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Amazon Skills: Conversation First and Purchase Second

Earlier this month, Amazon announced a game-changing update to its well-known Skills feature – the code-based, voice-activated apps for Alexa that let’s you do everything from order a pizza (Domino’s) to turn on your house lights (Ecobee).

In this latest update, users can now make in-app purchases through Skills; app skill owners (brands or individual peoples) can offer their users premium content (Skill add-ons), as well as the ability to make hotel reservations, buy event tickets, and shop physical products from the Amazon Shopping experience – all without leaving the Skill. This new feature creates great ways for brands, especially retail ones, to build skills content (recipes, fashion tips, facts, account activity) to help consumers and then monetize those opportunities by offering in-skill purchase of their retail products or services as an additional option. For example, Tide has created a great stain removal skill experience that offers consumers tips on getting different types of stains out. Now, this Skill can be parlayed into buying a Tide product to assist with the aforementioned stain removal, making the process seamless.

At the launch of its first Alexa devices in 2014, Amazon rolled out Skills as a way to create rich, voice-driven content experiences with Alexa users. Now they have taken it to the next level by allowing content experiences that can enable in-Skill purchases, turning Alexa devices into a powerful, voice-driven commerce experience. All of this against the backdrop of a booming voice shopping marketplace, is predicted by OC&C to reach $40 billion by 2022.

Brands should take full advantage of the new Skills marketing opportunity, with the following tips in mind:

Understand Your Customer Needs and Marketplace, and Then Build.

iProspect feels any investment in this experience requires a deep understanding and analysis of the customer needs and marketplace evaluation first, before moving into practical development to facilitate user utility. Currently, the Alexa Skills store has over 12,000 skills and less than one third of those skills have reviews, which is a direct result of brands building skills vs. building skills to help or solve a problem for users.

“Helpful Conversation first, gain trust to buy second” is the new norm that an Alexa skill experience can build for a brand with a customer. This will, in turn, be a very useful and engaging way consumers can “voice shop” from brands.

Seek to Help Your Customer, Not Sell Them. 

In the expectation economy, consumers are going to be more reluctant to interact with brands that force brand messages down their throat without offering informational or contextual value first. 

Brands looking to capitalize on this experience must look at what will truly help their customer and then earn their trust and loyalty. For example, Halo Top – one the hottest new ice cream brands on the market –has unique ice cream recipes on their site that could easily be translated into skill recipe conversations with consumers. Since all of the recipes require Halo Top Ice Cream, they could fluidly turn this conversation first into a buy second experience by linking to their Amazon Fresh account so that people can delivered right to their door.

Otherwise, brands that create apps that simply sell the brand message and brand product to users without offering helpful content will ultimately bury the effort in the ever-growing Alexa skills graveyard.

The Future

As the growth of home smart speaker use increases, Amazon currently controls more than 70% of the marketplace (Voicebot 2018) and brands will have to build these experiences (Skills) as part of a overall digital marketing strategy. Consumers will very soon come to expect these Skills and the brands that do not deliver, will be left in the dust.

Steve Beatty, Director, Owned Media, iProspect US, is the original author of this article.

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