Add Timer Capabilities to Increase Retention in Your Alexa Skill with the Timers API

German Viscuso Apr 02, 2020

Today we are excited to announce the Timers API, which you can use to increase retention in your Alexa skills by allowing you to create and manage timers on behalf of your customers. The new API is available to developers in all locales supported by Alexa.

Popular skills like Barilla (available in Italy) and Cookpad (available in Japan) are leveraging timers to have their customers regain focus and resume interaction after a timer goes off. In general, any skill that has multiple steps or involves tracking time might benefit from the use of in-skill timers. You might find that timers are useful in skill categories such as cooking, chores, games, learning, exercise, crafting, cosmetics, and more.

Expand Your Skill Experience and Better Retain Customers

Timers have become an important part of our daily routines for various types of events and tasks, but until now timers had to be started by your customers outside of your skill. By offering timers to customers in your Alexa skills, you can reduce friction by keeping them in your skill experience.

The Cookpad skill is a great example of providing active cooking assistance and increased value to customers with the Timers API. “It is common to set a timer while cooking, but it was difficult for Cookpad to enable this use case while supporting a smooth cooking experience. With the release of the Timers API, customers can now set a timer without leaving the skill which brings an even better cooking experience with our skill.” says Yoshiaki Yamada, software development engineer at Cookpad.

How the Timers API Works

With the Timers API you can now expand your customer experience beyond your active session by customizing how a timer is triggered. For example, you can have Alexa speak out when the timer elapses, or issue a customized prompt to return to your skill to continue the customer experience.

Skills integrating with the Timers API require two sets of permissions from the user. When a customer enables your skill, they will be asked to enable timer permissions. If your customer has not granted permission for your skill to create timers, make sure that you inform them about how to grant permissions, and that your skill sends a home card providing a link to the skill permissions page in the Alexa app. Second, at the start of every timer, you need explicit user permission to start the timer activity. For example, you can ask the user, "Would you like to start your 30min workout"?

A typical cooking use case would look like this:

  1. After receiving the user’s permission, your skill starts timer for cooking chicken that is set for five minutes.
  2. If there is no interruption, after five minutes, the timer starts ringing.
  3. If the timer is labeled (i.e., if the time has the label “chicken”), then, in addition to ringing, Alexa periodically says "Your chicken timer is done."
  4. The timer then continues to ring until one of these two actions occurs:

◦ The user says "Alexa, stop," or the equivalent.
◦ After 60 minutes passes without a response, the timer stops ringing (as with all Alexa timers)

Following our previous example, the Cookpad skill allows you to set a timer when you start cooking a recipe and asks for customer permissions to reduce friction. "The API is very easy to use because it manages all the life cycle of timers, and skills can simply create, pause, resume or delete timers," said Yoshiaki Yamada.

Implement Timers in Your Skill Today

You can add timers capability to your skills by integrating the Timers API through the Alexa Developer Console. Review our documentation to get started today!


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