Garrett Vargas


How To Improve Your Alexa Skill with Premium Content

It’s NOT about the money!

This year, Amazon launched the ability to offer in-skill purchases — giving you the ability to offer premium content for your users.

This might seem counter intuitive, but if you approach in-skill purchases with the purpose of making money from them, you’re sure to be disappointed.

Personally, I’ve barely cracked $100 from in-skill purchases, and am still double-digits after you factor Amazon’s 30% take. And the message I see from developers on message boards is similar, with some saying it’s just not worth the effort. So does this mean you should forget about adding premium content? No. From what I’ve seen, adding premium content improves your skill experience and drives increased usage by keeping your most loyal customers engaged which pays off in other ways.

I’ve incorporated premium content in a few places, but my most successful is in my Slot Machine skill. This skill lets you play one of several different types of machines: a “standard fruit” game, a game with a wild cherry symbol, and a game with a progressive jackpot. It was a natural extension to add additional machine types since the code already supported it, and it enhanced the existing game play. So far, I’ve launched two premium machines, and the results are interesting:

  • 70% of customers who bought one premium machine also bought the other
  • Among my heaviest users (the top 5%), 25% of them have purchased a premium machine
  • Those who have bought a premium machine on average log 4x the number of spins compared to other players

Premium Content Needs to be Naturally Integrated

These results weren’t by accident. I chose to offer this premium content as an extension of an offering that was already in place and being used — I had data showing that people were already comfortable switching between built-in machines. That means that adding purchasable machines isn’t “bolted on” but rather part of the natural flow of the game. Customers hearing about this content don’t feel heavy sales pressure — they feel that they’re encountering fresh content for a way they interact with the skill already. In fact, it’s quite possible that my customers are coming back because of the premium content, as evidenced by the 70% uptake of both premium machines. We’ll see if this trend continues when I add a third!

Purchasers of my premium content continue to come back and engage not just with their new products, but with the skill overall. In my case, that increased usage drives higher Developer Rewards (which has paid out orders of magnitude more than I’ve made directly off premium content), but it could also mean exploring different parts of your skill to drive wider adoption of your ecosystem, depending on your goals. Could I have added these premium machines for free and gotten the same results? Possibly. But I think there’s something about human nature that when you pay for something, even if it’s just 99 cents, you’re more committed to using it. The high adoption rate by my most active users would tend to support this theory.

The key is to think about why you created an Alexa skill in the first place and to tailor your premium content strategy as a way to help further those goals, not as an additional revenue stream on its own. Do that, and you’re certain to see success.

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