How Alexa skill developers can use voice-forward account linking to engage and retain customers

Staff Writer Oct 17, 2022
Alexa Skills

When Tariq Khan first interacted with an Alexa device as an end customer, he was intrigued by the experience of using voice to get answers, rather than having to type out his questions. Today, as the product manager for the Alexa Skills Kit team, Khan gets to be part of the team that designs features to enable developers build the next generation of ambient experiences with Alexa.

At Alexa Live 2022, Khan’s team released the Voice-Forward Account Linking feature to help developers connect with their customers in more meaningful and personalized ways. Voice-Forward Account Linking enables customers to link the account that they have with a developer application with their Alexa account, by just using their voice. Previously, customers had to use their Alexa app to achieve account linking. However, with this new approach, a simple voice consent can be used to establish a connection between the accounts.

“This was a major feature requested by developers,” says Khan. “I am excited to be a part of the team that was able to bring this feature to life.”

Before Voice-Forward Account Linking, customers who made a request to an Alexa skill — to play music, control a smart home device, or order a pizza, for example — were asked to link their account from the Alexa app. To do that, end users had to pick up their phone, log in to the Alexa app, and enter their username and password. Now Voice-Forward Account Linking facilitates simple and friction-free linking between third-party and Alexa accounts.

Advantages of Voice-Forward Account Linking

Here’s an example of Voice-Forward account linking in action: When a customer voices a request to Alexa to listen to music on a third-party app, Alexa prompts, “Would you like to link your Alexa and Spotify accounts?” If the customer is recognized and says “yes”, Alexa initiates an account linking process that commences with a multi-factor authentication of a one-time password sent to the customer’s phone. Customers can read the code aloud to Alexa to securely link their accounts.

“We removed the dependency on the Alexa app altogether,” says Khan. “The customer doesn’t even need to have the Alexa app installed.”

In addition to the simplified customer experience, Voice-Forward Account Linking delivers other advantages to developers:

Improved personalization

Developers can use Voice-Forward Account Linking to personalize the customer experience. Their company’s customers can quickly and more naturally link their accounts they want to Alexa. This effectively means that customers can tailor the individual experiences they want enabled via voice. For example, a customer can request a ride sharing app to send a car to their home without having to specify the address.

Increased ad revenue

In certain instances, third party developers might want to engage customers with advertisements that are relevant to them. To provide these relevant ads, developers need to get an explicit consent from end customers. Voice-forward Account Linking helps with getting consents from existing customers (via an account sign-in process) or with new customers (via login with Amazon). In this way, Voice-Forward Account Linking can help developers increase revenue from advertising, while being able to adhere to data privacy regulations.

Greater conversion rates

Developers that participated in the beta experience for Voice-Forward Account Linking saw an increase in the baseline conversion rate for custom skills by a factor of 3X.

“Because Voice-Forward Account Linking provides a frictionless experience, customers can link an account in just a few steps instead of the eleven steps it took previously,” says Khan.

Setting up the configuration for Voice-Forward Account Linking can typically take developers one to two weeks. When the identity server is implemented, developers set up permissions for the customer, and add code snippets that automatically initiate the request to connect accounts with Alexa. 

Going forward, Khan’s team is focused on custom skills that don’t use the “log in with Amazon” as an identity provider.

“Many brands have their own custom authorization servers,” says Khan. “We want to support Voice-Forward Account Linking experiences even for authorization servers we don’t own by allowing customers to link accounts by using their email address or phone number.”

Khan says that Voice-Forward Account Linking has been implemented by skill developers such as Vocala, LC Publishing, and Yak Yak Games. He says that Voice-Forward Account Linking is a must-have feature for skill developers. 

“Voice-Forward Account Linking is a game changer when it comes to driving account linking conversions,” says Khan. “The natural and intuitive experiences enabled by voice are what drew me to Alexa, and I am delighted to be enabling these experiences for our developers and end customers.”

Get started with Voice-Forward Account Linking by reviewing the technical documentation.

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