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6 voicebot challenges and opportunities

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The voicebot ecosystem is growing immensely…and there are amazing opportunities abound. Reading a recent post by Alon Bonder, and realizing the main subject of conversation for product managers, startups, and developers is voice-tech, I figured out some points to help you focus on building the right product for what’s coming next. Basically, the mobile apps ecosystem we saw growing 10 years ago is making a return, but this time around…it is all about voice.

Remember when?

At its beginning, before the mobile apps ecosystem rose in popularity, things weren’t as clear as they are today: that specific iOS app had memory problems; the UI was too simple; the development platforms were horrid (or nonexistent); there was a lack of solution for mobile app marketing, acquisition, attribution; and the competition was featured apps along with thousands of farting, semi-funny, and non-valuable apps.

But the ecosystem evolved, matured, and granted many options to individuals and startups that went ahead and made an “App for that” that could be heaven sent, or perhaps simply told you if something is Not a Hotdog.

Back to the future

Developers these days are struggling with incomplete voice platforms: Alexa, Cortana, Siri… you name it. Even if an amazing voice app is built, the ecosystem isn’t necessarily ready for primetime, or The Full Funnel: Develop → Acquire → On-board → Retain → Make money.

The voice ecosystem is missing essential tools available in the mobile apps ecosystem to conduct appropriate analytics and measurement, marketing attribution, A/B testing, deep-linking for improved acquisition and re-engagement, and the list continues.

There are development solutions available for basic voice products thanks to APIs, frameworks, and AI tools but these are basic and, in most cases, only allow to build a proof of concept without acquiring real users to use your real product.

That leads us to a series of problems and opportunities.

Voice-tech problems and opportunities

1. Discovery

Discovery: building a voice app is the first logical step, but finding an audience is the first difficult step.

How should developers distribute their apps? Try to tell Alexa to order you a cab, ask Cortana to transfer $100 to a friend, or ask either to find you a good payment skill/app. Voice Ad networks, affiliations, and more — they are a challenge. Any personal assistant or voice interface is available by chat and can disrupt word-of-mouth as we know it.

2. Acquisition

Discovery isn’t that good now, so we need to promote our skill on Facebook, Google, maybe Twitter. Simple enough, but don’t we need a skill URL? How about the ability to enable the skill from the ad (like app downloads/installs), or track behavior after ad was clicked? Unfortunately, it’s not available just yet. Appsflyer, for example, has been providing amazing attribution for the mobile apps ecosystem, but we need such a solution for the voice ecosystem.

3. Onboarding

Happy times, a new user connected to your voice app. It was enabled while driving his BMW, but how does he use the skill?

To provide a great and practical onboarding experience, we must develop a proper, flexible, AI/ML based tool that will talk the user through an experience to help them achieve their goals. Think WalkMe but with voice…maybe TalkMe? This can be combined with the attribution, so the talk-through may be personalized to the individual user and help you find the ads, preferences, age, gender. Of course, proper analytics tools like GA or MixPanel (or Voicelabs making their move), and a real-time content platform to analyze, improve, and test your onboarding funnel.

4. Optimization

What’s a common known with mobile apps funnel these days is non-existent for voice. We’re missing a tool for in-depth analysis, granting us insights to understand, change, test, and optimize the experience of the new skill enabled user. Kind of like an Apptimize but for voice. Also consider the conversion optimization ecosystem (Qualaroo, Unbounce) and the amazing possibilities voice apps are opening.

5. Retention

Did you know voice app retention is around 3% after 7 days? In other words, 97 out of 100 users will not use your voice app after 7 days. Crazy churn! Trust is one of the top reasons for churn or the lack of trust. To build trust, the AI must understand how users perceive the app’s voice, tone, and tempo. Voice analytics will truly help us understand the bot and the user.

Push notifications must also be adopted by the voice ecosystem to help in the retention department, as Appboy or Urbanairship have been providing for mobile. Alexa‘s approach is a good first step but should improve to include real-life communication between people. For example, if your friend wants to call you with an update about the game tonight, he will call you and not send a red colored LED. That’s a given.

6. Virality

How do other users bring new ones to use your voice app? A click on that Facebook or Twitter ad won’t do…remember, people don’t click. But you can ask “Alexa, please share Uber with Dan.” Social sharing is difficult when by voice only, so we must create a ‘voice sharing experience’. A tool to share my actual Cortana email experience can make this personalized and trustworthy, so we can listen and understand the value of voice.

How about social proof, such as “Rate our app!” and “please add your 5-star review so new users will think our voice app is amazing”. Alexa is there…Cortana and others, not yet. And the ecosystem? Build an API allowing users to share amazing skills, and developers to easily track them to understand how viral the voice app is. And let’s not forget the right tools to ask for feedback…by voice; that’s difficult, as you don’t want a robot to interrupt while helping you navigate.

The next steps

What’s next? Invite three friends (tech, biz dev, product) for a brainstorming session with beer and snacks, and read this post again. Then list thee top products from the mobile apps ecosystem and how they may evolve to the voice ecosystem. Build it!

Ariel Kedem is the VP of Products at Knowmail, an AI messaging system.

Above: The Machine Intelligence Landscape This article is part of our Artificial Intelligence series. You can download a high-resolution version of the landscape featuring 288 companies by clicking the image.

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