Two years ago, Amazon announced a programme that would reward developers with a free echo device for building an “Alexa Skill”.
Whipping up a couple of small skills unintentionally lead down a path that had me flying to the US, getting over 1,000,000 users across my skills, and conducting Voice/VR research projects.
What is an Alexa Skill?
Alexa-enabled devices (Echo Dot, Echo Show, etc) have the ability to run apps developed by 3rd party developers, giving us as developers the chance to work with some interesting new tech, and giving users more value.
What incentives are there for building skills?
From time-to-time, Amazon will offer developer perks in the form of echo devices, hoodies, and even a Christmas bauble! They’re a great way of attracting new developers and building a community around skill development. Of course, as nice as freebies are, they don’t help you grow a business. Amazon currently offers two forms of monetisation for Alexa Skills.
Monetisation on Alexa
The battle of voice assistants between Amazon, Google, and now Samsung, has grown increasingly fierce in recent years, though Amazon’s strategy of focusing on developers creating businesses from their platform and growing that community has seen them completely dominate the third party developer market.
The two main forms of monetisation with Alexa are Developer Rewards and ISPs (In-Skill Purchases).
These are monthly payments you receive based on the engagement of your skill, ranging from as low as $50 to as high as $9000 per month. There is no public data on how these rewards are calculated, and tend to be quite volatile, meaning you should not rely on them to sustain your development. They are happy little surprises that no other voice assistant offers, so make the most of them while they’re around!
The voice equivalent to IAPs (In-App Purchases) offers users the ability to purchase and access more content within an Alexa Skill with just their voice. While not currently available in all regions, support is being rolled out regularly to other areas. ISPs come in three forms: “One-time purchases”, “Consumables”, and “Subscriptions”. Choosing the right implementation of your ISP is imperative to its success.
This form of ISP is suited for gated content behind a single purchase.
Example 1) A quiz skill offers 100 questions by default, with an additional 200 via OTP.
Example 2) A sound skill offers higher quality tracks.
Example 3) A virtual pet skill offers new minigames for each OTP.
Consumables are single-use, once depleted, they can be purchased again.
Example 1) A quiz skill offers a chance to stay in the current round by depleting an extra life.
Example 2) A sound skill offers 5 background tracks by default, with an additional track for each consumable
Example 3) A virtual pet skill offers 100 virtual coins for each consumable, these can then be spent on various actions/items in-game.
By far the most popular ISP model, subscriptions offer timed access to additional content on a recurring basis.
Example 1) A quiz skill offers 100 questions by default, with an increasing roaster of questions that are added to every month.
Example 2) A sound skill offers higher quality tracks and unlimited access to a library of other sounds.
Example 3) A virtual pet skill grants members additional coins every day, and unlocks premium minigames.
What is the right ISP for my skill?
It’s important to not force an existing skill’s content to an ISP model that doesn’t fit, it will lead to poor performance and a worse experience for your users. The better option is to design your skills with ISPs in mind from the start.
Subscriptions offer your skill the most longevity, granting you a wider runway for improving the skill further and feeding that value back to your users. If your skill fits a subscription-model, it should be your first consideration.
One-time purchases and consumables are still incredibly valuable tools in a skill-builder’s arsenal, but lack the sustainability of subscriptions.
The hardest/most important part of growing a voice business is getting your skill out there for people to use. There are a plethora of options out there, though the most unique aspect of promoting voice technology is that you aren’t directing users off-site to a landing page, you’re getting them to invoke your app with their voice.
I’ll write a detailed post on my various experiments with voice marketing, but to boil it down into three key points:
- Have a valuable skill. Your skill doesn’t have to be complex, it just needs to be valuable to your audience. Who is this skill for? Will they use it again?
- Have reviews. As is the story with other app stores, the majority of skills don’t have a single review, making discovery incredibly difficult. Conduct user trails, get honest feedback and build up a small number of reviews. Note: Don’t buy reviews — these are easily detected, and despite being ethically grey, will get your developer account terminated.
- Promote. Once you have a valuable skill, share it on social media, experiment with ads, if you’re targeting a specific niche, share it in those circles.
One specific resource I recommend is ShoutCart (For transparency, that’s an affiliate link!), they offer a catalogue of online influencers, a single image being posted with my skill name featured can result in 1000s of new users.
Thanks for checking out my post! If you have any questions about Alexa development or starting an Alexa business, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (I keep my DMs open!): https://twitter.com/LiamSorta
I also run a small Alexa Discord Community, come along and ask some questions, promote/get feedback on your skills, and meet other developers!
Invite link: https://bit.ly/AlexaDiscord
Edit: Getting 7000 users in 3 days on my Alexa Skills
I recently published another post on how I gained 7000 unique users on one of my Alexa skills in just 3 days, you can check it out by clicking here.