In order to create a high-quality Skill that customers will love, it is essential to start working on your idea long before you open the Alexa Developer Console. The better you understand your customers and their needs, the easier it will be to design natural interactions and reduce potential friction. In this article, we asked Alexa Champion and Co-Founder of Monoceros Labs, Nieves Ábalos Serrano (on Twitter @nieves_as), how her team gathers information about their target group and use it to create successful and engaging games Skill.
“I have been working with voice for 10 years now and the speed with which this technology is developing inspires me very much. The fact that Alexa is now available in so many homes around the world and can make a real difference to our everyday lives motivated us to start building voice and multimodal apps two years ago. Our first Alexa Skill, Veo Veo, is a guessing game, based on the popular traditional Spanish game, which we adapted for a voice-first interface. Our main goal was to create a delightful experience to help people spend more quality time together. Today we hear how many users recommend to buy an Alexa device to their friends, especially to play Veo Veo, so we believe we’ve achieved our goal”, said Nieves. “The key behind the success of Veo Veo is the right conversational experience. It is essential to talk to your users as much as possible and improve your Skill according to their personal needs”.
User Personas represent real people who will engage with your Skill. Building a clear portrait of your potential users, their preferences, problems, habits and daily routine is a widely used marketing instrument that can bring value to anyone: from solo developers to big voice agencies. “In the phase of designing a conversation for a Skill, we always start building a user persona. There are only a few steps needed. Firstly, we conduct internet researches on our potential target group. Currently, we are working on a Skill for older generations, so we’re trying to gather key trends to understand their behaviour . After the primary research, we formulate our assumptions about the content they would enjoy the most and prepare questions for the following interviews. To gather enough information, you need to interview at least five people, but they do not need to be experts, just real people. Sometimes we talk to our friends and family, but lately we also created a questionnaire, which we will post on our social media and invite people from our target group to participate in the survey.”
Staying focused on your Persona can help you to create dialogs that are more satisfying, adjust sound design and save time. “The research on elderly people we have conducted recently helped us to get a better understanding of the problem of loneliness among older generation. We realised that many people do not have any other options to connect with their families, other than video calls or messengers, because their children live abroad or work in another city. They feel lonely but cannot change the situation”, shared Nieves. “These learning helped us to focus on empathy while creating dialogs and build a supporting Alexa personality for the Skill”.
Skill development is always an ongoing process and to keep customers coming back, content improvement and updates are essential. It is also helpful to leverage skill analytics to define how long users stay engaged with your skill’s content and when they start to lose interest. In the case of Veo Veo, although it is possible to play with the same content multiple times, Nieves and her team aim to add new content every 2-3 months.
“The first thing you need to do in the game is to choose the room where you want to play. It can be a living room, a kitchen, or any other location. Because retention rate is our main KPI and we want people to play Veo Veo every day, we try to be creative with updates. Last year we added visual components with the Alexa Presentation Language and we are now testing different In-Skill Purchasing approaches. The first premium experience in the Skill is the possibility to play on a farm and guess animals in addition to regular objects. Long-term, we want to create an opportunity for companies to have branded content within the game. As an example, we could create locations similar to big furniture shops and let users guess furniture names."
Another great source for content inspiration is customer feedback. “Analysing the most common user utterances, we found that people often ask for clues while guessing objects. We think it would be a great idea to offer them clues as an in-Skill product”, said Nieves. It is also common to find useful insights and ideas among the comments on your Skill’s page in the Alexa Skills Store.
Creating a great customer experience starts with understanding your users and the problem you want to solve and remains an ongoing process after the Skill launch. Immerse yourself in the scoping process, gather as much information about your users as possible and keep them interested with new content. In our next article, we will give you more tips on how to create a social media community for your skill and use a website to interact with your Skill’s fans.