Today, there are over 100 million Alexa-enabled devices around the world. The number of active users of Alexa has more than doubled since 2019, and engagement with third-party Alexa-powered devices has doubled since 2020.
“Even though we have 900,000 Alexa developers, and they’ve done tons of amazing things, there’s so much that hasn’t been tried yet,” says Amanda Lange, technical evangelist for Alexa.
“Developers can take advantage of Alexa’s momentum to grow revenue and build sustainable businesses. What’s more, if you’re a developer looking for to build future-forward experiences, Alexa skills is one of the most exciting spaces to be in.”
However, Lange says that monetizing Alexa skills is different from how you would go around monetizing a mobile app.
Showing Developers How to Build High-Quality, Monetizable Alexa Skills
A developer herself, Lange has been passionate about voice technology since writing her master’s thesis on how conversational artificial intelligence can direct interactive storytelling. Her interest started with a free story game driven by artificial intelligence and user input. “The game was a hoot, and it made me think, ‘Wow, this is cool. Imagine if you could talk to a game and it would talk back.’”
Over the years, Lange has worked in the gaming industry. She also spent two years as a computer science professor at Kutztown University. However, her early experiences of developing with voice stayed with her, and Lange left that role to join Amazon as a community manager to help developers overcome obstacles to building high-quality, monetizable Alexa skills.
“In my role, I support the developer community on multiple fronts to ensure that they are set up for success. The task of a community manager isn’t just to give information from on high but to make sure that you are on the grounds helping everybody communicate with everybody else.”
While building the next generation of computing experiences is an attractive proposition for developers, Lange views helping them grow revenue as being one of the primary areas of focus in her role.
“Developers have limited time and resources, and if they aren’t able to make money with something, they are not likely to stick with it,” she says.
Lange points to monetization opportunities that are enticing to developers for voice skills.
Developers can use Alexa skills to offer one-time purchases. For example, a game might allow customers to play the first three chapters for free, and offer them a one-time purchase for continued game play. In this case, the developer would have to offer the customer an offer with an upsell.
Lange says that these upsells are different with Alexa skills because they use voice as opposed to screens.
“Developers have to be careful not to interrupt the experience,” she says. “The Alexa skill must integrate with Alexa Voice for the purchasing dialogue, and that handoff needs to be seamless for the customer.”
Lange recommends that developers should offer a free trial of the Alexa skill prior to offering an upsell.
“People don’t like to pay for something before they’ve tried it,” Lange says. “Instead, get them familiar with the skill.’”
Lange also encourages developers to experiment with the pricing of their in-skill purchases.
Developers can also offer subscriptions, which are products and services the customer pays for monthly, are great for certain categories like music skills and podcast skills. For example, a podcast skill could deliver bonus podcasts to paying subscribers.
As with one-time app purchases, offering users an offer for a subscription involves crafting a compelling customer dialogue for the upsell offer. The skill then should be able to converse fluently with the customer, and be able to answer any questions about the subscription.
Lange recommends that developers take the time to account for how people actually talk during a conversation.
“You really have to put yourself in the shoes of the customer,” Lange says. “People often pause, they misspeak, and ask the same question in a ton of different ways. I would recommend trying the conversation out with your friends and family even before you code anything.”
No matter what you are doing, Lange recommends keeping it simple.
“Be careful not to overload users with options when selling an Alexa skill,” Lange says. “For example, don’t ask everything in the same sentence. If you are selling handmade winter wear using an Alexa skill, you might first want to ask the customer if they want mittens or gloves. Then you can move on to asking about colors, and provide no more than three color options in the same sentence”.
Lange says that continual improvements are a constant at Alexa.
She points to the several new announcements Amazon made at Alexa Live 2022 to support developers: the Skill Developer Accelerator Program (SDAP) to build engaging custom skills and grow their businesses with Alexa, the Skill Quality Coach, which provides developers with a step-by-step approach for building high-quality skills with tailored guidance and feedback, and the Alexa Learning Lab.
Lange says that developers should stay up to date on the increasingly new and exciting number of ways they can grow revenue.
“One great way to do this is connect to fellow developers through the Alexa developer Slack channel,” she says.
“Third-party developers are critical to Alexa’s adoption around the world,” says Lange. “The Alexa team comes up with great ideas, but it’s the creativity of our third-party developers that brings delight to people. I am excited to see how Alexa’s continued momentum directly translates into increased business growth for developers.”