What we are thinking about

2017 has been a seminal year for Voice-First applications. The number of voice applications has skyrocketed, growing from 7,000 on January 3, to over 21,000, across Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana.

VoiceLabs now has over 2,000 voice applications on our platform, and we are committed to serving voice app developers and helping lead discussions about the most important topics for the growth and health of the ecosystem.

In the 2017 Voice Report, we discussed how Usage & Retention were the biggest issues in the Voice Application ecosystem. As discussed,

  • Usage: Only 31% of Alexa skills at that time had more than one consumer review.
    • This percentage has only increased, but the overall usage of apps has grown due to the increased popularity of voice interfaces combined with Darwinian selection.
  • Retention: When a voice application acquired a user, there was only a 3% chance that user would be active in the second week.
    • We have seen a marked improvement in app retention, with second-week retention now hovering above 6%

VoiceLabs also discussed the macro trends around usage were very much in the ecosystem’s favor. Specifically, in 2017, VoiceLabs predicts there will be 24.5 million devices shipped, leading to a total device footprint of 33 million voice-first devices in circulation. Over the last six months, developments have only strengthened our conviction in this prediction. In addition, over 100M Android phones now feature Google Assistant as a key part of the phone experience.

With many more devices and many more apps, we wanted to highlight a key usage trend to look for in your app: is your voice app driving consistent usage?

For example, take two apps that have 10,000 Monthly Active Users (MAUs):

App #1

Voice App #1

For App #1, we have consistent usage. There was a marketing push that led to new user acquisition (see the red arrow above). As you can see, this marketing push resulted in a heightened level of active users (the light blue line stays higher).

This app showed MAU growth of 22% in June, and 58% growth in July, and has the staying power to continue going ‘up and to the right.’ We can expect this app to have long term success, and as more devices hit the market this app will continue growing in popularity and usage.

Now let’s look at App #2, which also has 10,000 Monthly Active Users.

App #2

Google Assistant App

As you can see, this app is relying on promotion for usage. While this app showed MAU growth of 2505.3% in June, and 87.6% growth in July, without a ‘diving save’ (i.e. Amazon featuring the app on the skills homepage or buying $10K+ worth of Facebook Ads), this app will have a very down August and September.

This is not a new phenomenon. We had the same type of app bifurcation in mobile (and still do), and this type of behavior is one of the main reasons Facebook looks at Daily Active Users (DAUs) as a true sign of engagement.

However, in this early phase of the voice application ecosystem, Monthly Active Users is the right level of granularity. Just make sure you are building consistent usage into your app experience, to give your app staying power.

The above discussion leads to the following key questions:

  • How many voice apps will become part of consumer’s daily lives, versus a flash in the pan?
  • What platform innovations will enable developers to create mainstream, addictive apps? (Social sharing enabled Farmville. Augmented Reality enabled Pokemon Go. What will voice ‘Farmville’ or ‘Pokemon Go’ look like, and what platform capabilities are needed first?)
  • How will the platforms open up to better support daily active usage? (For example, when will the platforms allow third-party triggered notifications)?

To discuss these topics, and much more, with top voice app developers, join our customer slack channel. Email Adam@voicelabs.co to request an invitation. We have basic criteria for joining.

Also, we will be at the event below on Wednesday in San Francisco, featuring leaders from the top voice platforms. Come by and say hi!

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