Owning Amazon Alexa skills: Is your Enterprise keeping up?

By Gaurav Mishra Aug 20, 2018

By 2020, Amazon’s Alexa is expected to become a $10 billion industry. A current leader among the voice assistant platforms, Alexa, allows third party developers to build new Amazon Alexa skills using its extended API. Many media enterprises  like the BBC, ESPN, and the Daily Show have already introduced their own ‘skills’ for the Alexa platform, aimed at providing unique content to their customers.

What are Alexa Skills?

Alexa Skills are like voice-powered equivalents of applications that are used in mobile phones or PCs. Once installed on devices, they can be used by Alexa to provide immediate and intimated response to customers, by understanding and building upon their intent and needs.

While branded skills like, “Alexa, what’s the Forbes quote of the day?” are specific only to a brand, it is the generic skills that are more challenging to capture. For example, if someone says, “Alexa, give me the latest news headlines”, there are millions of websites that provide the information but Alexa will read out only from the first search result, or curate it from a select bunch of sites.

However, if you are a media company that captures this generic skill, you become the sole owner of it. This means that next time someone asks “Alexa, give me the latest news headlines”, Alexa finds your skill to be the most suitable to answer this query. So your brand is the one that’s providing the answer, increasing your engagement with the audience. And even when people who are not currently your reader/audience, use this generic command for Alexa, they are exposed to your branded content, allowing you to rapidly expand your reach.

This single-owner model has created a rush among enterprises to capture the skills before they are gone. The race, as they say, is on.

Why Alexa Skills

Andrew Ng of Baidu estimates that 50% of all searches will be completed either via speech or image search by 2020. Besides, the Alexa Skills marketplace has also surpassed 30,000 in the US in just two years.

If enterprises do not see these figures as an opportunity now, they will face it as a threat in the near future as competitors gain the first-mover advantage, and capture critical generic skills. With enterprises like Uber, CNN, Starbucks and Techcrunch already in the picture, it only makes sense for your business to tap into the market before it is too late.

Besides, Alexa skills can help your enterprise achieve the following:

Increased engagement with customers

The use of Alexa skills will help in creating a unique content experience for the customers where they will be able to gain all the required information at one place, and complete everyday tasks like add things to their shopping list, or book a ride. For example, the Uber Skill can help them order an Uber by simply downloading the skill on their device and saying, “Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride".

Similarly, they can use other travel skills for their commute, Domino’s skill to order food and Audible’s skill to read books. These types of easy-to-use skills, makes your brand very accessible to the customers, lead to significant increase in engagement, as well as attract new customers.

Catering to new content consumption needs

With the help of new innovations in voice tech, brands can help users by providing them a skill that could organize their lives better.

For example, a fashion brand can come up with a skill that can take customer requests about the kind of clothes they require for an occasion, and suggest relevant outfit options from the brand’s collection. And these services can be generic skills, activated with simple commands like, “Alexa, find me the right outfit.”

How to approach Alexa Skills

There are currently over 25,000 skills on Amazon Alexa in the US and with companies in the race to launch their skills, it can be quite difficult to stand out. Enterprises can think about their Alexa Skills strategy in a few different ways:

Use the skills that already exist

You leverage existing generic Alexa Skills that syndicate content to answer specific queries. For example, the Alexa Flash Briefing skill curates headlines from various publications. If you are a media company, you can get your content to list for this particular skill.

While this strategy is a good starting point, in terms of getting your brand before the right audience, it has a drawback. Getting listed on a skill like this does not allow you to access any data on user interaction with your particular content.

Create a branded skill

Branded Alexa Skills are one of the best ways to engage your audience, especially for brands that offer a particular service, like ordering food, or booking a cab, opening a bank account.

For example,

  • BFSI enterprises already have their apps to ensure easy access for customers. These can also be transformed into branded skills that can allow customers to achieve tasks and receive information with single commands.
  • Branded skills could also be explored by B2B enterprises, to streamline internal operations, and save time and money. Like a retail company’s branded skill which can help them track inventory and receive crucial updates, all through a voice activated feature.

Branded skills allow you to extract and analyze a range of user data as well, which can be funnelled into creating more personalized responses and improved experiences. The only hiccup is skill discoverability - the fact that your users have to first know that your brand has an Alexa skill, and then download it on their devices.

Capture a generic skill

Generic skills are where the race heats up. “Alexa, give me the top financial news”, or “Alexa, suggest a good mystery novel” are simple commands, not demanding the user to add any brand name to the query. These name-free interactions are easily discoverable, and naturally integrated into users daily lives, which is what makes them prime property.

Amazon’s current single-owner model means capturing a generic skill give your brand sole access to answer a particular query. And once you own a generic skill, you can access complete usage data and leverage that to improve customer experience.

As enterprises realise the potential of generic skills, they are rapidly capturing these skills. So if you spot an opportunity here, you need to move fast or someone else will.

As of now, industry specific news feeds are one of the high-value generic skills that are still open. And your brand can capitalize on this irrespective of whether you are a media enterprise or not. Being the sole provider of top news feed for your specific industry can bring your brand in contact with a significant section of your target audience. And that is too valuable an opportunity to miss out on.

How to build an Amazon Alexa Skill

Now that we’ve established the value of Alexa Skills, the next question is how you can build these for your enterprise, or rather who would do that for you?

While Amazon has built a toolkit to help you develop Alexa skills, you can also get them built through third party solutions. One benefit of using a third party developer is that it saves time and helps you build your skill once and submit it to multiple devices. Using a third party solution can definitely accelerate your launch process, especially if you are just venturing into the voice arena.

The market, as they say, is ripe. Developing even a basic skill now can give you a first-mover advantage, and make your skill a habit for your customers.

Srijan teams are already building Amazon Alexa Skills for diverse use cases. As a Standard Consulting Partner in the Amazon Web Services Partner Network, Srijan has certified AWS professionals who can help you build Alexa skills specific to your business area. Let’s get the discussion started on building your very own Alexa Skills.

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