Interview with Linden Tibbets, CEO of IFTTT

As part of our newly launched research, Tech Trends Set To Transform The Insight Industry, we spoke to the founders of leading-edge tech startups to hear about the key developments reshaping our world.

One of these is Linden Tibbets, the CEO and Co-Founder of IFTTT (if this, then that). Here at Decidedly we’re huge fans of IFTTT, a service that allows your apps and devices talk to one another. So we were delighted to have the chance to catch up with Linden to talk all things voice.

Q: Thanks so much for chatting to us today. Voice, first in the form of voice assistants and now on smart speakers, has seen a great deal of early success. Why do you think this is?

A: Well, voice, in many ways, is the most intuitive and most human interface. It’s one of the first things we learn. Because it’s so fundamental to the way in which humans interact with their world today. It’s just such an easy bet to make, that humans will want to interact with your brand and service through voice. It’s almost a no brainer.

Q: What’s your assessment of current state of play for voice? There’s been a great deal of hype around the technology but how developed is this trend?

A: Well, it’s an incredibly fast learning category! For me, it’s one of the categories that has made other connected devices in the home begin to make more sense for consumers. If you’re able to control something with your voice, that kind of value-add allows for a whole new set of categories to emerge.

But at the same time, I think in the rush to crown what’s next, I think we’ve unfairly done that to voice assistance, perhaps a little too early. Of course, voice is going to be a critically important new way in which people interact with software, the internet and technology but I think we’ve got another couple of years before we see mass adoption, so I think we need to temper expectations a little bit.

Q: How do you see this developing in future? Is voice going to be the dominant way in which we interact with technology?

A: No. I see voice as being part of an increasingly multi-modal way of interacting with technology. I think we’re going move towards seamlessly switching between the different ways of interacting, rather than voice taking over. Certainly, I don’t think voice is going to replace the way we interact with smart phones anytime soon.

Q: Amazon, Google and Apple’s forays into voice have received a great deal of attention in the media. But are there any other voice assistants that you think we should be watching out for in the coming years?

A: Well every major consumer tech company, and even some of the smaller ones, are working to understand, if should they make that play. You’ve got Samsung with Bixby, Microsoft with Cortana … My thinking is that with voice, we’re going to have a scenario where there’s a number of key players. Because of this, I think it’s pretty safe to say that you don’t have to put all your eggs in one basket – it’s actually better to make multiple bets over time, particularly because each one of these massive consumer technology companies has a very different set of strengths and weaknesses.

I think one of the things that makes Amazon Alexa so attractive is just how strong Amazon is in commerce. We see the Google Assistant really working hard to compensate by doing deals with Wal-Mart and Target and others, because they understand that that commerce piece is going to be one of the killer applications for voice.

It’s also really interesting to think about what is Apple doing that ends up being unique in some way to Amazon and Google. And what is Samsung doing?

And then there’s Microsoft. They’re going to able to offer a range of unique capabilities due their business footprint. Everybody’s still using Windows and Office so you can bet that Cortana is going to work really well with these, in a way that other players just won’t be able to capitalise upon.

Q: IFTTT has a number of voice assistants on its platform – Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Jibo, Invoxia Triby and as of this month Microsoft’s Cortana. How are you seeing people IFTTT to interact with these assistants?

A: We’re seeing a whole range of use cases from adding items to your to-do-list to calling your phone to find it. Another popular use case is that for every song a consumer plays on their Amazon Alexa, they usually keep a playlist of that on Spotify which I think is really cool.

Interestingly enough, a lot of those things, can increasingly be found on these assistance platforms themselves. These technology players are trying to create their own ecosystem, but at the same time, we’re seeing lots of consumers wanting to tweak that to create their own way of doing something: their own kind of keyword, their own trigger word, their own specific outcome, so IFTTT gives them more flexibility.

Q: Thanks so much for talking the time to speak to us today Linden – it’s been really insightful. Finally, what advice would you give to brands looking to take advantage of voice?

A: Right now, voice is largely a nice-to-have, a cool, innovative, hip thing to do. But if it switches to a must have, what does that either replace or supplant or change, about how your customers are currently interacting with your services? That’s the question that I think everyone is racing to figure out, so I think one of the easiest ways to begin to answer that question for your own business is to put your toe in the water, actually give it a try, and begin to learn. Even if you’re not all in, you can afford to try it, to get plugged in – you should.

If you’d like to find out more about voice, or hear more from the tech experts we spoke to as part of this research, download our latest report: Tech Trends Set To Transform The Insight Industry.