- Amazon now lets all developers of software for its Alexa digital assistant earn money from the voice-enabled platform, per a blog post by Alexa evangelist Jeff Blankenburg. The in-skill purchasing (ISP) feature — Amazon calls software that expands Alexa’s capabilities a "skill" — opens Alexa to accepting payments for subscriptions and premium digital content for games, interactive stories and exclusive podcasts.
- The Ellen Show's Heads Up game, TuneIn's Live audio broadcasts and Sony's trivia game show Jeopardy already have in-skill purchasing for additional content. Developers set the list price for their in-skill product and will be paid 70% of list price before any discount offered by Amazon. Consumables aren't currently supported, per the blog post.
- Toymaker Lego created an Alexa skill that consists of 10 interactive stories aimed at kids while they play with the brand's brick toys, per The Drum. Lego created the skill for its Duplo line of toddler-friendly bricks that are less likely to be choking hazards.
Most immediately, in-skill purchasing gives third-party software developers more incentive to create skills for Alexa in the same way that Apple’s App Store and Google Play generate download and in-app purchases. As an example, SyFy Wire this week added subscription access to weekly podcasts, and Volley's Yes Sire game released an expansion pack to purchase with the Alexa feature. It's easy to imagine fitness skills offering paid content for additional workouts, or language-learning skills selling more advanced lessons.
Amazon, which began testing subcriptions on Alexa last fall, said Alexa offers a new sales channel for brands and merchants that want to sell products and services through their Alexa skills. Amazon Pay for Alexa Skills lets marketers use the company’s voice purchasing abilities to sell physical goods or services like event tickets, ride-shares or flower delivery. Amazon posted a guide for designing premium experiences for Alexa skills that says one-time purchases are designed to be enduring features that should be easy to find, and they need to offer a real solution, not a sales pitch. The retailer also has a separate Alexa Developer Rewards program that lets developers sell real-world products and services.
A variety of brands have developed Alexa skills, mostly to provide customers with additional information rather than generate transactions. For example, hotel chain Red Roof in February introduced a skill that lets people ask questions about lodging amenities and making travel plans. Red Roof plans to add travel booking to its Alexa skill, which will make the platform even more useful for the company and its customers.