This past holiday season was the year of giving and getting virtual personal assistants. While it may have seemed like a “what on Earth” gift when you unwrapped it, it might just be the handiest tool in your 2017 toolbox.

Virtual personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa are changing the way we interact with technology in ways that would make the Jetsons proud. From the laughable prototypes released in 2014 that were expected to have similar actions to that of Siri, virtual personal assistants have come a long way and are paving the smart, automated way for your business or residence.

How It Works

Here’s a brief rundown on how exactly Alexa does it. Amazon’s virtual personal assistant is channeled through the Echo and it is designed to make everyday life run smoother in the way of “skills”. Alexa’s “skills” are functions that owners are able to activate in order to do tasks like turn the lights on and off, find out what’s on TV, make lists, and even turn your car on when it’s too cold to do it yourself.

While it sounds like an easier way for big brother to watch, Alexa is actually only operational when manually linked to devices. According to Amazon’s train of thought, this will eliminate any unnecessary invasions of privacy that could occur. Whether that is true or not, Alexa is programed to be operational with 7,000 skills up her sleeve (and counting) so she can help make life easier for her person.

Check out some of her best skills here: Best Alexa Skills You Must Have For Your Amazon Echo

Alexa’s Affect On Business

So far, virtual personal assistants have been primarily used as a fun at home activity, but as the technology continues to unfold, it might just become a future business tool. Alexa’s skills can easily be transferred into the dynamic of a workplace to keep the day-to-day to do’s at bay. Already, business owners are able to use Alexa to do tasks from ordering new supplies to starting up a conference call and even dimming the lights for a presentation. As fun and exciting as it may be, it also rings the important question, how will businesses, especially small businesses, be affected by the influx of virtual assistants?

virtual personal assistantsAs you may have guessed, when asking Alexa to order supplies she is programmed to order them from Amazon directly, and while that is convenient for the business owner, it may not be as convenient for the local office supply store. The same goes for any business that is not yet compatible with the Alexa programs, therefore we may just see a huge spike in Amazon profits, while small local businesses are left in the dust. This could become a problem as more and more businesses rely on virtual personal assistant and less and less local businesses are able to become compatible with Alexa’s skill sets.

To make matters a little dimmer, Alexa and other virtual personal assistants have the power to affect the way we do SEO. When you type “best coffee in town” into Google you’ll come up with an endless list of coffee shops along with an entire page of website links that may or may not spark your interest. This is key for companies trying to get their name out there through the use of SEO. With new technology like Alexa, consumers can just ask the device what the best coffee shop is and the assistant will tell them based on the top Yelp rankings. This is an amazing feat for the consumer, but a challenging task for SEO developers.

If the use of virtual personal assistants really does catch on and become the future of smart technology, small businesses are going to have to scramble to compete with the Amazon conglomerate which is working hard to expand it’s empire. That is, unless Amazon attempts to develop the Alexa programming to become easily compatible with small businesses. All the while SEO developers will have to pivot their strategies utilizing new tactics to reach their target market.