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April 01, 2019Jennifer King
Boston-based Finn Mauri Niininen has worked in technology since 1985, while Barry Thain has been a clinical hypnotist in London for 25 years. After one of Thain’s hypnotherapy recordings helped Niininen get some much-needed rest over 20 years ago, he had a business idea about delivering audio therapy benefits to a broader audience. That idea lay dormant for over 15 years, until Alexa entered their lives. Today, their Hypno Therapist skill for Alexa provides therapy to tens of thousands of customers. With in-skill-purchasing (ISP), the duo is able to monetize their skill, enabling them to build a voice business.
“ISP gives us an opportunity to generate significant revenue doing something we both love, while having a positive impact on people’s lives,” says Niininen. “Customers have responded positively to our in-skill products, including a $39.99 monthly subscription to our hypnotherapies. It inspires me to build more skills and have an impact just by writing a piece of code.”
Hypno Therapist offers six hypnotherapy sessions for free and a library of over 70 additional therapies available for purchase. So far, customers are more than happy to purchase the therapy sessions. Niininen and Thain are seeing an average offer-to-purchase conversion rate of 58% and a 4-star rating for the skill.
“Customers love the premium content. They tell me if they had to go see an actual therapist, they simply wouldn’t do it because it’s so expensive and inconvenient,” says Thain. “With Alexa, they can wake up at 3:00 in the morning and get near-instant relief for a few dollars, on their own couch. That’s astonishing.”
When Niininen first started tinkering with the Alexa Skills Kit, he was unsure of what to build. Then Thain’s hypnotherapies came to mind. Niininen reached out to Thain with a business proposition: to deliver voice-based hypnotherapy to the masses via voice.
“For me, it was a personal problem that I found a great solution,” said Niininen. “I wanted to make it available for everybody in the world.”
Since then, they have added dozens of new therapies and are continuously improving the skill to deliver the best user experience possible. Thain is thrilled by the ability to reach even more people in the comfort of their homes, and improve more lives through his hypnotherapies.
“In my consulting room, I can only treat four patients a day,” says Thain. “These days, it’s like I’m helping thousands of people every day, often on weekends or in the middle of the night. It's extraordinary and very gratifying.”
Niininen and Thain are proof that inspiration for Alexa skills is all around us; all developers have to do is look.
“I’m the subject matter expert and the voice of the skill, but Mauri is the developer that brought the skill to life,” says Thain. “This combination of content provider and developer has been important to the success of Hypno Therapist, and I believe there will be many others out there who could benefit from this model.”
Since 2017, Hypno Therapist has earned Niininen and Thain money through Alexa Developer Rewards, a program that pays developers for eligible skills with some of the highest customer engagement. This motivated the two to reinvest their earnings and spend more time improving the skill. When ISP became available in 2018, they started to envision a real business partnership built around providing beneficial therapies via voice. To do that, they enhanced the skill by adding more therapy content, while offering premium therapies in the form of both consumable and subscription in-skill products.
Once enabled, new users can use six therapies for free, such as “Sleep Now” or "Appreciate Yourself,” and familiarize themselves with how the Hypno Therapist skill works. To enable further engagement with the skill, Hypno Therapist offers 70 additional and more advanced therapies for purchase. These sessions are suitable for customers with specific needs or seeking more variety, such as smoking cessation, acute pain management, grief therapy, and more.
“We let customers experience the free therapies a few times to make sure it works for them,” says Niininen. “If they try three of these free therapies, then we offer the option to purchase more advanced sessions.”
Hypno Therapist offers two types of in-skill products. The first is a $5.99 consumable bundle for ten sessions of any hypnotherapy the customer chooses. A consumable is depleted when used and can be purchased again. According to Thain, customers are often able to achieve the results they want in a few sessions, making the consumable bundle an ideal option. Other listeners suffer from a number of conditions, ailments, and phobias and are seeking a longer-term approach. The second in-skill product, therefore, is a monthly subscription for $39.99 with unlimited access to all therapies, plus new ones as they are introduced.
“We wondered if the higher subscription price might be off-putting to customers, but the opposite proved true,” says Niininen. “By looking at skill engagement data, I discovered about 5% of customers use the skill many times a day with lots of different therapies. That group is happily paying $39.99 a month to get access to all the therapies on an unlimited basis.”
Based on customer engagement metrics and feedback, it’s clear that Niininen and Thain have found a profitable use case for skill monetization. Hypno Therapist boasts an average offer-to-purchase conversion rate of 58% since it began offering the in-skill products. Encouraged by these metrics, Niininen says he plans to build more skills that positively impact customers’ lives while also earning money.
In addition to providing quality content, Niininen and Thain enhanced the customer experience of Hypno Therapist by following Amazon’s best practices for skills with ISP. They immediately saw an uptick in customer revenue. Shortly thereafter, Amazon featured Hypno Therapist in marketing channels, including placement in the featured skills section of the Alexa Skills Store, the Alexa app, and the Alexa newsletter. Niininen estimates these marketing placements have led to a tenfold improvement in new unique customers enabling the skill.
Along with Amazon marketing, Niininen and Thain are proactively promoting Hypno Therapist in their own networks to reach and attract more customers.
“We’ve used social media to spread the message about Hypno Therapist, and we’ll continue to refine these and other marketing channels,” says Thain. “Along with Amazon’s promotion and adding new therapies, we expect to continue drawing more ‘patients to the therapist’s couch’ so to speak, including those who’re happy to purchase the premium content.”
Thain and Niininen are excited about the ability to bring hypnotherapy to the masses, with the potential to reach more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices. However, they are just as excited about the prospect of creating a sustainable voice business. By combining Niininen’s passion for Alexa and Thain’s clinical artistry, they plan to continue delivering engaging content and high-quality voice experiences that improve customers’ lives. And they encourage more developers to do the same.
“Monetization gives us the ability to create more premium experiences for customers through technology that’s growing rapidly,” says Niininen. “But it’s still the early days of voice. There’s plenty of opportunity to get in now and build a viable voice business by creating something people enjoy and can truly benefit from.”
With ISP, you can sell premium content to enrich your Alexa skill experience. ISP supports one-time purchases for entitlements that unlock access to features or content in your skill, subscriptions that offer access to premium features or content for a period of time, and consumables which can be purchased and depleted. You define your premium offering and price, and we handle the voice-first purchasing flow. Download our introductory guide to learn more.