- Merrell, the outdoor and hiking brand owned by shoemaking giant Wolverine Worldwide, this week released voice-powered apps for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to help people find nearby hiking trails, according to an announcement.
- The hiking trail information includes difficulty ratings and directions, which can be sent in a text for later reference outside cell service areas. Users can activate the Merrell "skill" for Alexa and "action" for Assistant, as their respective voice-powered apps are called, on any smart home device that has the virtual assistants installed.
- Merrell's skill is available in the Alexa mobile app and skill store, while the action can be found in the Google Assistant app and online store. The brand worked with conversational experience platform Voicify to create the voice-powered apps that demonstrate its authority on outdoor activities like hiking.
Merrell's voice-powered apps that provide information about hiking trails aim to immerse Alexa and Google Assistant users in a conversational experience that demonstrates the brand's authority on outdoor activities. Merrell can potentially reach the millions of people who use virtual assistants on smartphones and smart home devices or in their cars. The company plans to expand the experience to include customer support and voice commerce, per its announcement.
Hiking has become more popular as people seek outdoor activities that provide ample room for social distancing. Trail usage has tripled in U.S. cities since the onset of the pandemic, according to American Hiking Society data cited by The Cut. Merrell can take advantage of that trend by expanding its presence on mobile and voice platforms.
With many people stuck indoors during the pandemic, use of smart speakers has grown, giving brands a chance to reach consumers with voice-powered platforms. Several brands have created voice experiences to connect with families at home, such as snack brand MoonPie, which in May introduced a voice-powered app for Amazon Alexa that acts as a virtual roommate. Other companies have developed their own virtual assistants to provide customer service, including U.S. Bank and Bank of America, to connect with customers during the pandemic that's driving many people to avoid in-store visits.
Meanwhile, technology giants that make virtual assistants are expanding their features to provide a broader range of services. Google this month will integrate its digital reading tutor Rivet with Google Assistant amid the surging demand for home education technology, a move that follows Amazon's introduction of an Alexa feature called Reading Sidekick for kids, Voicebot.ai reported. Samsung, on the other hand, this month will end support for Bixby Vision, the augmented reality (AR) feature in its Bixby virtual assistant, Android Police reported.