Feature Deep Dive: Contact Permissions
Updated: Mar 3
As Voice technology develops, user control is a natural question that arises frequently. We all saw this conundrum personified during the 2019 Super Bowl Alexa commercial as Harrison Ford’s Amazon ordering permissions were comically overridden right under his nose - by his dog.
While it may be funny to image outlandish instances like these as Voice continues to develop, users have all the control when it comes to their personal information stored in their Amazon accounts. Amazon offers a rich suite of permissions that users can release to skill developers, including location, list read/write, and contact permissions.
Contact Permissions in particular is a very useful feature that allows users to consent to giving a specific skill the permission to access phone numbers or email addresses. As you can image, Contact Permissions can be important for everyone involved.
This feature is a huge benefit for brands because it gives them the ability to reach users off the platform in their phones, inboxes, etc. This offers a few values. First, it takes the conversation off the platform to create an omni-channel communication funnel. Secondly, it can deliver rich content that may not be suitable for Voice. Lastly, it can generate leads for newsletters, subscriptions, or commerce.
Contact Permissions is a helpful feature for users as well because it enhances the seamless Voice experience. Allowing skills access to user phone or email eliminates the need to sync to an outside account i.e. an Uber or Open Table to complete an experience. For example, users can make a reservation, request or purchase then receive a confirmation email or text because they have opted into this permission.
Still, with great power comes great responsibility and brands will have to use this feature carefully. Email spam is a problem that plagues many inboxes already but Amazon is removing this temptation for brands by enforcing strict user protection rules. Accounts can only use the information as permitted by the users and developer actions must be in line with the privacy laws. If a brand’s skill falls short of any of Amazon’s several requirements, the company will step in to reject or suspend the use of this feature.
Even so, users have full control of this feature because they must make the choice to opt into this permission and share their information. Consequently, they also have the power to turn off permissions at any moment.
The future impact of Contacts Permissions is not yet set in stone since the feature just recently came out of its beta stage and can still be improved. For example, users can’t currently give permissions solely through Voice so they need to go into the Alexa app and click that permission manually. As a result, Contacts Permissions is a bit frictioned, and in a platform that thrives on frictionless value, there is some work to be done in the feature offering.
Despite room for improvement, the feature may prove to be incredibly important for Voice driven marketing and commerce. While some of the steps need to be smoothed out before it will impactful at scale, this is a feature to watch and the promise of what it can become is exciting.