In 2016, Nick Schwab’s Alexa journey began with a simple solution to a common problem—finding a way to sleep soundly with a noisy apartment neighbor. Little did he know that this initial endeavor would lead to the creation of Sleep Jar, a company that now helps millions of people get to sleep – and stay asleep – through their Amazon Alexa Skills. Today, Sleep Jar offers a catalog of over 200 sounds, narrated stories, journeys, and guided meditations.
Recently, Sleep Jar made an exciting improvement to its suite of skills by incorporating the Alexa Routines Kit. Alexa Routines enable customers to group multiple actions together so that they don’t have to invoke each one separately, or configure alternate ways to launch actions. By integrating the Alexa Routines Kit, Sleep Jar can offer prebuilt routines to users, making it even more convenient for them to access their favorite sleep sounds at a specific time every day.
Alexa Routines are offered through the Alexa mobile app and during customers’ voice interactions with Alexa. Customers can enable pre-built Routines with a couple of clicks in the Alexa app or through simple voice consent when Routines are offered during their interactions with Alexa.
We sat down with Schwab to explore Sleep Jar’s decision to integrate the Alexa Routines Kit, in addition to the results of that decision.
Why did Sleep Jar decide to integrate the Alexa Routines Kit?
We implemented the Alexa Routines Kit into almost all of our skills because we wanted to help customers access their favorite Sleep Jar faster - especially customers who are already habitual listeners. People tend to start our sleep sounds at night right before they go to bed by opening Sleep Jar or one of our other skills to hear them. Customers typically do this around the same time each night, so it was a natural fit to offer them a way to automatically start playing their favorite sounds at a certain time every day.
Before the Alexa Routines Kit, listeners would go into the Alexa app to manually create their own routine or speak the same voice command to launch their favorite Sleep Jar content every night. But with the Alexa Routines Kit, we can offer a prebuilt Routine customized to the customer’s listening history and empower users to enable it by just using their voice. With Alexa Routines, our customers can get the benefits of Sleep Jar in addition to doing other things like having Alexa turn off the lights and say good night.
What was the integration process like?
The integration process was really easy. In just two days of development work, we went from not having the Alexa Routines Kit at all to having a working proof of concept. We then fine-tuned the presentation of how we wanted to offer the Routine to our customers and set up the activation words. The entire process took four days from start to end.
We ran some experiments to figure out whether it was best to offer an utterance-based routine, where somebody has to say a specific phrase to launch the Routine, or make the routine time-based so that it automatically runs at a certain time every night. We found that offering a time-based routine was better with long-term reengagement than an utterance-based model.
What are some of the results that you’ve seen?
Through the Alexa developer console, there’s a Routines Reporting tab where you can see how many users accessed your skill through a Routine on a particular day or week. Since integrating Alexa Routines Kit, we’re seeing over 6X more customers access our skills through Routines on a daily basis.
Reengagement and retention are also huge with Alexa Routines. Customers who have a routine configured to access your skill are generally a lot stickier than customers who don’t. Time-based routines create the most predictable and highest reengagement rates because the skill is automatically launching at a scheduled time. By helping customers reengage with the skill every day, we’re creating opportunities to introduce customers to new features and pieces of content as we publish them.
Do you have any advice for developers considering the Alexa Routines Kit?
It’s important to look at how your customers are already using your Alexa skills to reinforce their natural behavior. Identifying usage patterns can help guide the type of Routine that you will create, the type of activation model you should use, or even what moments you should offer the Routine to the customer. For example, people use our Alexa Skills when they go to bed, so it made sense for us to offer time-based routines when they start listening to their favorite sound.
Routines can make your skill easier to access because the customer doesn’t have to remember the invocation name. If your skill is habitually used, it might make sense to offer a way to automatically start your Alexa Skill for a customer at a given time of day. If your skill is a game, maybe you would benefit from offering an utterance-based routine to launch your skill when the customer says “Alexa, let’s play a game,” or a similar phrase.
After seeing our data and the success we’ve achieved with the Alexa Routines Kit, I encourage all Alexa developers to give it a try. There’s an unprecedented opportunity for almost every Skill to build a more retained and engaged customer base using Alexa Routines Kit.