“We’ve seen a huge increase in the use of voice in the home,” Taylor said.For example, customers asked Alexa more cooking-related questions during a week in April than during Thanksgiving week last year. Music listening through Alexa devices is up compared to last year. Skills usage is up 65% worldwide over the past two months, and Alexa voice search with Amazon’s Fire TV platform is also increasing.
Other app developers have also built their own related services. Last month the Mayo Clinic rolled out a skill that provides information about COVID-19 and takes users through a set of yes-or-no questions to determine whether they need a coronavirus test.In many ways, Alexa acts as a search engine but without the need for an extra device. There’s also a more personal element to the voice interactions, Taylor said.
“People do build relationships with Alexa,” he said. “We have something like one million marriage proposals and compliments of love to Alexa. I don’t think anybody has ever done that to a keyboard.”
The rise in voice tech usage means more opportunities for voice app developers. Amazon has tried to appeal to app makers over the years, opening up the digital brain to third-party developers and creating no-code skill templates to encourage people to build their own voice-powered apps.
Taylor advised developers to not merely replicate existing phone or PC app experiences.
“This isn’t just about taking a current app built for the phone and switching from tap to voice,” he said.
That shift isn’t always seamless. Amazon recently partnered with Zynga for a voice-enabled version of its popular Words With Friends game. The experience was a bit tedious and confusing compared to the phone app, based on GeekWire’s test.
There’s also the issue of monetization and whether customers are comfortable making purchases via voice apps. The Information reported last year that Amazon was exploring ways to make more money off Alexa through premium content and other services.
Amazon is battling Google and others in the voice services industry. According to Voicebot Research, Amazon’s share of the smart-speaker market has declined from 61% in 2019 to 53% as of this January, with Google’s second-place share rising to 30.9%. Facebook’s Portal device, which comes with Alexa built-in, has also seen growing usage.