AlexaDev Tuesday: Alexa Skill Monetization Beta

Independent developers have wanted a means to easily monetize their Alexa skills pretty much from the very beginning. Now that the Alexa platform seems relatively stable and continues to branch out across the globe, Amazon is ready to make it happen: independent developers can now sign up for the Alexa skill monetization beta.


Monetization Is Coming


Amazon will select beta participants, and applicants must have a monetized skill concept that’s ready for development, a skill currently in development that can be monetized, or a live skill to which the developer wants to add a monetization layer. From Amazon:

Our vision is to help you build a profitable business on Alexa. You now have more ways to make money with your Alexa skills using in-skill purchasing (subscriptions and one-time purchases) and Amazon Pay. These features are available in developer preview today, and will be available broadly in 2018. You can apply to participate in the developer preview program below. We’ll follow up if you are selected for the program.

Sign up now.


What Kinds of Skills Are Likely Candidates For The Monetization Beta?

When you sign up for the beta you’ll be asked to complete an online form. I think the two key questions, in terms of how Amazon’s deciding which developers to include in the beta, are these:

What would you like your Alexa skill to offer?
You’re allowed to make multiple selections from the list shown below:

Skill Offers

Which use case are you interested in?
You’re allowed to make multiple selections from the list shown below:

Skill Monetized Use Cases

Don’t worry if you can only select “Other” for the first question, you’ll have an opportunity to briefly describe the skill you have in mind further down in the form.

I have no insider knowledge or influence where beta selections are concerned, but if past history is any indication what Amazon wants to see is a wide variety of monetization use cases. If you’ve come up with a concept Amazon’s own engineers haven’t yet thought of, that can actually be a very good thing since it makes the beta test far more robust, and has the potential to bring monetized skills to a wider segment of Alexa users.


How Not To Annoy Skill Users When You Monetize

In time Alexa skill monetization will be as commonplace as mobile app monetization, but the first Alexa skills to be monetized will face considerable scrutiny and skepticism from consumers since up to now, Alexa users been accustomed to getting skills for free. Here are some factors to bear in mind when thinking about monetizing Alexa skills, to maximize the possibility your monetization use case will be well-received by users.

1. Is the thing you want to charge for really worth paying for?
A major consideration here is whether or not the user can get the same content or use case experience from a different skill, mobile app, device or other means they already have, or to which they have ready access.

2. Is the monetization use case something consumers will recognize?
The more familiar your monetization use case, the more comfortable users will be giving it a try. Consumers are already used to paying for in-app upgrades and in-app currency, so that type of implementation won’t come as a surprise to them, or seem suspicious in any way. However, if your concept is something that’s never been done before you’ll face more resistance and might want to consider holding off on that skill until Alexa skill monetization is well-established.

3. Will your implementation be seamless, and intuitive?
The more natural it seems for the user to spend real life money when immersed in your skill, the more likely they are to do it without complaint. For example, many first-person shooter games allow users to spend real money to buy weapon and equipment upgrades. This is just like real life: if you really were a commando sent on a rescue mission to South America, of course you’d have to buy weapons and other equipment. Similarly, in a mobile role-playing game about mobsters, the player’s character might pay off an in-game hit man or politician in a way that mimics what can happen in real life. These types of in-game purchases make intuitive sense to users.

4. Volume, or premium user model?
Put some careful thought into what makes the most sense for your skill: a volume-based model, where each user spends little to nothing but the installed user base has the potential to be huge, or a premium user model, where your intended user base is smaller but highly passionate about the service, experience, or information your skill provides. For example, a skill that can crunch historical cryptocurrency prices to deliver forecasts will only be of interest to those active in the crypto space, but it could definitely provide information the crypto crowd would think is worth paying for.