Alexa for Apps
Alexa for Apps lets customers use their voice to access content and functionality in your apps and websites, on mobile devices such as Alexa Mobile Accessories, Alexa Built-in phones, or directly from the Alexa app. A single Alexa skill can deep-link to both iOS and Android apps, and if you already have existing deep-links, there’s no need to modify your app. Alexa for Apps opens up new content and functionality by bringing together your skill's voice-enabled actions with the features available on your app or website. Customers now have the ability to go between voice and screen, depending on the type of action they want to take or the way in which they prefer to interact with your content.
Alexa for Apps streamlines the mobile experience by providing voice-enabled shortcuts that can bypass navigational menus in an app or website to get customers directly to the content they want to see such as search content or other key features you want to voice-enable. In the example below, the customer asks Alexa to find coffee shops using an app called City Guide. The customer can simply ask a question and is deep-linked to their search results. In this case, they will see a list of coffee shop options that they can easily read through instead of listening through a bunch of options.
Alexa for Apps gives you the flexibility to customize default responses and how customers will interact between voice and visual modalities, depending on the customer need and features offered in your app. This document will cover Alexa for Apps sample interaction patterns, best practices to follow, and special considerations to be aware of such as locked/unlocked device states or redirecting customers to download your app.
With voice, customers can simply ask for what they want instead of having to learn menus and how to navigate through your app or website. Customers can start with a voice command and deep-link into your app or website's content and features. This section provides recommendations on how to tailor the voice experience in common interaction patterns with Alexa for Apps.
Voice excels when searching for a particular item however, reading off the list of search results can be tedious. Instead, this is a great place to transition from voice to screen so that customers can quickly read and scan results. Using deep-linking you can go from a customer asking a search query to sending them to the app so they can browse, filter, and sort search results more efficiently on a screen.
Trigger actions by voice
Some app functionality can be cumbersome to navigate and a hands-free, voice-enabled mode can make the app easier to use. Having certain functions voice-enabled means that customers can vary between touch and voice commands to trigger the same action. In the example below, it's easier for the customer to ask the app to start recording rather than having to use touch controls and getting back into position to start the intended recording.
Progress of delivery orders, driver status, and map progress
You can provide customers with a deep-link to an interactive map if your app uses map tracking for things like order status, ride sharing, directions, etc. When the customer asks for a status update, you can link to a map or a status page in the app.
Alexa for Apps is a great way to enhance the customer's in-game experience through companion apps to the Alexa skill for your game. Depending on the type of game, you could have customers start with the skill and continue practicing with the app. Or perhaps your game skill involves secret clues that the companion app can share in private with certain players. There's lots to explore with deep-linking between modalities to keep the game going.
There are various considerations when creating a combined voice and app (or website) experience. Some key areas to consider are:
- When you want to use voice interactions vs. on-screen or touch interactions in your app or website.
- What action to take when the mobile device is locked or unlocked.
- What happens when a new customer hasn't downloaded your app yet.
Switching between interfaces via deep-linking
Customers have to navigate between different interfaces and device types, which can be a time consuming and confusing process to learn. Using voice is a fast, safe, and intuitive way for your customers to quickly view and interact with your app’s content in situations where they need to be hands-free or want to save time.
However, some tasks become inefficient or impossible to complete by voice alone. As you design cross linking between modalities, also consider an experience where your customers start with voice and are deep-linked to your app where a visual or touch interface provides a more ideal browsing experience. For example, having customers listen and browse through search results by voice is a stressful, frustrating experience. Instead, it would be better to direct the customer to a visual and touch interface to display long lists in an easier to digest format. On the other hand, voice shines in situations where customers need to multitask and may not want to look at a screen, such as asking for the next direction on a map while driving.
Locked and unlocked mobile device states
Navigating a mobile device that is locked or unlocked presents its own challenges when going between modalities. An unlocked phone means your customer is already looking at the screen and it's in their hands. You probably don't want to keep telling them something repeatedly that they can already see for themselves. For locked phones, it's likely that your customer is not looking at the device. Providing more information in this case is better so they know whether or not it's worth their time to unlock the device to continue the experience.
Regardless of whether the device is locked or unlocked, Alexa will say the default TTS response and any custom TTS response you provide. If you suppress the default response, you will need to make sure your custom response is appropriate to the device state. When transitioning customers from voice to an app or website, you'll need to make sure that your voice responses and actions are tailored to the current point in the customer experience. The following best practices will cover how to tailor responses based on if the mobile device is an unlocked or locked state.
Customized Alexa responses for unlocked phones
If the customer's mobile device is unlocked, the customer most likely has the device in hand and is looking at the screen. You'll need to keep Alexa's responses short and concise, presenting more information on the screen for the customer to scan. The action between the deep-link from your skill to your app or website needs to be as fast as possible. Any verbose or delayed response adds friction to an experience that is already crossing modalities. You don't want to surprise your customer with unwanted actions or outcomes so consider carefully how to tailor your response to inform the customer about what's going to happen before the transition. In the example below, Alexa provides a clear confirmation to the customer about the transition from skill to app to view search results for coffee shops near them.
By default, if you choose not to create a custom response, Alexa will automatically say “Here’s City Guide.” (Where "City Guide" would be the name of your app). Alexa’s default prompt of “Here’s City Guide” is meant to help customers understand that they are transitioning from a voice experience into your app or website. In the example below, here's the same search results for coffee shops but with the default instead of custom response.
You can suppress the default prompt so that Alexa will respond with "Okay!" and include any custom voice response you provide before the customer is deep-linked to your app or website. For an example of this behavior, see Trigger actions by voice. Suppressing the default response is only recommended when a customer is interacting repeatedly in the app and would be annoyed with hearing the same response over and over again. Learn more about how to suppress default responses.
Customized Alexa responses for locked phones
If the customer's mobile device is locked, they may not be looking at the screen or have the device on hand. You'll need to provide a longer, customized response to alert the customer about what's happening so that they can unlock the device and continue the experience. The custom response can preface or completely replace the default response, "To continue, please unlock your device."
If you decide to fully customize your entire Alexa response, you must always provide the necessary prompt to the customer that they must unlock their device to continue, as they wouldn’t know otherwise how to continue with your experience. In the example below, the response indicates the top search listings found and lets the customer know that they need to unlock the phone to continue.
The example below shows the default response without any customization. While suppressing the default response in the unlocked experience results in Alexa saying "Okay!" in the locked experience you'll need to suppress the default response to be able to create an entirely custom response.
New customer experience
Customers may have discovered your product through the Alexa skill first and might not have visited your website or downloaded your app to use the full experience. Alexa for Apps still works even if the app isn't installed on the mobile device. To continue the experience, you can redirect the customer to download the app or redirect them to your website instead. Directing customers to an existing website with similar functionality is a better, low friction experience compared to downloading and installing an app. After redirecting the customer to your website, you can always add your own messaging on how to download the app later. The example below directs the customer to the website if they haven't downloaded the app, which gets them quickly to the content instead of delaying that goal by having to install an app.
If you only have an app experience, Alexa will provide the default prompt, “To enable this experience, you’ll need to install the app. Here’s City Guide on the App Store.” (Where "City Guide" is the name of your app.) If the customer is on iOS they will be directed to the App Store while Android customers will be directed to the Google Play Store. The example below showcases this experience on an unlocked phone.