The Ultimate Guide to Alexa Skills Marketing

As the adoption of voice assistants continues to surge, brands that aren‘t incorporating Alexa skills into their marketing strategy risk falling behind. In fact, voice shopping is expected to jump to $40 billion by 2022, up from $2 billion today, according to OC&C Strategy Consultants.

"The growth of voice commerce is shaping the future of brand engagement," said Leslie Hand, vice president for IDC Retail Insights. "Retailers and brands must start now to develop the skills and tactics that will prepare them for conversational commerce."

In other words, if you want to stay competitive in the years ahead, you need to start thinking about how your brand can leverage Alexa skills to connect with customers through engaging, convenient voice experiences.

In this guide, we‘ll break down everything you need to know to harness the power of Alexa for your marketing in 2024 and beyond.

What Are Alexa Skills?

First, a quick primer. Alexa skills are essentially apps that extend the capabilities of Amazon‘s voice assistant, Alexa. Users can access skills on any Alexa-enabled device, like an Echo smart speaker, by saying a triggering phrase called an invocation.

Currently, there are over 100,000 skills in the Alexa app store, with new ones being added daily. These skills fall into several main categories:

  • Information: Skills that provide news, weather, recipes, how-to guides, etc.
  • Entertainment: Skills that play games, music, podcasts, interactive stories, etc.
  • Utility: Skills that control smart home devices, make lists, set reminders, etc.
  • Services: Skills that facilitate purchases, reservations, customer service, etc.

Some well-known brands that have developed popular Alexa skills include:

  • Tide: Stain removal guide with step-by-step voice instructions
  • Domino‘s: Voice pizza ordering and tracker
  • Uber: Voice ride hailing and trip status updates
  • Lonely Planet: Travel tips and quiz games
  • Big Sky: Personalized weather forecasts and real-time alerts
  • Headspace: Guided meditation and mindfulness exercises

But you don‘t have to be a household name to create a successful Alexa skill. Companies of all sizes can use Alexa to achieve their marketing goals and KPIs.

Why Brands Should Invest in Alexa Skill Marketing

The business case for voice is clear and compelling. Here are some of the key reasons to add Alexa skills to your marketing mix:

1. Reach a growing audience

The number of voice assistant users in the US will reach 122.7 million by 2021, up over 9% from 2020. And Amazon continues to dominate the market with a 60%+ share.

What‘s more, people are using voice assistants as part of their daily routine, with 52% engaging several times a day and 92% monthly, according to Vixen Labs.

By creating an Alexa skill, you can connect with this expanding audience when and where it‘s most convenient for them – hands-free, eyes-free.

2. Boost customer engagement

Not only are more people using voice assistants, they‘re engaging deeply with the brands they encounter there.

Consider these stats from Dashbot:

  • The average voice session increased 54% to 3 minutes 28 seconds in 2021
  • Monthly active users for voice apps grew by 18%
  • Total messages processed on the voice platforms increased by 59%

It‘s clear that consumers are eager to have meaningful conversations with brands via voice. An Alexa skill allows you to be part of that regular interaction.

3. Provide frictionless experiences

Voice interfaces remove many of the barriers inherent in text-based interactions. There are no confusing menus to navigate or tiny buttons to tap.

Consumers can simply ask for what they want using natural language, and get a helpful response instantly. Reducing friction like this has a big impact on the user experience and directly affects conversion rates.

In one case study by Rain Agency, beverage giant Diageo created an Alexa skill to recommend cocktail recipes using its liquor brands. The skill‘s frictionless voice experience resulted in an 52% increase in consumer consideration and a remarkable 640% return on investment.

4. Deepen customer relationships

Because of their conversational nature, voice interactions tend to foster deeper emotional connections between brands and customers compared to interactions on other channels. A Harvard Business Review article sums it up:

"Talking to a brand has a stronger emotional impact than typing. The two-way dynamic of a conversation humanizes the brand, further boosting such engagement. A customer‘s positive experience with a voice skill can therefore drive retention, frequency of use, and affinity for the brand over time."

The key is to use that opportunity to provide real value to your customers, not just push marketing messages. Focus on being helpful above all else.

5. Gain a competitive edge

Many brands have been slow to embrace voice out of uncertainty around the technology and its potential applications for marketing. As a result, there‘s still an opportunity in many industries to gain a first-mover advantage.

Even if your competitors have already launched Alexa skills, you can differentiate your brand by delivering a superior voice experience. Promote your skill both inside and outside the Alexa store to generate awareness and adoption.

5 Marketing Use Cases for Alexa Skills

Now that we know the why behind Alexa skill marketing, let‘s explore some of the most effective ways brands are using it to engage customers and drive business results.

1. Content marketing

Alexa skills are an ideal platform for repurposing your existing content assets or creating fresh ones in an audio format. Types of content that work well for voice include:

  • Industry news and trends
  • Educational how-tos and guides
  • Interviews with experts
  • Product tips and use cases
  • Quizzes and trivia
  • Inspirational quotes
  • Branded audio series

The key is to keep the content concise and conversational so it‘s easy to consume in short bursts throughout the day.

For example, home improvement retailer Lowe‘s offers a skill called "Ask Lowe‘s" that provides DIY tips through engaging, bite-sized dialogues. Users can ask questions about common projects like painting a room or unclogging a drain and get expert advice served up in seconds.

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Source: Voicebot.ai

2. Voice commerce

Another powerful application of Alexa skills is facilitating frictionless purchases directly through the voice interface. Also known as conversational commerce, this allows customers to research, compare, and buy products using just their voice.

Some effective voice commerce tactics include:

  • Enabling product search and recommendations based on customer input
  • Offering deals and promotions for voice purchases
  • Saving payment and shipping preferences for one-click ordering
  • Providing order tracking and status updates
  • Handling returns and exchanges by voice
  • Reordering products on a recurring schedule

Walmart Voice Order is a great example of voice commerce in action. Customers can use the Alexa skill to add groceries to their cart by saying things like "add milk" or "reorder coffee." The skill uses their past purchase history to select the right brands and quantities.

Walmart reported that the voice ordering process takes about 3 minutes from start to finish – a fraction of the time it takes to shop on the web or through the mobile app. And customers have given the skill a 4.4-star rating, citing its ease of use and convenience.

3. Customer service

Customer service is one of the most promising use cases for conversational AI interfaces like Alexa. Unlike with phone or chat support, customers can get instant, personalized help without waiting on hold or navigating complex phone trees.

Common customer service queries that can be easily handled via an Alexa skill include:

  • Checking account balances or loyalty point totals
  • Paying bills or transferring money
  • Scheduling appointments or reservations
  • Getting product specs or troubleshooting info
  • Filing warranty claims or service requests
  • Checking on order status and tracking

Capital One was one of the first major brands to launch a customer service Alexa skill. Customers can check their credit card balance, review recent transactions, make payments, and more – completely hands-free.

The company has since expanded its Alexa offerings to include several other skills like a credit monitoring tool and a savings goal planner to help customers manage their finances end-to-end by voice. To date, the Capital One skills have handled millions of customer requests.

4. Brand engagement

In addition to driving measurable business outcomes, Alexa skills can be used to build emotional connections with customers and increase overall brand engagement. The key is to create experiences that entertain, inspire, or educate.

Some examples of brand engagement skills include:

  • Interactive storytelling series
  • Guided meditations and relaxation exercises
  • Cooking guides with verbal recipes
  • Workout routines and fitness challenges
  • Branded games and contests
  • Celebrity Q&As and "behind-the-scenes" content
  • Virtual product tours and demos

Patron Tequila offers a popular Alexa skill called "Bot-Tender" that suggests cocktail recipes based on the ingredients you have on hand, occasions, and flavor preferences. As customers interact with the skill, it learns their tastes and makes smarter recommendations over time.

By providing this fun, functional, interactive experience, Patron is able to insert its brand into relevant at-home moments and build an intimate connection with fans – all through the power of voice.

5. Audio advertising

If you don‘t have the resources to build your own Alexa skill from scratch, you can still get in front of Alexa‘s growing user base through audio advertising. Amazon offers several ad products that let you reach customers as they interact with Alexa.

Options include:

  • Sponsored skills that get premium placement in search results
  • Home screen hero banners that appear when a skill is opened
  • Paid voice announcements that play before or after a skill interaction
  • One-minute audio ads that run between songs on Amazon Music

Audio ads allow you to boost awareness, drive Alexa skill installs, promote special offers, and more. And because audio is a 100% share of voice medium, you‘re guaranteed to have the listener‘s full attention.

To maximize the impact of your Alexa ad campaigns, be sure to:

  • Target the right audience demographics and skills categories
  • Keep copy clear, concise, and highly relevant to the setting
  • Use actionable language to encourage conversion and engagement
  • Convey key info early to accommodate varying audio lengths
  • Include companion banners to reinforce your message visually

Measuring Alexa Skill Marketing Success

Of course, to get the most from your Alexa skill marketing efforts, you‘ll need a clear-cut way to track your progress against specific goals.

Some of the most important voice KPIs to monitor include:

  • Usage metrics: Total users, monthly/weekly/daily active users, enablements, sessions, etc.
  • Engagement metrics: Session length, intent invocations per session, messages per session, etc.
  • Customer experience metrics: Successful completion rate, error rate, misunderstood requests, etc.
  • Business impact metrics: Revenue from voice orders, cost savings from call deflection, brand sentiment lift, etc.

Work with your voice tech provider to implement the right tracking and analytics tools, like the Alexa Developer Console and Amazon Alexa Skills Kit SDK. These will give you visibility into how users are discovering and engaging with your skill over time.

In addition to quantitative data, gather anecdotal feedback from customers through surveys, reviews, and support channels. Qualitative insights will help you identify areas for improvement and fine-tune the user experience.

Finally, consider running periodic skill audits in which you objectively evaluate factors like:

  • Discoverability: Is your skill properly categorized and easily found via search?
  • Onboarding: Is the initial experience welcoming and friction-free?
  • Conversational flow: Is the dialogue natural and responsive?
  • Functionality: Do the features work as intended and meet real user needs?
  • Monetization: Are your purchase flows seamless and secure?
  • Branding: Does the voice experience align with your brand identity and values?

Based on your findings, make continuous updates to keep your skill fresh, functional, and delightful.

The Future of Alexa Skill Marketing

As you can see, Alexa skills represent a massive opportunity for brands to reach and convert new audiences through the power of voice. But where is this trend headed in the years to come? Here are a few predictions:

  • More personalization: With the wealth of data Alexa is able to collect about individual users, brands will be able to tailor their voice experiences to a high degree based on past interactions, preferences, and behaviors.
  • Proactive interactions: Rather than just responding when spoken to, Alexa will get better at initiating interactions unprompted and anticipating needs in advance. Think weather alerts, restock reminders, appointment check-ins, etc.
  • Visual components: The latest Alexa devices have screens to accompany the voice interface. Brands will start incorporating more visual elements like images, videos, and menus into their skills to enrich the user experience.
  • Voice SEO: As the voice search ecosystem becomes more crowded, brands will invest in voice-specific SEO tactics to make sure their skills appear at the top of relevant queries. This will include both technical optimizations and creative "invocations" that reflect how people actually talk.
  • Sonic branding: To provide a cohesive experience across touchpoints, brands will develop signature sounds, voices, and compositional styles that support their positioning and help them stand out on Alexa. Think NBC‘s iconic chimes adapted for the voice era.

Looking further out, it‘s clear that conversational AI will become a primary interface for customers to interact with brands, make purchases, and manage their daily lives. Alexa is leading the charge, but other players like Google, Apple, and Samsung are investing heavily in their own voice platforms and ecosystems as well.

To stay competitive in this new voice-first world, CMOs need to start laying the foundation today. That means cultivating the right in-house talent, partnering with experienced voice agencies, and carving out dedicated budget for voice marketing initiatives.

If you do it right, the payoff will be huge. You‘ll gain a powerful new way to acquire customers, nurture relationships, build loyalty, and drive revenue. All while providing an effortless, frictionless experience that keeps users coming back again and again.

So don‘t wait. The time to find your brand‘s voice is now. Your customers are already listening.