Why User Retention is Hard for Voice Applications

Why User Retention is Hard for Voice Applications

We’ve all been there. Is there anything more soul destroying to see a vibrant and exciting base of users slowly slip away through your fingers?

It all starts well. You set up the initial release with a burst of publicity. You might even garner a fortuitous promotion event or time your release to co-incide with the all-important winter break. New users flood to your offerings. You see your usage statistics spike. In cooperative games, you watch gleefully as the interplay boost engagement in your game. You start to make plans to monetize all the activity.

But once the event passes, you see the number of new users go down. Then you watch as the number of ongoing users slowly decays over time.

People come to games, they play them for a period of time, and then they move on. That is the nature of game development. The aim is to create enough content and/or engagement to players with the game long enough to make a return from them, in whatever form you seek. But for voice apps, the decay curve is very steep.

Looking into this, we found a number of structural problems. You can’t create a book mark for a voice app. You can’t put an icon on a desktop. The platforms now offer ways to create a URL that links to the web directory for the game. But as with other advertising channels, we see low transfer rates between mediums. It’s worth asking the questions:

  • Why is it asking a lot for users to go from browsing the web to activating a voice assistant?
  • Will this situation continue as voice is more integrated into standard browsing experiences?

But the answers are for another day’s post.

For now, let’s assume that we need to find other solutions. There are ways to get a user’s e-mail address, and send a “we haven’t seen you in a while” reminder. But these involve an up front opt-in that may be off-putting, which would reduce your already low acquisition rate. And, even more with the web, we have documented low transfer rates from e-mail to  voice invocation.

The lesson we’ve learned is that user retention is very hard for structural reasons. It is a key barrier to success for platform applications. The only solution we’ve found is to create games so compelling and engaging that they become one of the user’s sole reason for using their device.

We do have a few applications – Six Swords, StarLanes, 21 BlackJack, etc. – that show this sort of dedication, where users devote hours at a time playing the games. But they are the exceptions to the rule. And with each success, we know that the next game must be even more startling to get the same level of adoration.

Invest your time wisely.

Posted in Alexa, Amazon, Analytics, Echo, Google, Google Assistant, Google Home, IT Solutions