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User Retention. Voice-First’s BIG Problem (and how to solve it).

Just as with mobile phone apps in their infancy, Voice-First Apps are suffering a problem with audience retention… and Amazon are taking action!

A recent study from ‘Activate’ found that only 6% of users would continue using an Alexa Skill two weeks after activation, and that’s a problem. There is no doubt that the Smart-Speaker market is growing, and growing fast, so why aren’t users coming back to Skills and Apps time and time again as they might with their Smart-Phone equivalents?

The answer is probably quite simple, they just aren’t that good… yet. If you remember when Smart-Phone Apps hit the market they suffered a similar problem. Apps were, largely, gimmicky and fun but very rarely offered any practical use that would command long-term engagement. We all saw someone “hilariously” pretend to drink a pint of beer from their phone, but after 2 weeks that joke wore a little thin and the App would likely be deleted by the user. There were thousands of these Apps that went as quickly as they came.

What happened with Smart-Phone Apps is what ‘Wondersauce’ CEO John Sapogna refers to as “The Shazam Moment”: Shazam (the automatic music-identifying app) was one of the first phone apps to identify and solve a problem. They created a programme that would make peoples lives better and thus users returned again and again. There are now, of course, thousands of multi-million-pound apps that we habitually use on a daily basis but “Shazam” helped opened the flood-gates. Currently, Smart Speaker App’s are waiting for its “Shazam moment”.

So, what is Amazon doing to solve this problem? The tech giants recent over-haul of the Alexa Skill developers console not only allows developers to build Skills with a new, visual interface but also gives real-time feedback on how users respond to the Skill. For the first time, developers are being given access to some key analytical data such as unique customers, utterances and cohort analysis. This will be vital in improving user engagement as Skill-builders can properly gauge the efficiency and user retention of their creations for the first time. Currently, only Amazon are offering this feedback but surely it’s only a matter of time before the likes of Google follow suit?

Obviously, bags of data isn’t going to resolve the issue overnight and the real improvement needs to come from the developers themselves as they identify, and solve real-life problems that will turn people onto Voice-First devices and away from their screens. We know that users love using Smart Speakers for listening to audio and performing internet searches but what else can they deliver that will create that “Shazam moment”?

The Wheel of 7 Skill Needs

In my previous blog-post “What Should My Alexa Skill Do?” I mentioned my “Wheel of Seven Skill Needs” (right) which makes interesting reading alongside a recent ‘checklist’ from Toni Reid, Voice President of Alexa Experience and Echo Devices at Amazon, who created her seven-point checklist for creating a winning Alexa Skill.

1. The skill makes a task faster and easier with voice
2. The skill has an intuitive and memorable name
3. The skill sets clear expectations on what it can do
4. The skill minimizes friction
5. The skill surprises and delights customers
6. The skill delivers fresh content
7. The skill is consistently reliable

It’s a great reminder for any developer as to what they should be thinking about when creating their own Skill and undoubtedly point number 1 is the most vital… why should the user turn to voice in the first place? What does THIS Skill offer that is an improvement on a Smart-Phone, tablet or computer? Currently, the most obvious answer for this is to access information and entertainment and that “Need” has driven the rapid growth of Smart Speakers to this point but for now, we still await for Voice-First’s big SHAZAM!




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