Alexa, the voice-based digital assistant at the core of the Amazon Echo, has a number of built-in capabilities. In addition to selling Amazon products, Amazon Alexa devices can play music, report the weather, set up shopping lists, and more.
Outside developers can teach Alexa new capabilities by creating “skills” – a set of pre-programmed voice prompts that function like apps for the Echo.
For many brands, building Amazon Alexa skills can be a great customer engagement strategy. That’s because skills offer brands the chance to start a conversation with shoppers.
Whether it’s parents asking Tide for help removing a stubborn grass stain, or Purina suggesting a dog breed fit for apartment living, brands are leveraging their status as experts to interact with current and potential customers.
And while our testing didn’t find Amazon Alexa skills that link directly to the Amazon point of sale, the skills do allow users to add products to their Alexa shopping list or send purchasing information to the Alexa app on their mobile phone, making skills a new stop-off on the path to purchase.
Brands with Great Amazon Alexa Skills
Best Recipes: from Hellman’s/Unilever
Alexa provides recipe ideas for ingredients users have on hand. Users list three ingredients and the type of meal they’re planning. The skill sends standard Echo and Echo Dot users recipes via email, while users of the screen-equipped Echo Show can browse through recipes on the display.
What works: The level of interactivity of this skill is very entertaining. It’s exciting to hear the recommended recipes.
Problem areas: Reviewers report trouble linking email accounts. Some customers may not want to take the extra steps needed to provide that information.
Eucerin Skin Care: from Eucerin
Alexa provides skincare tips and product recommendations based on a user’s answers to questions about problem areas.
What works: Strong concept, as many people have ongoing concerns about the health and appearance of their skin. Skill asks a good number of questions before offering product recommendations. Users receive a card in their Alexa app detailing suggestions.
Problem areas: Skill said app info card would include the recommended product along with additional products to supplement skincare regimen. It only included the recommended product.
Quaker: from Quaker
Alexa provides users with top overnight oats and energy bite recipes. They can select from an array of recipe titles.
What works: This is one of the few skills we found that connects to a user’s Alexa shopping list. “Missing something?” Alexa asks, offering to add whatever is needed to the list. Users need to enable this function on their Alexa app.
Problem areas: Because the skill only provides recommendations for two different types of dishes, user retention may be challenging.
Ask Purina: from Nestle Purina PetCare
Users can ask Alexa for information about specific dog breeds or can be led through a series of prompts to determine a breed that will fit their lifestyle.
What works: Strong concept with extensive content. Skill cards/Echo Show screens display photos of the dog breeds mentioned. Purina takes advantage of a branding opportunity by signing off, “We believe people and pets are better together.”
Problem areas: Because of the specific nature of the skill, brands will need to ensure it is discovered by dog lovers and pet shoppers.
Ask Stubb: from Stubb’s Legendary Bar-B-Q
The barbecue legend C.B. Stubblefield provides barbecue tips and narrates recipes detailed by Alexa. Users can also use the skill to play blues music.
What works: Nice to hear another voice alongside Alexa’s. Creative use of content that entertains the listener.
Problem areas: Long segments may challenge limited attention spans.
Innovative brands have developed Amazon Alexa skills as a customer engagement strategy. Alexa skills have limited value at the end of the customer journey in that they don’t yet allow for in-app purchases.