Conversation with Stoked Skills’ Gal Shenar: How to Monetize Your Alexa Skill While Helping Your Users

I recently had a chance to speak with Gal Shenar, founder of voice games studio Stoked Skills, about best practices for building voice-first games. This post is a recap of the second part of our conversation about his experience monetizing Alexa skills. 

As briefly mentioned in the first post, Gal designed a clever way to monetize his Escape the Room and Escape the Airplane skills. By providing access to hint packs for a small fee through in-skill purchasing (ISP), he makes money while helping his players getting more deeply engaged with these skills. 

A successful game is easy to start and hard to master. A contextual and on-demand hint framework is a way to mediate these two sides of a great gaming experience. Gal created just that. He wanted to recreate the experience of an in-person escape game, one in which a game master provides hints to players to solve puzzles when needed. He tested out a few approaches, listened to his users, and settled for offering hint packs for each room in his escape games. In today’s post, I share some of the things Gal and I talked about when it comes to monetizing Alexa skills, as well as insight into Gal’s unique approach. Let’s see how he did it.

A Skill’s Premium Experience is All About Value

The core concept Gal had in mind when designing the hint system for Escape the Room was that he wanted to provide the highest possible value for his paying users. He wanted players to experience the game for free and, in his words, “to feel taken care of.”

Creating a sense of urgency within a game’s storyline is a must for any immersive play experience. But Gal wanted to make sure that sense of urgency was not associated with a diminishing return on the investment for the player. Gal wanted “the hints to get progressively better” and to provide more value for the player as the game progressed.

Gal’s player-first approach paid off. He achieved his goal of providing value for players as demonstrated by conversion rates as high as 34% for his in-skill products. But he did not get there on day one. He experimented and adapted the in-skill product based on player feedback. He used tools in the Alexa Developer Console, including the beta testing feature to get player feedback before submitting for certification, the Intent History page to understand where players drop off, and the analytics dashboard to measure skill usage and earnings.

Your target should be offering the in-skill product at the right moment in the experience, ideally during a player’s moment of need and when they are willing to make a purchase to enhance their game play. Don’t bother them when they are busy. Help players, don’t sell to them. As Gal puts it, “done correctly, monetizing Alexa skills can be one of the most frictionless purchase experiences a customer can have.”

Easily Manage Payments with the Amazon Purchasing Flow

Customers can easily purchase premium experiences via voice using the payment methods associated with their Amazon account. And developers can easily leverage this simple voice purchasing flow. You basically only have to send a JSON response back to Alexa, describing what you are selling, and for how much. Amazon will handle the rest.

Here’s what Gal shared about his experience implementing ISP for Escape the Room.

As Gal showed us, Alexa will handle all the interactions with your players to process the transaction for your in-skill product. This flow will use the data that you have passed to the Alexa service in your JSON response to prompt players and describe what they are about to purchase. After the purchase flow is completed, you will receive a response status back from Alexa (ACCEPTED, DECLINED, ERROR or ALREADY_PURCHASED) and you will resume your skill flow. During the purchase interaction, Alexa might also provide promotional prices for Prime members, but you will always get 70% of the price you set, before any Amazon discounts.

As an Alexa skill developer, you have several options to choose from when adding ISP to your voice creations: subscriptions, consumables, and one-time purchases. Learn more from Gal on choosing the right ISP type here.

Unleash your creativity, entertain your customers, and start making money with Alexa skills.

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