AlexaDev Tuesday: Tips To Drive Alexa Skill Engagement

Now that devs can earn money on skills in certain categories based on skill usage, it’s more important than ever to drive Alexa skill engagement. Here are some tips for getting users to stick around with your skill and keep coming back for more.




1. Make it practical.
Games are all well and good, but they’re a tough nut to crack in terms of engagement for three primary reasons. First, there’s a glut of game skills available so it’s hard to get your game skill noticed. Second, with very few exceptions, even the most fun Alexa game ever isn’t generally something the user is going to want to play every single day the way they might with a mobile app. Finally, there is no push notifications system for Alexa skills so even if you try to create a sim or immersion type of game experience to mimic a mobile app, there’s no easy way for you to lure the user back each day, or remind them to get back to the game.

Fortunately, Amazon has expanded its Alexa skill royalty program to include skills in the Education & Reference, Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, Lifestyle, Music & Audio and Productivity categories. The most popular skills to date are those the user already wants to come back to on a regular basis because they meet some practical need or add some level of convenience to the user’s life.

Think in terms of Alexa as digital assistant. What services or shortcuts can she provide that the user will find helpful or time-saving?


2. Make it part of the user’s daily routine.
Ideally, you want to build a skill that will be used every day. Think about your own daily routine, and what sorts of things Alexa could offer to improve it. Also think about those page-a-day desk calendars that have always been so popular. What kinds of “of the day” items could your skill offer that the user will want and enjoy? People seem to love vocabulary builders, historical anecdotes, sports trivia, and other bite-sized chunks of learning.

Consider the types of activities that are already part of a typical consumer’s daily routine, and think about how you can improve on them or replace them with an Alexa-fied version. Maybe a daily guided meditation? A psalm or daily scripture reading to start or end the day? Tales of weird crime or good news to hear while making the morning coffee? I’m sure you can come up with many more ideas.


3. Remember: Alexa is now mobile.
Alexa now has vacation homes in the Tap, in some cars, and in the HTC U11 phone (see below), among other devices but there aren’t many skills built to cater to the on-the-go Alexa user demographic. Think about skills that will be particularly useful to the commuter, the person who’s out running errands, the person who’s out walking for exercise or with their dog, et cetera.

If you can solve a problem or shave a few minutes for any of these people, they will be very happy to use your skill.


4. Keep skill names and invocation requirements as short and intuitive as possible.
It’s hard enough to get them to enable your skill in the first place, so once you’ve got them that far make sure the users won’t have any trouble at all remembering the name of your skill and how to launch it. It only takes one bad experience with a skill for the user to give up on it and move on.

Many developers make the mistake of choosing skill names that are as descriptive as possible, perhaps thinking in terms of discoverability in the Alexa skill “store”, but seeming to forget that the user will have to remember that name in order to use the skill. Discoverability is important, but worthless if the user can’t remember how to access your skill after the first session is over.

This is a big pet peeve with Alexa device owners, who tend to enable a whole slew of skills in one sitting and then get frustrated when they can’t remember how to access them all. Wherever possible, err on the side simplicity and make your invocation phrases as short as possible. For example, when choosing the invocation name for your workout skill, instead of “Daily Sixpack Abs Workout” consider going with “Daily Abs”, “Abs Workout”, or “Sixpack Abs”.


Good luck, and may all your user engagement be lasting!