In-Skill Purchasing

The in-skill purchasing feature lets you sell premium digital content in your skill. Skills with products for sale should be engaging, high quality offerings provided to the customer when appropriate. This section describes the best practices to follow and pitfalls to avoid when you start developing products for your skill.

Understand product offerings

If you already have an engaging skill with free content that customers enjoy using, it’s time to consider adding more content that you can sell to your customers. This section covers adding digital content to your skill. Physical items can also be sold through your skill using Amazon Pay. For more information about how to sell physical goods with Amazon Pay, see Amazon Pay for Alexa Skills Overview.

In a skill, you can offer customers three types of digital content products:

  1. Subscriptions: customers pay a flat monthly fee to access content or services, such as monthly access to all content channels (sports, news, and comedy) in a podcast service. You charge customers on a recurring basis until they decide to cancel.
  2. Entitlements: you charge a one-time payment for access to a premium feature that is always be available to the customer. For example, customers purchase a theme pack in a trivia skill that they can play over and over again.
  3. Consumables: you require a one-time payment for an experience that customers use once and then it is removed from the skill. For example, you sell a hint in a game or an extra chance to play another turn. You can sell consumables individually, in packages, or only allow repeat purchases after the customer has used up all consumables.

Design the purchase flow

You’ve got a really engaging skill with several turns to delight customers. Now how do you monetize that? There are a few steps you can take to ensure you’ve got a great product to sell inside of an already excellent skill.

First, let’s talk about the upsell. This is the message your skill will say to customers to advertise a product for sale. The upsell needs to do three things:

  1. Make sense in the context of the customer journey
  2. Describe the product in as few words as possible
  3. Complete the upsell in as few steps as possible

For example, let’s say you’ve built a trivia skill about countries around the world, and the customer plays through all the free content. When the customer is finished, you can have the skill offer an entitlement for a new game pack on national birds and flowers.

Alexa: "Woohoo! You got forty-five out of fifty countries correct. If you’d like to learn more about countries around the world, you can now get the national bird expansion pack. Wanna learn more?"




Let’s break down this example further:

  1. Your skill gives a message after the free content is finished: “Woohoo! You got forty-five out of fifty states correct,” which makes sense in the context of the journey and the upsell message you’re making.
  2. Your skill describes the relevant, available product: “If you’d like to learn more about countries around the world, you can now get the national bird expansion pack.”)
  3. Your skill hands off the buying decision to the customer: “Wanna learn more?”

Only upsell one product at a time

An upsell message should never promote more than one product at a time. This is because the upsell message is actually the introduction to the Amazon purchase flow. The customer purchases your product through Amazon, and then the Amazon purchase flow brings the customer back into your skill. You need to create the introduction, the upsell, to the purchase flow and gracefully handle the re-entry back into your skill whether your product was purchased or not. The purchase flow tells you if the customer did or did not purchase the product, so you need to design the purchase experience for both scenarios.

For example, in your trivia skill, let’s say the customer bought the birds and flowers expansion pack. You need to bring the customer back into the skill after the purchase. This is a great time to suggest that the customer use the expansion pack to continue playing.

Alexa: "Thanks for buying the national bird expansion pack! Would you like to start playing it?"



Run through the full purchase flow experience

Let’s put it all together to get a sense of the customer experience and see how your trivia skill works with the purchase flow.

Alexa: "Woohoo! You got forty-five out of fifty countries correct. If you’d like to learn more about countries around the world, you can now get the national bird expansion pack. Wanna learn more?"




User: "Yes."


Alexa (purchase flow): "The national bird expansion pack includes 195 real and mythical birds per country to test your knowledge. It’s $2.99 plus tax. Would you like to buy it?"




User: "Yes."


Alexa: "Thanks for buying the national bird expansion pack! Would you like to start playing it?"




Remember, not everyone’s going to buy what you’re selling so you still need to create a clear and easy way for the customer to exit the purchase flow. If you have other content packs that the customer can interact with, then suggest those to the customer. If there’s no further content, then you need to end the session. For example, if the customer has played all the free content and does not want to purchase more at this time, you need to end the session.

Alexa: "Great job at playing the Countries Quiz Game. Come back anytime to learn more about countries around the world. Bye!"



Choose a good time to upsell

Upsells should occur at natural transition points in the customer’s journey, after the customer finishes speaking. There are several places you can upsell, depending on the customer’s location in the journey and the type of product offered. The following list shows some common locations in the customer journey that are effective places to upsell:

  • When the customer has finished all free content
  • When the customer has played through an entitlement and might have purchased more
  • If the customer can no longer proceed and needs a consumable product, such as a hint or extra turn

Don’t deliver an upsell message the first time a customer uses a skill. When the is new to the skill, you need to focus on how the skill works instead of selling a product because the customer will not know much about the skill and will have no context as to how a purchase might affect their experience.

Never repeat an upsell message in the same session. Vary the amount of upsells with customer usage. You might need to create 3-5 upsell messages for the same product to avoid repetition in the messaging. Also consider skipping the upsell message entirely between sessions to avoid customer burn-out.

Showcase multiple products

It’s not uncommon to have customers ask your skill, “What can I buy?” Customers might be exploring your skill or might not have remembered what products you were selling before. This is an important situation to be able to handle outside of the usual upsell messages since it will allow you to talk about multiple product offerings your skill has.

There are a few ways you can talk about your products. If your skill only has one product, go directly into the upsell message but don’t spam your customer if they decline. If you have a range of products, you need to list them one at a time since you can only upsell one product per upsell. To trigger multiple upsells, make sure you design your upsell to trigger on utterances like “What can I buy” and other similar phrases. Similarly, if a customer outright asks for a product, for example, “I want to buy the country flag quiz” then you can avoid the upsell and launch directly into the purchase flow. You need to map this utterance to each product to make sure you capture the ability to directly purchase an item.

The following list shows some best practices for this scenario:

  • Handle utterances such as: “shop”, “what can I buy”, “for sale”, or “tell me more about {item}”
  • Make sure to include shopping options in your Help intent for customers who need assistance. For example, “You can play a quiz or ask me what other quiz packs are available.”
  • Only upsell one product at a time, even if you have multiple products for sale.

For example, in your trivia game, let’s upsell what we have available to repeat customers who have already played the game.

Alexa: "Wow, you’re an ace at Countries Quiz game. I have a new trivia pack on national birds. Would you like to hear more?"


User: "What else can I buy?"


Alexa: "I have a new trivia pack on country flags. Do you want to learn more about it?"


User: "Nah- what else?"


Alexa: "Ok, I have a trivia pack on national mascots. Want to hear more?"


User: "Sure."



Since you can only upsell one item at a time, you need to showcase your products one at a time as well.

Tailor upsell messages by product type

You need to tailor your upsell messages by product type so that you appropriately convey what’s in the product before the customer buys it.

Subscriptions need an upsell message that describes the kind of content that customers receive on a monthly basis. You might also want to offer a trial period of up to 30 days so that customers can get a sample of the monthly content you offer in your skill. You need to clarify that the trial is only for new subscribers. Always mention the duration of your subscription in the upsell so customers know what they’re buying each month.

For example, let’s say your customer wants to play a new adventure series, “The Chasm,” but it’s part of a subscription.

User: "Play, "The Chasm.""


Alexa: "“The Chasm” is only available with a subscription to Treasure Finders Plus. Subscribers get access to a new exclusive adventure each month. New subscribers get to try it for free. Want to learn more?"




Entitlements are a simpler upsell. You can tell customers at the beginning or end of their session about content available to them. Unlike consumables, after customers buy entitlements they always have to them. Therefore, you also need to add hints in case customers forget they bought the content.

For example, your customer is playing one game, but forgets that they bought a new adventure last session.

Alexa: "Welcome back to Treasure Finders! Last time you were playing “The Deep Sea.” Do you want to continue or start your new adventure pack, “The Chasm?”"




Consumables are an effective way to address customer moments of need. You can tell customers about consumables between conversational turns. Just be careful to never interrupt your customer while they’re speaking. Interruptions break customer trust.

For example, let’s say your customer is running out of gold in their adventure. Gold isn’t necessary to play, but if used, it makes game play faster.

Alexa: "Seems like the Panhandler won’t tell you his secrets. You’ll have to give him one gold coin for that info. You can buy more gold to help you along. Want to learn more?"




Just like entitlements or subscriptions, hints are very helpful with consumables as well. Customers might not remember how much of a consumable they have, especially if purchased in bulk. For example, let’s say your customer bought one hundred coins and needs to know how many they have left.

User: "How much gold do I have left?""


Alexa: "Yikes! You only have ten coins left. Do you want to get more?"



Determine when to use a direct purchase or an upsell

There are two types of purchase flows: a direct purchase and an upsell. A direct purchase usually occurs when a customer asks for a product outright, usually in the context of asking “What can I buy?” or for consumable purchases made often. A direct purchase doesn’t need a “yes” confirmation from the customer to get to the purchase flow.f

User: "I want to buy the hint pack."


Alexa (Purchase flow): "The hint pack contains 10 hints you can use anytime in the game. It’s $4.99 plus tax. Would you like to buy it?"


User: "Yes.""


Alexa: "Thanks for buying the hint pack. Would you like to use a hint to solve the puzzle?"



However, most purchases will fall into the upsell message category. Purchases that use the upsell message require consent (“yes”) from the customer to continue to the purchase flow. While longer, the upsell message purchase flow is a safer choice in general, because your customers won’t be confused about how they got to the purchase flow.

Alexa: "I hope you enjoyed the drink recipe of the day. If you're thirsty for more, you can the get the full library of cocktail recipes. Want to learn how to join the recipe club?"



Follow best selling practices

This section explains the best practices you can follow for selling products to customers so that they have the best possible purchase experience.

Sell relevant products

Don’t sell a product just because you can. Customers lose trust in skills that surface offers that aren’t relevant or interesting to them. Conversely, skills can build rapport with customers by offering exactly what they need when they need it, and avoiding offers they don’t need. Never offer an in-skill purchase that a customer doesn’t need or can’t use, has already purchased, or is outsized to their needs.

All of your purchases should be relevant to the skill and especially relevant to where the customer is in the journey. If you’re selling a subscription, make sure you have enough content to engage with the customer for the thirty day duration of the subscription. In the case of one-time purchases, make sure you know what’s worthy as an entitlement versus a consumable. For example, an entitlement is best used for expansion packs while a consumable is good for small uses like hints or extra lives in a game.

Offer the right product at the right time

Offer the right product at the right time in the customer journey. This can be a really delightful experience for customers when it’s done right. Repeating the same offer the same way over and over will erode customer trust and might keep them from wanting to use your skill.

The upsell leads to the purchase

Avoid misleading customers into thinking a purchase will be made immediately in the upsell message. The upsell only asks if the customer wants to learn more about the product without offering any pricing information or other terms. The purchase flow handles the actual transaction. A customer is likely to answer “No” to a prompt to “buy” before they’ve heard the terms or price from the Amazon purchase flow.

Do

Alexa: “… Want to learn more?”

Don't

Alexa: “Do you want to buy it?”

Be explicit about premium vs. free content

Explicitly state that a product is offered for sale. Never combine an upsell message with a list of free content products. Always offer the premium experience as an attractive alternative.

For example, if a customer asks, “Alexa, ask PodcastMaster for a podcast about space”:

Do

Alexa: “I’ve got several space podcasts like “Around the World” or “Space Crazy,” or you can hear about three more premium podcasts. Which would you like?”

User: “Neil's Frontiers.”

Don't

Alexa: “I have several podcasts like that. You can listen to “Around the World,” “Space Crazy,” “Neil’s Frontiers,” or ask about more podcasts. Which do you want?””

User: “Neil's Frontiers.”

Alexa: “Sorry, you’ll need a subscription to listen to that. Want to learn how to subscribe?”

Be specific with product offerings

Provide an explicit, contextually relevant offer for a single product wherever possible. Don’t rely on the customer to remember a special utterance or make the customer navigate a storefront to make a purchase.

Do

Alexa: “That’s all the fun I have for today, but you can continue the adventure with the “Wilderness Explorer” expansion pack, with five more jungle trivia rounds. Want to learn more?”

Don't

Alexa: “To continue enjoying this skill, you need to buy the expansion pack. Would you like to learn more?”

Use concise, yet descriptive language to inform the customer about what they’re purchasing. Products sold as packs of content should have the number of items or amount of content made obvious somewhere in the product description or name. Use descriptive titles without relying on them to convey all relevant detail.

Do

Alexa: “That’s all the fun I have for today, but you can continue the adventure with the “Wilderness Explorer” expansion pack, with five more jungle trivia rounds. Want to learn more?”

Don't

Alexa: “To continue enjoying this skill, you need to buy the expansion pack. Would you like to learn more?”

Always include a way to cancel or refund

You need to build in support for customers who want to cancel or refund a purchase. This involves sending the customer to the Alexa app to complete the refund process. The customer might ask for a refund in multiple ways:

  • “Alexa, tell Treasure Finders I want to return Cave Quest.”
  • “Alexa, refund Cave Quest.”
  • “I want to return Cave Quest.”
  • “I want a refund for Cave Quest.”

For example, if a customer bought the entitlement “Cave Quest” and wanted to return it for a refund, they should be able to ask Alexa to do this for them.

User: "Alexa, I want to return Cave Quest."


Alexa: "For a refund, check out the link I sent you in the Alexa app."



Similar to entitlements, consumables or subscriptions can also be refunded even if they have already been used. Subscriptions will be refunded and the auto-renew for future months will be turned off. Read more about handling refunds in Add ISP Support to Your Skill Code.

Back to top