Alexa 'Routines' can help solve your voice app retention problems

One of the big issues with Voice Apps is how to keep users coming back again and again.

Mobile apps have various tricks in their armoury when it comes to bringing users back day after day such as push notifications and visual reminders. Sadly, these weapons are not as widely available within the voice arena.

Yes, when it comes to Alexa Skills, you can notify a user when there is new content available but the flashing "ring" and voice messages feel somehow more intrusive (and potentially annoying) than an on-screen message.

It's a real challenge for developers. Research back in 2018 by VoiceLabs showed the chasm in user retention between Voice Apps and Smart Phone app's (2% vs 12%) and although that gap has narrowed in the last 12 months (around 6% is considered a strong retention rate in 2020) there is still much work to do.

There are a few key things to remember that help massively with user retention with Voice Skills:

Ease: Don't make it hard for your users to remember how to use your voice app or what commands they need. Make sure your skill understands many different requests for the same time and keep interactions as simple as possible.

Trust: You can only let a user down a few times before you've lost them forever. If you are a daily news service; provide that news every day. If you are a Smart Technology skill fix bugs as quickly as possible.

Use: At the end of the day if the user doesn't NEED your voice app they are unlikely to come back time and time again. If you can find a genuine need for the product you are developing you are well on the way to user retention.

Thankfully, Amazon is doing their bit too and it could be a game-changer.

Late last year they introduced "Alexa Routines" in the UK, a way to automatically trigger a specific skill function (or set of function) with a specific command or at a specific time of day. Essentially a much simpler way to access content than remembering and using the unique invocation term for the Skill.

These "Routines" are ideally suited to Smart Home type Skills such as turning off your lights last thing at night or boiling a kettle first thing in the morning but there is potential outside of this arena too.

At we added Routine functionality to our Sport Social Skill to ensure our users were coming back time after time. The Sport Social skill provides daily football news for every Premier League club and to take advantage of the new Routines feature we allowed users to receive their daily team update as default before accessing other functions within the Skill.

Its early days but already we are seeing a far improved user retention far above the 5%-6% mark quoted above.

Adding Sport Social (or any other Skill) to your Alexa Routines is simple:

Make sure "Sport Social" is enabled on your device.

Open your Alexa app.

Go to the menu and select "Routines"

Click the (+) icon top right of the screen.

Enter a name for your routine.

Select "When This Happens" and choose how to trigger the Routine (such as time of day or a specific command such as "Alexa Good Morning").

Select "Add Action" and select the Skill you wish to envoke (you can add more than one action as part of a routine).

Tap Save.