voice-enabled navigation
Sep 01, 2020
7 MIN READ

How Brands are Reducing Navigational Complexity in Mobile Apps with Voice AI

Mobile phone usage has increased significantly in the first half of 2020, up 20% from the same time a year ago. In addition, worldwide app store consumer spending grew by 10%, according to a recent study by App Annie. The report focuses on the impact of COVID-19 on mobile app use and noted that e-commerce’s meteoric rise on mobile in the first 6 months of 2020 would have normally taken 4 to 6 years in a pre-COVID world.

The rapid adoption of mobile apps and the increase in mobile use overall has been linked to the changes in our daily lives. In the last 6 months, people all over the world have had the time and motivation to use their phones more often and for more purposes, including shopping, gaming, payments, getting information like news and recipes, and interacting with their favorite brands.

As more and more users access a growing number of mobile apps, expectations for ease-of-use will also rise. If user interactions with mobile apps aren’t convenient and frictionless, customers will soon be turning to competing brands that are not only mobile-first, but also voice-enabled.

Voice-enabled mobile apps increase functionality without causing the frustration associated with navigating complicated, multi-layered menus coupled with type, swipe, and tap interfaces. Voice user interfaces (VUIs) give brands the flexibility to offer more utility, and provide customers with the freedom and capacity to easily ask for the things they want—even without knowing exactly what they’re called or where to find them in a menu.

Voice-enabled mobile apps increase functionality without causing the frustrations associated with navigating detailed menus with type, swipe, and tap interfaces. 

Mobile usage trends are creating consumer habits that will translate into more time and money spent on mobile apps. Brands hoping to capitalize on the mobile-first movement will want to prioritize next-generation voice AI technologies to ensure the best user experience possible—beginning with eliminating the frustration associated with mobile app navigation.

Here are 5 ways to reduce navigational complexity and increase engagement with voice-enabled mobile apps:

1. Offer more functionality and choice

The report by App Annie found that consumers worldwide spent 1.6 trillion hours on their phones in the first half of 2020. Trends in mobile phone use indicate a significant opportunity for brands to increase customer engagement through their mobile apps—but only if those apps have enough functionality to deliver what the user is hoping to achieve.

One of the greatest challenges for brands with mobile apps is finding the balance between designing a simple user interface and including enough features to give users all the functionality they want and need. Even with the best UX, every time a new feature is added another level to the navigation is also added—making it harder for users to get the results they want. Oftentimes, developers are forced to eliminate one feature to make room for another and risk removing a popular feature.

Trends in mobile phone use indicate a significant opportunity for brands to increase customer engagement through mobile apps—but only if those apps have enough functionality to deliver what the user is hoping to achieve.

The addition of a voice assistant eliminates the need for brands to make a  choice between a seamless interface and a robust menu of features and functions. Since a voice assistant doesn’t take up any screen real estate, your customers can have access to more of your services and access them faster without the need to perform a series of types and swipes on a phone screen.

2. Create meaningful conversations

Advancements in natural language processing (NLU/NLP) allow users to make compound requests—like “Show me high heel shoes, in red, size 7, peep toe for under $50“—just by asking for things like they’d speak to another person. Using a voice user interface, users can easily narrow their results by simply stating their preferences for size, color, brand, or any number of other specifications. 

Asking questions and getting account information is simpler and faster when the user can ask for things in the same way they would talk to an agent or a sales person. 

In the past, voice interfaces required users to learn the language of the app, creating friction and frustration. That’s all changed. In recent years, Speech-to-Meaning® and other advanced voice AI technologies have eliminated the need for users to use rigid and prescribed language. 

In the past, voice interfaces required users to learn the language of the app, creating friction and frustration. That’s all changed.

The most advanced voice AI platforms today are delivering truly conversational interfaces that understand what your users are saying based on the context of the request—completely eliminating the need for your customers to learn specific commands to access your products and services.

3. View things from the user’s perspective

As a brand, you know what you want to accomplish with a mobile app, and good UX design requires understanding the goals and desires of your customers and prospects. Sometimes, a physical interface just isn’t enough to meet those needs. Implementing an engaging and effective voice assistant provides a way to deepen user engagement by responding to more user needs.

The popularity of mobile devices is driven in part by their ability to go anywhere and provide computing functions anytime. Voice AI is furthering the convenience of these pocket computers by offering hands-free search and navigation capabilities with seamless and frustration-free navigation. 

Implementing an engaging and effective voice assistant provides a way to deepen user engagement by responding to more user needs.

Now, users can not only access your products and services while on the run, they don’t necessarily need their hands and eyes to get the information they seek. Knowing who your customers are, where they will be when they access your mobile app, and what kinds of questions they will be asking are all components that go into developing a conversational interface.

Designed with the user in mind, the voice assistant becomes the guide that leads consumers through your offerings and can work in tandem with the phone screen to deliver a multi-modal interface that combines audio and visual responses. 

Knowing who your users are includes knowing their geographic location, and the languages they speak. Even in the U.S., not everyone who speaks the same language has the same accent. Add to that, multiple languages and a global economy and suddenly your mobile app needs to have an interface that isn’t constrained by language.

Depending on your audience and your reach, having a voice user interface that speaks the language of your users is critical to your roadmap. Regardless of whether your services are U.S. only or not, your voice-enabled mobile app must certainly be able to respond accurately in the presence of accented language. 

Keeping the user’s perspective in mind includes knowing their context, environment and language choice, and implementing a voice user interface that can respond accurately every time. 

4. Use your data to improve experiences

Customer data is the holy grail of enterprises. It’s essential for understanding your audiences, their needs and desires, how your product or services meet those goals, how they don’t, and how you compare to the competition. Getting timely insights on who your customers are, their preferences, and their habits is key to creating the level of personalization consumers have grown to expect.

The right voice user interface can provide brands with valuable data to help improve customer experiences and to personalize those interactions—significantly growing engagement. You probably already know which of your products are the most popular and which FAQs are the most frequent. What you don’t know is which questions aren’t being answered and which products your customers are seeking, but aren’t able to find.

Getting timely insights on who your customers are, their preferences, and their habits is key to creating the level of personalization consumers have grown to expect.

Using the data you collect from your voice-enabled mobile app, you can get insights into where to expand your product line and which services you can provide to better satisfy your customers and prospects.

Beyond the global data you’ll acquire, you can help individual users narrow search results and make suggestions based on previous requests. Using a voice assistant, your mobile app can become your most valued sales representative or customer service employee. 

5. Amplify your brand message

Voice-enabled simply means giving your customers an easier, hands-free, and more convenient way to interact with your brand. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should use your voice interface as a general purpose assistant. Leave that to the general purpose assistants. Instead, use a voice user interface as a vehicle to extend your brand, offer greater functionality and choices, and speak to your customers. 

Adding voice to your mobile app is an opportunity to deliver a multi-modal experience that includes sight, sound, and touch when appropriate. A voice-enabled mobile app is supposed to give your customers more choices when interacting with your brand, not less. Keep in mind that voice-first isn’t voice-only and that your brand voice should come through loud and clear.

Use a voice user interface as a vehicle to extend your brand, offer greater functionality and choices, and speak to your customers. 

Start with a custom wake word or wake phrase that reflects your brand image and attributes. Partnering with a voice AI platform that provides all the advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) you’ll need to create a conversational interface—and offers custom wake words—ensures that your voice assistant is as recognizable as your logo and colors.

Building your own VUI or partnering with a voice AI platform that gives you only some of the functionality you need may solve your immediate needs, but may not be able to grow with you in the long run. 

Soon, the increased functionality and easier navigation afforded by a voice assistant will shift from a novelty to an expectation—just as a mobile presence has over the last decade. Increased use of mobile apps and voice assistants due to the world-wide pandemic is likely to accelerate the migration to voice-enabled mobile brands and create a competitive chasm between those that offer voice solutions and those that don’t. 

If you’re looking for more insights into how and why you should voice enable your mobile app, sign up for our webinar featuring experts from top brands like Meredith, Pandora, SiriusXM, and BigOven: “How Brands are Voice-Enabling Mobile Apps to Drive Engagement.”

At SoundHound Inc., we have all the tools and expertise needed to voice-enable your mobile app. Explore Houndify’s independent voice AI platform at Houndify.com and register for a free account. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help you bring your voice strategy to life.

Karen Scates is a storyteller with a passion for helping others through content. Argentine tango, good books and great wine round out Karen’s interests.

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