Alexa Skill Engagement Rose 75% in 2017 Says Amazon Evangelist David Isbitski

Amazon Alexa developer evangelist David Isbitski published an article on LinkedIn last week that said Alexa skill engagement rose 75% in 2017. In addition, he mentions that about 80% of Amazon Echo device owners have used a third-party skill. These are two important numbers for the industry.

Mr. Isbitski is one of the few members of the Amazon team that is tasked to speak publicly about Alexa in his role evangelizing the platform to developers. Engagement with Alexa skills is a key factor for developers and consumer brands when deciding  whether to support the voice assistant platform. Smart speaker adoption numbers are well known and exceeded expectations. Logical follow-up questions are whether all of those smart speaker owners are using the devices and if third-party skill publishers are getting any of the action. The answer appears to be yes.

Skill engagement grew nearly 75% in 2017… and 4 out of 5 Alexa customers with an Echo device in the US have used a third-party skill.

What Does 80% Have Tried a 3rd-Party Skill Mean?

Voicebot’s Smart Speaker Consumer Adoption Report 2018 found that about 52% of U.S. smart speaker users self-reported that they had discovered and used a third-party Alexa skill. However, all survey questions related to the topic suffer from a potential lack of knowledge or misunderstanding by some consumers of what the term “third-party skill” or “independent skill” means. Some consumers may be not be able to clearly distinguish between a native (i.e. or first-party) skill from Alexa and one developed by a third party that is not Amazon. The consumer responses are helpful, but likely lack precision.

That situation makes the Amazon revelation all the more useful since it is based on actual user data. The key difference between the numbers appears to be the denominator. The Voicebot survey data reflects all Amazon Alexa users whereas the Amazon data is based on device owners that have “set up/connected at least one device,” according to an Amazon spokesperson. It is not surprising that 80% of Amazon Echo device owners that set up the devices have used third-party skills even if some of the household members using those devices only employ Alexa’s built-in capabilities.

This is a good start because it means that at least the primary device owners are aware that third party skills exist. There are now over 40,000 Amazon Alexa skills worldwide and 32,481 in the U.S. There are many with overlapping functionality and some even with the same names. This situation has created challenges for Alexa skill publishers in capturing new users. The fact that many people are aware of skills and engagement is rising is a step in the right direction.

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