Case Study

Omnichannel strategy and voice apps, with Giallo Zafferano

As Alexa and Google Assistant have spread out in the last couple of years, brands and users have been gradually introduced to voice applications, known respectively as Alexa Skills and Google Actions.

With over 15 million unique users per month on their website and over one million mobile app downloads, Giallo Zafferano is one of the most successful digital products to be launched in Italy. 

Initially, the website was created in 2006 by Sonia Peronaci from her passion for cooking and divulging simple yet tasty recipes. As its audience grew, Giallo Zafferano was eventually acquired by Gruppo Mondadori, one of the biggest Italian editing houses and media companies, and developed into a magazine and a mobile app.

In 2018, Giallo Zafferano decided to broaden their mission of helping Italians in the kitchen, introducing a custom voice app for both Alexa and Google Assistant. With vocal step-by-step commands, the function of the voice app is to guide users throughout the preparation of recipes, without having to take their hands off what they are cooking.

The numbers speak for themselves: in 2020 alone, the Skill registered over 5 million recipe requests via voice commands, with a peak during the lockdown period in Italy.

This goes to show how, within an omnichannel strategy, a voice app can play a crucial strategic role. But, how can mobile apps and voice apps complement each other?

In our first SpeakEasy event, we discussed some custom solutions that both Amazon and Google offer as well as some of the most interesting global case studies. Together with Fabio Garigiola, Business Development Manager at Gruppo Mondadori, we have tackled the success case of the voice apps they have developed for Giallo Zafferano.

Let’s take a step back to understand what is meant by voice apps and which are the different ways they can be integrated with mobile technology.

What are voice applications?

The easiest way to understand what voice apps are is to think about how smartphones work.

In the smartphone arena, there are two major ecosystems: iOS for Apple devices and Google for Android devices. Each environment has its own store where users can download apps that offer added functionalities and contribute to making our devices more useful.

Something similar happens in the world of voice technology. There are two main players: Amazon with Alexa and Google with Google Assistant. In the same way Apple and Android devices have distinct app stores, Amazon and Google each have their own stores where users can get access to voice apps from.

Voice apps you interact with through Alexa are called Skills, whereas on Google voice apps are known as Actions. Similarly to mobile apps, voice apps allow users to add functionalities of any kind to their device: from entertainment and trivia to productivity and listening to the latest news.

How can users interact with voice apps through their own Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant? To open up a Skill or an Action, they merely need to evoke the name of the voice application they want to access. For example, the user can say “Alexa, open Question of the Day” or “Hey Google, talk to FordPass”.

Omnichannel digital strategy: mobile and voice

One of the major trends emerging in the last couple of years is the implementation of omnichannel digital strategies, where different user interfaces (such as desktop, mobile, voice) converge and interact with each other. As voice technology has spread, both Amazon and Google have developed solutions to facilitate the convergence of mobile and voice technology.

As users slowly start to identify voice interfaces as better suited to respond to on-the-go situations or whenever their hands are busy, there are still situations where mobile apps can be useful, as in the case of a crowded train.

At the moment, there are two different ways to connect Alexa or Google Assistant with the features of an existing mobile app:

  • the first and most basic one, which we refer to as “voice as trigger”;
  • the second one, aiming to offer a more “complete voice experience”.

Voice as trigger: integrating mobile apps and voice assistants

The “voice as trigger” solution is the simplest way for brands that already have a mobile app but are not ready yet to create a voice app in its own right.

This modality is made possible through Alexa for Apps and Google App Actions and allows users to access some functionalities of a mobile app through voice. From a user’s perspective, App Actions and Alexa for Apps behave like shortcuts to specific functionalities in a mobile app.

A good example of how voice can streamline the experience is Adidas Running, whose mobile app usually requires numerous steps to complete a certain activity, like for example starting a run. Thanks to the App Action, Adidas allows users to open the app and start tracking their run by simply saying “Hey Google, track my run with adidas Running”.

Complete voice experience: custom Alexa Skill or custom Google Action

The second way to connect, or expand, a mobile app with a voice interface is the creation of a custom voice application that allows users to have a complete hands-free experience.

Creating a custom Alexa Skill or Google Action, a brand will allow users to take advantage of the features of its mobile app - or even additional ones - through a new channel: voice. 

Examples of this solution include the Skills and Actions to follow Headspace meditations and those of Giallo Zafferano, which guide users in the preparation of recipes.

With Fabio Garigiola, Business Development Manager at Gruppo Mondadori, we have looked into the development of Giallo Zafferano voice apps (Skill and Action).

The success story: the Giallo Zafferano voice app

With over 5.5 million registered searches in the last year, the Giallo Zafferano voice app is surely one of the most evident success stories on the Italian market.

Launched in 2018, the same year Alexa devices first landed in Italy, the voice interface has required the brand to invest their efforts in terms of development and people involved. Everything started from a reflection on their customer journey, which, as Fabio underlined, you cannot leave aside when trying to understand the context the voice app will exist in.

As Business Development Manager, Fabio has highlighted some fundamental aspects to reflect on when a brand decides to develop its presence on voice platforms, like:

  • the importance of being the first result in response to a query, as being one of the first cannot suffice, as was the case for traditional search engines;
  • the concept of continuous development based on user feedback;
  • the necessity of customizing already available content to adapt it to vocal fruition. For example, the team at Giallo Zafferano rewrote the recipes they wanted to make available through voice to make them more apt for a conversational experience. The goal, Fabio revealed, is to make users feel like they have their grandma on the phone, telling them how to prepare the recipe;
  • the “make or buy” choice and the awareness of how unique and complex voice technology can be. For the Giallo Zafferano Skill and Action to become the succesful product they are today, a whole team devoted to the voice application was created in Gruppo Mondadori. Fabio underlined the importance of voice-specific expertise when dealing with some of the complexities implied in the development of a voice strategy, suggesting that external guidance might be needed in firms that are not able to internalize the required competences.

Inspired to explore a voice-forward strategy for your company? We can help.

Feel free to spill out all your conversation-related needs and ideas via voice message or good old email.

And if you’re still hungry for knowledge, follow us on LinkedIn for weekly updates on the world of conversational AI, or check out our 101 guide to voice marketing.

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