Have you authored one of the over 50,000 Alexa skills on the market today? If so, well done! You are well ahead of the curve in this voice-first movement. If not, there is still plenty of time to make your mark. The majority of skills have under five reviews and an average rating below two stars. This voice journey is surely a challenge for most developers, but with the right approach to quality, you can ensure you delight your users and reap the great rewards at the finish line.
The Complex Nature of Voice
In the voice ecosystem, there is extraordinary complexity that far transcends that of the traditional web and mobile world. Everything from the basic nature of human voice to the unique needs of the consumer adds to the challenge of ensuring a quality experience. How can you start to think about that complexity? Let’s dive in.
Voice platforms present an incredible new way to engage your users. However, every new technology brings an entirely new discipline to which developers and organizations must learn and adapt. Unlike mobile operating systems or web platforms, voice is constantly evolving and driven equally by the AI that supports it and the users that interact with it.
Individuals often provide inconsistent input due to variability in their voices based on age, gender, inflection, or even mood. Not to mention we all exhibit our own idiosyncrasies that are reflected in the way we’re taught, the environment we live in, and the languages we speak. Thus, creating a voice experience that can properly react to these variables is a potentially daunting task.
While voices are extremely nuanced, the technical side of voice is equally so. Gone are the days when there were only first-party devices. Now you must consider third-party devices including everything from vehicles to the kitchen sink, literally. Add in environmental issues like background noise and Wi-Fi strength and you are just scratching the surface of what contributes to a technically sound voice experience.
Though traditional testing approaches do translate to voice in some respects, their many shortcomings also become readily apparent. Voice is becoming ubiquitous across all devices, so rather than focusing on one platform at a time like with mobile, you need to test across the entirety of the experience. Unlike mobile apps, voice apps must be tested by real people speaking their native languages. In-house teams simply cannot replicate this at scale.
You create a voice app to solve a problem, but what if that problem isn’t a primary concern of your actual users? For example, an internal Applause survey revealed to me that the biggest drawback of voice shopping is the lack of visibility into the product itself, reviews, and comparisons. However, a survey by Walker Sands indicated that privacy and payment security are the top detractors. If you can’t keep a pulse on the consumer, you face a steep uphill battle.
The Path to Success
There is no shortcut to achieving success in the world of voice. It’s a challenging path, but one that can prove very fruitful if executed correctly. To help you navigate that path forward, here are some areas to focus on.
Follow Platform KPIs
One foolproof way to get started in voice is follow the roadmap created by the giants themselves. Amazon has four KPIs they identify as essential to voice success. They are quality, engagement, monetization, and multimodality. The crux of this is to provide a seamless experience every time. This leads to customer conversion and retention, ultimately resulting in earned revenue.
Find an Established Voice Partner
Going it alone in voice is a huge risk for first-time app developers and even those with some experience. Given the rapid evolution of voice technology, having an expert like Applause to guide you along the way has immeasurable value. You not only gain knowledge about the voice landscape, but gain a testing partner to help you deliver from a functional and usability testing perspective.
Leverage Real People
An established voice partner can be your guide, but it’s real people who are going to make the tangible difference. With real people testing in their native languages, you are able to get feedback on their actual experiences rather than what you anticipate. You also are able to capture feedback from the customer perspective to better understand whether your app resonates and is easy to use.
Personalize, Personalize, Personalize
Voice apps are not created with one person in mind, so making sure it caters to the individual is essential. Consider the way a child would interact with the app versus an adult. There is also a variance in the way people experience your app. For example, a physician dictating clinical details through an app will interact with it far differently than a patient on the other end. This can only be captured and measured through the use of real people.
Whether you like it or not, voice is going to be an integral part of our digital future. Make it a part of yours and do it the right way. You can be a pioneer of the voice-first movement – all it takes is a commitment to quality.