This article originally appeared in Voicebot.ai on July 18, 2020. Follow them on Twitter.
Today, the shift to voice-enabled mobile apps is similar to the start of mobile-optimized websites just eight years ago. Just as some companies that were slow to implement mobile-friendly websites found themselves losing traffic and business, brands today could fall behind if they don’t define a voice-first strategy.
Conversely, brands like Snapchat and Pandora that have already voice-enabled their mobile apps are realizing immediate value and heightened user engagement and loyalty. Soon, consumers won’t just appreciate the convenience and greater functionality of a voice-enabled mobile app, they’ll expect it.
Mobile apps that overly rely on ‘type and swipe’ interfaces are limited in the amount of functionality and menu options they can provide. As robust mobile apps with extensive menu options become increasingly challenging to navigate, providing voice user interfaces is the natural evolution. In the absence of a voice interface, achieving a good visual UX that reduces user frustration and the threat of abandonment often requires design teams to leave capabilities hidden or strip them away entirely. Voice can solve for many of these challenges.
Start with voice-enabled apps
For brands hoping to meet consumer demands in an increasingly voice-first era, a voice-enabled mobile app is a natural starting place and a way to kick-start the internal evolution from single-user interface modality to multi-modal functionality. Whether you’re ready, or not, the growing use of mobile voice search may make having a voice-enabled mobile presence an imperative.
According to QuoraCreative 40% of adults now use mobile voice search at least once a day. Trends like these are good indicators of future consumer expectations. Failure to meet those expectations with a voice user interface will likely have the same effect as not having optimized for the mobile platform in the first place. Consumers will simply find somewhere else to go—likely to a voice-enabled competitor.
Your first steps into the voice era should begin independently with the goal of owning your brand experience, your customer relationships, and your valuable user data. Platforms, such as Alexa or Google, are important channels for your content, but are primarily 3rd party methods of content distribution. Voice technology is more than just a channel and can be the vehicle you use to build a branded experience and grow your presence in the market.
Once you’ve determined that a voice user interface (VUI) is on your roadmap, there may be a temptation to build your own from the ground up. The narrower your use case, the more appealing it is to build it yourself. However, taking that route can be limiting in a number of ways. For one, it takes years and numerous resources to develop a robust voice AI.
In addition, the voice interface you develop on your own may solve your immediate problem, but may not evolve enough to keep pace with the newest technology and ever-changing consumer needs—and render your voice experience outdated.
As an alternative, partnering with an independent voice AI platform provider can give you access to the newest technology and provide additional functionality through extensive domain libraries, advanced NLU, ASR, and wake word technology. Voice AI partnerships can also afford flexibility to build your own ASR, or partner for NLU or wake word only.
Voice is the key that unlocks the door to measurable growth and retention through mobile apps. The entry point is wide open—the customer base and hardware already exist—and the adoption rate of voice interfaces is growing rapidly. In fact, the majority of smartphone owners (52%) in the US have already used voice assistants on their mobile phones, according to Voicebot data.
The advancements in voice AI technologies allow brands to create conversational environments that move far beyond simple command and control and provide an interface that encourages users to engage with features that may not be available or easily discoverable through physical interfaces.
Other user experience benefits include:
- Quicker access to tasks that would take multiple steps
- Availability of more functionality and easier search
- Intuitive interfaces that are easy to use with minimal onboarding
- Natural language capabilities that let users simply ask for things
- A hands-free experience that minimizes distraction
The voice era isn’t arriving, it’s here. Conversational interfaces and voice search are already unlocking opportunities for monetization—a trend that is predicted to grow rapidly. According to 99 Firms, global voice commerce is expected to be worth $408 billion by 2022.
Just as the internet initially opened markets beyond the geographic boundaries of organizations, so will mobile apps be the catalyst for additional income opportunities, but only if the technology they’re built on has the ability to be adapted for accented speech and multiple languages. Developing a conversational presence for your brand can start with a voice-enabled app and launch you into the voice-first era.
Michael Zagorsek is the VP of product marketing at SoundHound Inc. He is focused on bringing voice AI to everyone and everything, and is inspired by how voice technology can improve people’s lives—making them safer and more convenient.