Amazon opens up in-skill purchasing to all Alexa developers

Amazon today launched in-skill purchasing to all Alexa developers, along with Amazon Pay for skills. That means developers have a way to generate revenue from their voice applications on Alexa-powered devices, like Amazon’s Echo speakers. For example, developers could charge for additional packs to go along with their voice-based games, or offer other premium content to expand their free voice app experience.

The feature was previously announced in November 2017, but was only available at the time to a small handful of voice app developers, like Jeopardy!, plus other game publishers.

When in-skill purchasing is added to a voice application – Amazon calls these apps Alexa’s “skills” – customers can ask to shop the purchase suggestions offered, and then pay by voice using the payment information already associated with their Amazon account.

Developers are in control of what content is offered at which price, but Amazon will handle the actual purchasing flow. It also offers self-serve tools to help developers manage their in-skill purchases and optimize their sales.

While any Alexa device owner can buy the available in-skill purchases, Amazon Prime members will get the best deal.

Amazon says that in-skill purchases must offer some sort of value-add for Prime subscribers, like a discounted price, exclusive content or early access. Developers are paid 70 percent of the list price for their in-skill purchase, before any Amazon discount is applied.

Already, Sony’s Jeopardy!, Teen Jeopardy!, Sports Jeopardy!; The Ellen Show’s Heads Up; Fremantle’s Match Game; HISTORY’s Ultimate HISTORY Quiz, and TuneIn Live, have launched Alexa skills with premium content.

To kick off today’s launch of general availability, Amazon is announcing a handful of others who will do the same. This includes NBCU’s SYFY WIRE, which will offer three additional weekly podcasts exclusive to Alexa (Geeksplain, Debate Club, and Untold Story); Volley Inc.’s Yes Sire, which offers an expansion pack for its role-playing game; and Volley Inc.’s Word of the Day, which will soon add new vocabulary packs to purchase.

In-skill purchases is only one of the ways that Amazon offers a way for developers to generate revenue.

The company is also now offering a way for brands and merchants to sell products and services (like event tickets or flower delivery) through Alexa, using Amazon Pay for Alexa Skills. Amazon Pay integrates with existing CRM and order management solutions, says Amazon, allowing merchants to manage sales in their current process. This is generally available as of today, too.

And it’s been paying top developers directly through its Developer Rewards program, which is an attempt to seed the ecosystem with skills ahead of a more robust system for skill monetization.

The news was announced alongside an update on Alexa’s skill ecosystem, which has 40,000 skills available, up from 25,000 last December.

However, the ecosystem today has a very long tail. Many of the skills are those with few or even no users, or just represent apps from those toying around with voice app development. Research on how customers are actually engaging with their voice devices has shown that generally, people are largely using them for things like news and information, smart home control, and setting timers and reminders – not necessarily things that require voice apps.