There’s a big buzz around Voice recognition, but in reality Voice app technology needs to evolve significantly to meet traveller needs 

Voice apps continue to captivate travellers and travel service providers alike, but in reality a significant runway remains for those applications to maximise the user experience.


Summary:

  • Voice apps continue to captivate travellers and travel service providers but there is still work to be done for such applications to maximise the user experience;
  • Phocuswright analyst Michael Coletta says that after testing voice apps across multiple platforms that results “were promising” but  “underwhelming”;
  • Coletta acknowledges voice recognition accuracy has improved but visual feedback is still required in the planning and booking processes;
  • Phocuswright’s research shows travellers in the US are interested in using voice for a multitude of travel related tasks, but that differs when it comes to actual usage levels.

In a recent blog post highlighting his research for The State of Voice in Travel, Phocuswright analyst Michael Coletta stated he tested voice apps on multiple platforms from major travel intermediaries, supplier and startups.

“While the results were promising, in the end, they were underwhelming. Compared to websites and mobile apps, I found it very difficult to use them to search for travel products,” Coletta concluded.

He acknowledged that voice recognition has made huge strides in accuracy, noting that natural language recognition rates have now surpassed those of humans. However, planning, booking and servicing travel requires visual feedback and specific answers that are largely inaccessible through voice only interfaces such as Amazon’s Echo.

“We are so used to being able to browse photos of a destination and filter flights on a screen, that attempting to use a voice-only platform feels like taking a big step backward,” Colette concluded.

Phocuswright’s research shows travellers in the US are interested in using voice for a multitude of travel related tasks; but when it comes to actual usuage, only a fifth to a third of travellers are actively using voice for tasks like searching for or booking travel.

Mr Coletta believes the customer experience through voice apps will improve over time, “just as it did with Internet and mobile”.

Devices with built in screens including the Echo Show, which allows customers to speak a request, and see the results instead of having them read aloud have been on the market more than year, said Mr Coletta, And Google is planning to launch Smart Displays later this year, while the first smart TVs featuring Google Assistant and Alexa built in debuted in May-2018. Additionally, he concluded, incumbents such as Expedia and KAYAK as well as start-ups like ixigo and HelloGbye are creating better voice experiences with integrated visuals.

Essentially, until the customer experience evolves significantly for planning and booking, “voice works great for very high-context travel tasks which warrant specific responses or results”, Mr Coletta concluded.