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How the Yahoo! JAPAN Smart Devices Team is improving voice user interfaces with Amazon QuickSight business intelligence | Amazon Web Services

This is a guest blog post by Kazuhide Fujita, Product Manager at Yahoo! JAPAN.

Yahoo! JAPAN is a large internet search and media company, with Yahoo! JAPAN’s web portal being the one of the most commonly used websites in Japan. Our smart devices team is responsible for building and improving Yahoo! JAPAN apps for voice user interfaces (VUI) such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. We see VUI as a market that will grow exponentially in the future, and we want to be ready to lead the consumer experience with such devices. In this post, I discuss how we’re using Amazon QuickSight business intelligence (BI) to help our product teams improve these services.

Enhanced access to insights at lower cost

To continuously improve our services, we use data to understand how consumers are interacting with the software and to identify growth trends. However, the data we get directly from smart device makers is limited. So, we built our own log system to capture more granular data, such as the types of commands customers are using, the time of day they use the application, and how frequently they use it.

Early on, we used Amazon Elasticsearch Service (Amazon ES) and Kibana to analyze data. Although this solution was very capable, it came at a higher price point than we were targeting. Another option was to export data directly to Microsoft Excel for ad hoc analysis. However, this was very time consuming and limited us to working with extracts of historical data rather than the latest information.

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We decided to look for a solution that would suit the full spectrum of our needs while being cost-effective for our specific use case. While we were searching, our data team made the decision to standardize on a data lake architecture using Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and Amazon Athena. This approach provided a high level of flexibility and scalability. To visualize our data, it made sense to use QuickSight, the serverless BI solution with pay-per-session pricing on AWS.

Unifying data to understand customers better

This system has proven to be a good fit for our needs. The data lake allows us to accumulate different types of data from monitoring many KPIs and VUI products. For example, we might want to know the number of active users over a given period, and then drill down into how active those users were in the 2 weeks from when they registered. The data lake makes this possible. It’s easy to maintain even though the data is very diverse. For aggregating and performing calculations on the data, we use Athena because it provides optimal performance for complex queries thanks to the distributed computing model.

For ad hoc analysis, dashboards, and reporting, QuickSight connects seamlessly to our data lake. QuickSight makes it easy to view trends in customer behavior such as the time of usage, method of interaction, typical settings, and so on. The following screenshot shows a sample dashboard in QuickSight.

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For example, the default wake word for Alexa-powered devices is to say the name of the voice assistant: “Hey, Alexa.” However, Japanese customers may prefer to say “ohayō,” which means “good morning” in Japanese. Which setting customers prefer could be an important trend for us to know when we configure our offerings. With QuickSight, it’s easy to compare trends for this type of behavior across other user characteristics.

This is only one small example of the kinds of insights we glean by using QuickSight. Another use case is regarding initiatives to increase product usage through marketing or incentives. We can track the outcome of these programs using QuickSight by tracking whether they result in an uptick in usage relative to the communications we send out.

The freedom to focus on what matters to the business

One of the big advantages of using QuickSight and other AWS services is that we don’t have to worry about maintaining on-premises systems for our data lake and analytics. It’s easy to manage and we can focus on gaining insights and improving our products—not running data center infrastructure. Building our end-to-end data-to-insights pipeline on AWS ensures that we can easily apply security and governance policies to all our data.

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Overall, QuickSight provides us with the flexibility to analyze all kinds of data quickly, so we can aim to be the market leader in the VUI marketplace. We’re excited to see what the future holds for this powerful tool—and to apply the knowledge we gain to improving our services.


About the Author

Kazuhide Fujita is the Skill Team Product Manager, Smart Device Division, at Yahoo Japan Corporation

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