Amazon adds money making to Alexa skills

Bobby Hellard

4 May, 2018

Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa has been opened up to all developers to generate cash through add-ons and premium content in the virtual assistant’s ‘skills’.

In-skill purchasing will allow developers to charge for premium content and features within an Alexa skill, or enable subscriptions to premium content and features served up through the smart assistant.

There are currently over 40,000 skills for the smart assistant, all of which will remain free and allow the consumer to fully assess the quality of the skill before they purchase any extra features or content.

Amazon said developers will be able to use customers’ payment information from Amazon, so users can pay seamlessly via voice with Amazon Pay. 

“If you offer premium content, a customer can now ask to shop, buy, or agree to purchase suggestions made by your skill. Customers pay using Amazon’s simple voice purchasing flow using the payment options associated with their Amazon account. You define your premium offering and price, and we handle the voice-first purchasing flow,” explained Jeff Blankenberg, Alexa evangelist at Amazon. 

With this update, an Alexa skill can now pull payment and shipping information directly from Amazon, giving it the ability to take a cut of each sale while simultaneously discouraging users from leaving the Alexa interface to create an account with the third-party seller.

This new feature is similar to its e-commerce marketplace, where it serves as a technology and logistics platform for other retailers to sell products.

One of the first skills to use this capability is 1-800-Flowers, which asks that you turn on Amazon Pay in the Alexa app. After you select flowers, the app will offer two similar suggestions before asking for the name and address of the recipient.

Another announcement last week also opens the possibility for Amazon to expand its growing advertisement business into voice, by giving Alexa the ability to suggest skills when a user asks a question it can’t answer itself.

These new options are not Amazon’s first foray into rewarding developers for creating new skills for Alexa as the company already offers an Alexa Developer Rewards program. Creators of skills that drive high customer engagement are rewarded with cash incentives.