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8 Apps Who Have Already Mastered Voice-Powered Tech

Ashley Sefferman  //  March 30, 2017  //  6 min read

Voice-powered technology is currently having its moment in the spotlight, and the voice-first market has taken off. For anyone with a Google Home or Amazon Echo voice-powered personal assistant in their homes, the shift from novelty to necessity isn’t a surprise. These always-listening pieces of hardware started as a fun toy for most, but have become increasingly integrated into our everyday lives. From helping us order groceries and play music to protecting our bank account, voice assistants and the technology that powers them has changed the way we interact with the hardware around us, including our mobile devices.

Despite the rapid advancement in voice-powered tech, a major player is still in its infancy: integration with mobile apps. In Mary Meeker’s 2016 Trends report, she points out that voice commands to smartphones are increasing. Meeker was right in predicting deeper adoption of voice tech on the consumer side, but as for the mobile industry at large, we still haven’t seen a burst of integration with voice-powered personal assistants.

However, some apps are paving the way for others to follow, and we can learn a ton from what their early integrations offer consumers. Today’s post highlights eight apps who have taken the lead in voice-command integrations, with a focus on what makes them stand out.

But first, let’s start with a high-level look at the world of voice tech and what’s changed in the last year.

The current state of voice-powered tech

There are two main players in the voice-powered personal assistant space: Amazon Alexa and Google Home. In 2016, Amazon Echo evolved from novelty item to an in-home must-have, with over seven million devices currently in households. Google Home launched in November of 2016, legitimizing a multi-platform ecosystem of voice-first devices.

Google Home and Amazon Echo

Image credit: CNET
Over the last year, growth and interest in the voice tech space has been massive. In a 2017 report published by Voice Labs, Amazon’s Alexa application growth has been impressive—over 500% in the second half of 2016.

Alexa Skills app growth

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Despite the growth, voice-powered assistant apps currently suffer from a retention problem.

According to the same study from Voice Labs, 69% of the 7,000+ Alexa “Skills” apps have zero or one customer review, which is a strong signal of low usage. Additionally, when a customer enables a voice app on either the Amazon Echo and Google Home, there is only a 3% chance they will be an active user by week two. To better understand voice tech’s retention struggles, here is new vs. returning user data from the Voice Labs report, first from Amazon Alexa and second from Google Home.

Amazon Alexa retention

Google Home retention

To compare how this retention stacks up against iOS and Android apps, Apptentive’s research finds that 25-40% of new customers will re-launch an app after the first week. For voice apps, that’s a serious gap.

Why aren’t there more apps pulling ahead? I have a few theories:

  • Lack of visual cues: The most obvious issue is this: If you’re not looking at a phone to use voice technology, you don’t have a visual cue to remind you the app is there, and to use it regularly. The app can’t push notify you to come back, and the team behind the app can’t communicate with you once you’re inside the experience. It will be fascinating to see how this communication gap between visual and verbal cues closes over time.
  • Voice tech is still new: The technology hasn’t attracted hoards of users yet, which will happen over time. It’s following the normal curve of technology adoption, where there is a slow trickle of users over a long period of time, and then wham, we’ll see a huge uptick in adoption in a short amount of time. Only time will tell!
  • App stickiness takes time: It takes time to get to know an app’s audience before you can truly gauge engagement and retention in order to quantify “stickiness.” Again, time will help voice-controlled apps become stickier as app publishers learn more about how they can improve the experience from their customers.
  • Monetization is tricky: Based on data from the Voice Labs report and general industry research, it seems as though no voice-first app has figured out a way to monetize yet. I’m sure we’ll see changes to this in the months that follow, but it’s undoubtedly a blocker for success at this time.

8 brands who have already mastered voice

The above stats may make the world of voice-powered technology seem bleak, but it couldn’t be further from the truth! There are a handful of amazing apps already leveraging the power of voice, and the list will only continue to grow as the technology continues to become unpacked.

Here are eight companies who have gone all-in on voice control. (Note: These apps all coincidentally offer Amazon Alexa integrations. I’d love to hear your thoughts on apps who integrate with Google Home in the comments below.)

1. IFTTT

IFTTT is at the top of the list due to its long (and growing!) list of Amazon Alexa recipes. Customers can connect IFTTT’s mobile apps with Alexa to find their phone, add to-do’s in their preferred list apps, lock their homes, change their living room light settings, start a Google spreadsheet, and more.

2. Starbucks

In a partnership with Amazon Alexa and through voice capabilities within the Starbucks app, Starbucks now offers a voice ordering option. Always at the forefront of tech adoption, the Starbucks team once again proves how important mobile is to their overall business strategy. They’ve invested heavily in their mobile app through its design, order and pay functionality, and “skip ahead” ordering, and voice ordering is the next step to creating a better customer experience.

3. Capital One Bank

Capital One Bank charged ahead of its industry with its cutting-edge Amazon Alexa integration. Once mobile customers connect their accounts, they can check account balances, track spending, or even make a payment through voice control. Between its sleek mobile app and its Alexa integration, Capital One is making banking on the go easier than ever.

4. Domino’s

Through its Amazon Alexa integration, Domino’s customers can now order their pizzas without lifting a finger. To place an order, customers must enable the Domino’s Skill within the Amazon Alexa app by linking their account to their Domino’s Pizza Profile. To simply track their order, Domino’s customers must enter the phone number associated with the order and Alexa will provide its current status. What a delicious, dynamic duo.

Domino's Amazon Alexa integration

5. Philips Hue

By partnering with Amazon Alexa, Philips Hue is out to make homes smarter and brighter through voice commands. From commands like “Alexa, turn on relax in the family room,” to “Alexa, turn on party in the living room,” the Philips Hue integration just made mood lighting a whole lot easier to set, no matter the occasion.

Philips Hue Amazon Alexa integration

6. Kayak

Through downloading the Alexa app and enabling the Kayak Skill, Kayak customers are now able to search for travel options, track flights, rent cars, and more with voice command. Kayak is one of the first travel apps to take this step, pushing themselves ahead of their competition in the process.

7. Nest

Nest customers who are used to controlling their thermostat, security systems, doorbells, and more through their mobile apps are now able to leverage voice command through their Alexa integration. This Skill takes sleeping in on a Saturday morning to a whole new level—all at your perfect temperature.

Nest Amazon Alexa integration

8. Spotify

Spotify customers can now link their accounts through Amazon’s Alexa app for full voice control over their playlists. This simple integration makes the app hands-free and allows for voice-controlled song change whether you’re elbow-deep prepping dinner, entertaining guests, or can’t be bothered to pick up your phone.

Looking ahead

Voice-powered tech is still in its earliest stages, and the way the technology will integrate with our lives is still to be determined. What may be popular today may be bad practice next month as people continue to adopt the technology, and it will be exciting to see other apps enter the space with incredible integrations.

Think we’ve left an app off this list? I’d love to hear your favorites! Leave your thoughts in the comments below to get the discussion going.

About Ashley Sefferman

Ashley Sefferman is Head of Content at Apptentive. A digital communication and content strategy enthusiast, she writes about multichannel engagement strategies, customer communication, and making the digital world a better place for people. Follow Ashley on Twitter at @ashseff.
View all posts by Ashley Sefferman >

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