2018 – The Year Voice Changed Everything

Feb 02, 2018
By: Marissa Camilli

Long before the advent of the smartphone, technology pundits were predicting the rise of mobile commerce. Armed only with Nokia feature phones (bricks) and early Blackberry devices with incredibly limited web browsing capabilities, the year-in-preview columns of technology blogs and magazines (remember them) at the turn of the millennium rolled out the same old misguided prophecies with predictable reliability. 2001 will be the year of m-commerce, 2002 will be the year of m-commerce, 2003…. (it all became a bit boring).

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

While the concept was something we could all buy into and even aspire to, the technology just wasn’t quite ready to deliver on the promise. When it did finally arrive on the back of the Apple iPhone in 2007, followed a year later by the first Android devices, it took many people by surprise (what do you mean you weren’t ready – how much warning do you need?). In its early days m-commerce could have fallen victim to too much hype and not enough action. Thankfully, when it finally did come to fruition it was even better than most of us could have imagined.

Further Reading: The Smartphone: The Millennial in Your Pocket

Today m-commerce is so ingrained in the way we research and buy products and services it’s almost ubiquitous. Think retail and you’re as likely to think about logging onto a mobile site or app as going online via a “traditional” desktop device or (heaven forbid) actually leaving the house and visiting a physical store.

Stat: In 2017, more than $156 billion in sales was attributed to m-commerce in the US. This figure is expected to grow to more than $420 billion by 2020, with the smartphone accounting for upwards of 70 percent of sales (against tablet devices).

The Next Revolution is Already Here

While smartphone technology took many years to catch-up with retail technologists’ aspirations, the next wave of “life changing” technology is already here and being avidly consumed by its users. This time it’s waiting for developers to catch-up.

Voice-controlled user interfaces employed by the likes of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or Google’s Assistant (Google’s imagination clearly let the side down in the name stakes) make the tap, swipe and pinch functionality that made smartphones so usable and intuitive look positively pre-historic.

Note: While Amazon does not disclose sales figures for its Amazon Echo smart speakers, they have suggested they sold millions of devices over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend in the run-up to the 2017 holiday period. They have also confirmed that Echo users spend more than 66 percent more with the online retailer than a typical customer.

Further Reading:  Forget Smartphones, the Future Belongs to Intelligent Devices

A More Human Approach

Voice works so well because it humanizes a device, speeds up engagement (most people can talk faster than they can type) and enables users to use their devices when they are doing something else.

Think of all the situations where it is just not convenient to engage with a mobile device through touch and the advantages of voice become clear.

You could be driving, performing a task where your hands aren’t free or are soiled (gardening, car maintenance, baking), it might be cold and your hands are in gloves, or you might be taking a bath (and it’s never a good idea to take an electronic device into the bath).

Voice is also a less intimidating way of engaging with a device for technophobes. I have personally seen elderly relatives who have never got to grips with computers, tablets and smartphones – take their first steps in a digital age thanks to voice related technologies. The possibilities for disabled users are immense.

Further Reading: App Usage through the Ages – Targeting Older, More Lucrative Users

Are You Ready for Voice?

It’s clear that voice is rapidly becoming a preferred method of engagement with smart devices and app developers who fail to jump on the voice bandwagon risk missing out on this opportunity.

There are, of course, a number of challenges developers face in deploying new voice controlled applications. Creating your own voice-recognition system is probably far too complex a job for you to handle yourself and so most developers would look to an off-the-shelf integration. The question is, do you go for a cloud-based system which requires users to be online to use, or adopt an embedded system increasing the weight of your app?

The answer is relatively straightforward. It depends entirely on what you want your users to do with their voice. Needless to say, the more complicated your users’ relationship is with your app, the more intelligent your voice systems need to be.

Further Reading: Great Apps Come In Small Packages

No False Starts

Unlike m-commerce, which suffered from several false starts, voice is here already and successfully being used on smartphones, tablets and a whole heap of other intelligent devices.

At Digital Turbine, we’re self-confessed Android geeks and there is nothing we like better than working with app developers with their eyes on the future of the industry.

Further Reading: Future Trends: Predictions for the Smartphone App Economy in 2018 and Beyond

Does voice play a big role in your future app development projects? What challenges do you face in implementing this considerable opportunity? Share your comments below:

And remember, it’s never too early to employ your voice to discover how Digital Turbine can help you reach a wider audience with your next app development project. Contact one of our app marketing specialists for more information.

Marissa Camilli
By Marissa Camilli
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