Five tips for embedding shopping experiences within Alexa skills

Staff Writer Feb 01, 2023
Alexa Skills

Did you know that you can recommend products to customers who use your Alexa skill, and can earn money when they make eligible purchases referred from your skills? Using the Alexa Shopping Kit, third-party skill developers can create a shopping experience within their custom skills, making it simple for their customers to purchase relevant products without leaving the skill. 

“Customer obsession is the principle behind the Alexa Shopping Kit,” says Sanjeev Sridharan, senior product marketing manager at Alexa. “We want third-party skills builders to add value to their customers and make money.”

Monetizing your skill using the Alexa Shopping Kit

Alexa Shopping Actions is the foundational feature within the Alexa Shopping Kit and it allows you to surface relevant products within your skills and enables your customers to either add them to their Amazon cart to buy later (‘Add to Cart’ shopping action) or buy (‘Buy’ shopping action) them immediately. 

Recommended products fall into two categories: your own merchandise and other sellers’ products. For instance, developers who create cooking skills featuring recipes and tutorials could promote their own line of specialty cookware within their skills. This serves as a new channel to sell their own products. The same cooking skill could also recommend kitchen products from other brands that are sold on Amazon to help their customers cook smarter. Developers can earn money in this process by enrolling in another feature within the Alexa Shopping Kit -  Amazon Associates on Alexa. It is the extension of Amazon’s successful affiliate marketing program to Alexa and enables developers to earn up to 10 percent commission on eligible Amazon purchases that are referred from their skills.

Benefiting from an integrated shopping experience

Any skill could be a good candidate for integrating Alexa Shopping Actions—as long as you can think of products relevant to the skill and to your audience. For example, Lincoln Cole, creator of the adventure gaming skill, The Dark Citadel, promotes his science fiction novels, which are thematically similar to the game. Nick Schwab, creator of popular Sleep Sounds skills recommends sleep products from other brands, such as comfy pillows and other bedroom essentials that are sold on Amazon.

Below, we share five tips for developers to integrate Alexa Shopping Actions into their skills. 

Best practices in integrating Alexa Shopping Actions into Alexa skills

Tip #1: Put the customer experience first.

Product recommendations are central to some skills, like those offering technology reviews or personal stylist tips. But in many cases, customers aren’t coming to your skill to shop. For example, providing too many product recommendations in a cooking or exercise skill might feel intrusive to the customer that primarily wants a delicious recipe or a great workout. “Ask yourself if the frequency of your product recommendations supports or detracts from the customer experience,” says Michelle Mullenax, senior product lead for the Alexa Shopping Kit.. 

If customers say “no” to a product recommendation, developers should use a strategy to account for that action.

“If they say ‘no’ once, let’s say your back-off period is one day before you recommend a different product,” says Sreemathi Basker, software development manager for the Alexa Shopping Kit. “If they say ‘no’ again, the wait time should be longer than one day, and so on.” 

Tip #2: Don’t treat your product recommendations as an afterthought.

“Think about how you can use product recommendations to truly enrich your customer’s experience,” says Mullenax. “Make sure that the product is relevant to the theme and content of your skill, and appears at the right point in the skill experience.” 

For instance, you wouldn’t want to recommend a popular video game in your yoga skill. Instead, recommend items that might be useful to your audience, such as yoga pants, and introduce product recommendations before or after the skill session to avoid disrupting your customer’s experience. Because building trust with your customers is important, only recommend products that you love or that you’ve researched thoroughly to make sure that they’re a good fit for your audience.

Tip #3: Consider customer behavior and intent.

To make relevant product recommendations at the right time, it’s important to understand how your customers use your skill. For example, customers engaging with a tutorial skill are likely to be interested in completing the task or project themselves. So, the skill could ask customers if they have what they need to follow along, and if they don’t, recommend the right tools and supplies. Pay attention to which skill interactions are most popular and when customers are most likely to engage. “If you embed a shopping experience after a popular tutorial session, it’s more likely that the customer will make a purchase,” says  Basker.

Tip #4: Keep your product selection fresh.

“If your favorite store never had anything new, you’d become bored with that store pretty quickly and wouldn’t have an incentive to keep coming back,” says Mullenax. The same holds true for in-skill shopping. Developers can go to the Analytics tab in the Alexa Developer Console, to see how their product recommendations are performing. For instance, if your customers are not engaging with a specific brand of yoga mats, it might be time to switch to another brand or even another relevant product. Refreshing your product selection with new items, such as yoga pants or other workout clothes, might help you continue to offer value and drive sales. 

Tip #5: Test your skill.

Before offering a new shopping experience to your customers, try it out yourself—both to perform a quality assurance check and to make sure that your product recommendations flow with the rest of your skill. Skill developers can test their workflows in the Alexa Developer Console to find out if everything is running smoothly before publishing the skill. “You should always be your own first customer,” says Mullenax.

Using the Alexa Developer Console and Amazon Associates Central Portal

Skill developers have two useful tool kits to help them make the most of their monetization efforts. The Alexa Developer Console offers tools for building and testing your skill and incorporating features such as Alexa Shopping Actions, as well as for tracking customer actions for each product that you offer. The Amazon Associates Central Portal provides metrics, such as revenue and commission earned from skills. Using these tools can help you optimize your skills both to provide a better customer experience and to increase your earnings. 

Getting started 

As voice experiences grow more popular, customers are coming to appreciate the convenience of shopping directly from their favorite Alexa skills. “Skill developers should know that integrating Alexa Shopping Actions is easy, and there’s only an upside,” says Mullenax. 

Get started by reviewing the technical documentation on Alexa Shopping Actions and Amazon Associates on Alexa.

Recommended Reading

The Alexa Shopping Kit allows skill developers to sell products from within their skill and earn commissions
5 tips from Amazon tech leader Girish Shekhar on how developers can grow revenue from their skills using Alexa Shopping Actions
Amazon Associates on Alexa brings developers a new way to earn revenue from their skills