As researchers, we love to sing the praises of research and its importance for understanding users and developing new, successful products. We are constantly telling our clients about key insights that came from interviews, surveys, or experiments, and the ways that research shaped a product. Recently, the two of us teamed up to review some research we conducted to understand the future of digital voice technology. Our findings provide a clear example of how research gives an edge to product development. We conducted two separate studies with overlapping topics: Allaire wanted to understand what voice technology users would be likely to adopt and Claire was trying to learn more about the voice features that product owners and product managers would prioritize. When we got together to review our findings, we identified a gap between these two perspectives: product owners don’t seem interested in building the very features that users perceive as useful.

Researching voice for users and product owners

Although there has been a lot of excitement over the possibilities of using voice assistants or voice features to develop new products, there are a lot of questions about how to develop a voice strategy. At WillowTree, rather than choosing between platforms, such as Alexa, or custom voice apps, we approach developing voice products in terms of “voice cases:” tasks users can accomplish via voice command.

In April 2018, Claire surveyed product owners and product managers from large companies who work on digital products. Those surveyed work for some of the most successful and recognized companies in the United States (81% are employed by Fortune 1000 companies), which suggests they work on products with large user bases. We asked these product owners and product managers to prioritize 14 voice cases.

At the same time, Allaire conducted a survey of 824 people living in the United States to learn which voice cases resonated with users. People were asked to identify which of those voice cases would be valuable.

The Gap: Product owners missing opportunities

Recently, we reviewed these two studies side by side. What did we find? There is an astonishing gap between the voice features product owners see as valuable and those that speak to users. The most evident example of this is how users and product owners responded to the voice case: training. This voice case involves receiving training - like learning a new language - via a conversational voice agent.

The survey of product owners and managers indicates that many companies are unaware of this opportunity. Over 60% of those surveyed ranked training features as either the least important or second least important voice case for their products and end users. Voice Value Graph.001

With regard to users’ perception, training was rated as a high value voice case; training received the highest ratings of all the voice cases we surveyed. This finding indicates that users would be likely to use voice to learn how to do things like cook, speak a new language, tie a necktie, or change a tire. Such features provide ample opportunity to deepen brand loyalty or introduce a new brand. Voice Value Graph.002 When you look at the results from both studies, you’ll notice the patterns are almost exactly opposite. A high percentage of product owners see training as yielding low value. Conversely, a high percentage of users see training as a highly valued voice case.

Despite users’ clear indication that training features are desired, those developing digital products don’t yet see the value. Without research to support voice product development, product owners are less likely to pursue features critical to user adoption. Voice Value Graph.003

The Lesson: Research reveals practical business opportunities

User motivations and needs can be leveraged to inform the development of successful products. By investing in research, product owners and managers can discover the experiences likely to resonate with users. This is true for all products and user experiences, digital and otherwise. Without investing in user research, there is no way to know what opportunities you might be missing.