There are now hundreds of millions of Alexa devices around the world, and the number of active users has more than doubled over the last three years. Skill builders can leverage this momentum to earn money by embedding shopping experiences within their skills.
At Alexa Live 2022, we introduced the Alexa Shopping Kit as a consolidated suite of features that enable skill builders to surface products within their skills. The Alexa Shopping Kit supports two use cases: recommending your own products and recommending other brands’ products within your skills. The feature within the kit that enables you to support these two use cases is Alexa Shopping Actions.
Today there are two Shopping Actions that are Generally Available that you can use to surface relevant products that are sold on Amazon within your skills: you can use 'Add to Cart' to allow customers to add items to their Amazon cart to buy later and 'Buy' to purchase the items directly from your skill. A third action, 'Recommend' is currently in developer preview and can be used to surface up to 10 products at any one time. Customers are then provided the option of using one of the shopping actions - 'Add to Cart' or 'Buy'.
In the first use case, you can use your Alexa skill to surface and sell your own products that are listed on the Amazon online store. “You gain a completely new channel to engage with your audience and promote the products you sell on Amazon,” says Michelle Mullenax, senior product lead for the Alexa Shopping Kit.
In the second use case, you can surface relevant products from other brands that are listed on the Amazon online store to enhance your skill experience. You can also sign up for Amazon Associates on Alexa, Amazon’s affiliate marketing program that allows you to earn up to 10 percent commission on eligible Amazon purchases referred from your skills. “This is an important monetization feature for skill builders to build a sustainable business on Alexa,” says Mullenax.
Why design matters for Alexa shopping experiences
The best shopping experiences on Alexa are those that offer product recommendations in the right context, at the right time. For example, a builder of a yoga skill may recommend a yoga mat at the end of a session.
However, there’s a fine line: if the recommendation feels intrusive, perhaps if it's placed in the middle of the yoga session, customers might decide to stop using the skill.
“It’s all about presenting value to the customer,” says Josh Eyre, Senior UX Designer for Alexa Shopping. “You need to give them a compelling reason to continue to engage.”
The tips provided below will help you design a smooth shopping experience with the Alexa Shopping Kit.
Tips for designing shopping recommendations in your Alexa skills
Tip #1: Get explicit confirmation from the user to build trust
Part of the requirements for certifying third-party Alexa skills is enabling explicit confirmation before offering Alexa Shopping Actions to your customers. Explicit confirmation means that you ask your customer’s permission before providing product recommendations. For example, you can ask the customer, 'Would you like to hear my best recommendations for yoga mats that prevent slipping during your yoga practice?', to which the customer can respond 'yes' and be presented with the shopping action of your choice, or say 'no' and continue with the skill without being presented with the recommendation. You can seek consent in two ways: by voice (for example the customer says 'yes' or 'no' or 'show me option', or 2) by touch on a screen enabled device (for example they tap on an option they see on screen). In either case, customer controls whether they are presented with the product recommendation, which builds trust.
Tip #2: Aim for the right timing
To avoid intruding on your customer’s experience, you should have your shopping recommendations surface at the right moment during the skill session. “If you have a yoga skill, the right time to present an offer is after the session,” says Mullenax. “If you have a trivia skill, you want to engage customers with an offer after several rounds of trivia. You want to find that sweet spot when your customer has already garnered value from your skill.”
Tip #3: Limit the complexity of choice
Using ‘Add to Cart’ and ‘Buy’, you can recommend one product at a time. When the ‘Recommend’ action is generally available, you will be able to offer multiple products at once. ‘Recommend’ is best used when it’s most helpful for the customer to receive a curated selection of products, such as each ingredient needed for a recipe or all the supplies needed to make a bracelet.
Avoid overwhelming your customer with too many options, which can be hard to navigate using a voice interface. “If you use complex product descriptions or offer too many options, the customer could potentially become confused or frustrated,” says Eyre. “It’s important to limit the complexity of choice.”
Tip #4: Make Alexa Shopping Actions simple to find
Though product recommendations shouldn’t be intrusive, you should avoid making them too difficult to find. If your customer needs to take too many steps to reach a product recommendation, it’s less likely that they will purchase.
“We recommend conducting a test to to see how easily customers can find your recommendations,” says Mullenax. “If you find yourself saying ‘and then, and then, and then,’ your recommendation is probably buried too deep within the experience.”
Tip #5: Use simple language
“Skill builders should focus on simplicity across the board,” says Eyre. That includes choosing short, simple phrases and avoiding multisyllabic words. “A practical tip is to use the developer tools interface to play back Alexa’s voice,” Eyre says. “Test your skill and listen to it. You can always go back and shorten the dialogue.”
It’s also important to avoid ambiguity—think carefully about word choice so that customers can easily understand their options. That goes for designing experiences in which customers can interact with Alexa using a screen, as well as voice. “We shouldn’t assume the customer is in a position to interact with a screen interface,” says Eyre. “Even if they have a screen, you still want to aim for a simple, conversational experience.”
Tip #6: Learn from user feedback
Skill builders can use the Insights tab on the Alexa Developer Console to view analytics for their skill and learn how their customers are interacting with Alexa Shopping Actions. “You can use these analytics to keep track of where customers are dropping out of your experience, which product recommendations are performing well, and adapt your design accordingly” says Eyre.
Get started by reviewing the technical documentation on Alexa Shopping Actions and Amazon Associates on Alexa.