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November 27, 2018Jennifer King
By day, Alexa Champion Nick Schwab is a senior software engineer for Ford Motor Company. Nights and weekends, however, you’ll find the 29-year old building some of the top-earning skills in the Alexa Skills Store through his company Invoked Apps. His popular ambient sound skills have been earning Alexa Developer Rewards for over a year by helping Alexa users sleep, relax, meditate, and focus. But with in-skill purchasing, Schwab saw a chance to grow his voice business with more sustainable and predictable revenue.
“Alexa Developer Rewards enabled me to build skills that reach millions of users,” says Schwab. “Now, with in-skill purchasing, I have monetization tools that can help me scale and innovate to deliver premium experiences to my customers.
When in-skill purchasing became available, Schwab started selling monthly subscriptions in his skills that unlocked new premium content and features. Customers are first offered a 14-day free trial subscription, after which they can purchase the monthly subscription to continue the premium experience. Schwab says the customer response has been overwhelmingly positive—up to 30% of customers who are offered the free trial sign up, and more than 90% of free trials convert to paid subscriptions.
With conversion rates like that, it’s no wonder his company Invoked Apps is thriving, not to mention Schwab being able to enjoy some well-deserved financial stability and success.
“Alexa Developer Rewards and the ability to directly monetize my skills with in-skill purchasing has certainly changed my life in ways I had never imagined” says Schwab, referring to the recent purchase of his first home and delivery of his dream car, a Tesla Model 3.
Schwab’s first Alexa skills, Opening Bell and Funny News, both won Hackster Alexa challenges. The wins boosted the new Alexa developer’s confidence, but it was a noisy neighbor living above Schwab that gave him the idea for what became a top-grossing Alexa skill.
He built his first ambient sounds skill Rain Sounds to help him drown out his noisy neighbor. But within months, hundreds of thousands of other listeners had begun using the skill. Over the next year, Schwab expanded his list of sound skills to include ocean waves, babbling brooks, crickets, thunderstorms, airplanes, and more—to date, more than 40 sound skills in all.
When the Alexa Developer Rewards program, which pays developers for highly engaging skills, expanded to include the Music and Sound category, Invoked Apps really took off. Today, his skills attract nearly 2 million active monthly users.
When Amazon introduced in-skill purchasing for Alexa skills, Schwab jumped at the opportunity to deliver premium experiences to customers to grow his business even further. Within a week, he incorporated new premium features and content into one of his skills and began offering them to his customers as an in-skill purchase.
For only $1.99 a month, subscribers unlock the ability to listen to two sounds simultaneously, such as overlaying rain sounds with ocean waves. In addition to instant access to over 800 unique sound combinations, subscribers also experience extended sound loops for more seamless playback—a feature often requested by customers who are light sleepers.
As an added incentive to purchase, Schwab offers a 14-day free trial for listeners to experience the premium content before the paid subscription begins. And Amazon handles the whole purchase flow transparently, which creates a seamless experience for customers.
“Customers love the premium features, some of which were inspired by actual online user feedback,” says Schwab. “It’s great to be able to give them even more of what they want, and the additional revenue frees me to experiment with even bolder enhancements.”
Schwab considered various in-skill purchasing models, including a one-time purchase, but settled on the monthly subscription as best for his business goals. By offering customers a 14-day free trial subscription, he’s able to demonstrate the value of the premium experience to customers. This approach has resulted in 90% of free trial customers converting to paid subscribers.
“As a business owner, it was important I have a predictable monthly stream of revenue,” says Schwab. “With the recurring expenses associated with extensive audio streaming, it is vital to have a recurring revenue stream to offset them. The in-skill purchasing subscription model was a perfect fit for my business needs."
Schwab’s skills fill such a real need for Alexa users, they’ve become a part of customers’ everyday lives. By providing premium content via in-skill purchasing, he’s giving those customers even more of what they want and ask for.
As a result, Schwab’s base of happy customers keeps growing. In fact, with over 44,000 reviews of its sound skills, Invoked Apps is the most-rated Alexa skill developer in the US Alexa Skills Store and maintains an average skill rating of over 4.7 stars. And the customer feedback on his new subscription has been positive, based on the high conversion rates he’s seeing.
“It's incredible to see how positively customers are responding to the premium experience," says Schwab. "Listening to user feedback and turning it into premium product offerings has created limitless financial opportunities for my business."
You can make money for eligible skills that drive some of the highest customer engagement with Alexa Developer Rewards. You can also make money with Alexa skills using in-skill purchasing or Amazon Pay for Alexa Skills. Download our introductory guide to learn more.