens of tech publications today, but they seem to trace back to this post on the Apple-centric tech blog called RazorianFly.com. According to the post, the enhancement is very much the result of Wolfram Alpha (an answer-oriented search engine that is integrated into Siri’s search results) integrating with Best Buy’s product database through BestBuy.com’s API. Or, as more than one tech blog put it, Siri now returns the same errors as a search on Wolfram Alpha.
As Shaylin Clark at WebProNews explains in the post above, as a “computational engine” oriented toward asking questions, Wolfram Alpha can be quirky (he calls it “finicky”). But putting speech-based access to comparison shopping that includes Best Buy’s inventory marks progress, even if the results are not always optimal. The point is that end-users are gaining experience with the service. They are learning what it is good at and where it fails.
My empirical observation is that people are being much more patient with Siri than they had been with prior renditions of voice-based “assistants” (like Wildfire, HeyAnita or Webley). One reason is that the service is faster, better, more robust and capable of doing more things than its predecessors. There’s more knowledge in the databases that comprise its available knowledge (heck, it defaults to a search on Google, but it has maps, online music and Wolfram Alpha to bring to bear). It’s very early days and Siri is bound to get better. And it will inspire competing services from Google, Microsoft/Tellme, Amazon, Nuance, Vlingo and a handful of others. Each will add new features, functions, information and APIs to differentiate their services and deliver a better customer experience.
At this point Apple has taken a leadership position by coming to market with a service that’s instantiated as an embedded application that recognizes utterances accurately; determines context and meaning; and then has meaningful integrations with a broad range of knowledge bases so that it starts by recognizing intent and finishes by delivering relevant results. The truly exciting aspect to this is that the the services from Apple and its competitors will continue to evolve and get better.